The Best Canadian Songs of June 2021: Staff Picks

It's been a tough month for Canada, but the music helped. From The Weeknd to TOBi, these were the Canadian songs our staff rocked with the most in June

TOBi, Haviah Mighty, Nemahsis, and Emanuel are some of the artists we listened to this month
Complex Original

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TOBi, Haviah Mighty, Nemahsis, and Emanuel are some of the artists we listened to this month

It’s been a tough month for Canada. As the nation still processes the discovery of over 1,000 unmarked graves and the remains of Indigenous children at former residential school sites, many are grappling with the bitter truth that the Great White North may not be as great as they had once thought. Some education, unlearning, and relearning is in order as we begin to reframe our understanding of what Canada is. 

In the meantime, at least one thing we can take pride in is the incredible wealth of musical output this country continues to produce every day. The diversity of Canadian talent that made noise this month, from Mi’kmaq MC Wolf Castle to Zambia-born, Montreal-based rapper/producer Backxwash, offers a glimpse into the potential of what this nation could be. Some artists released tracks addressing racial injustice head-on, others dropped summertime bangers meant to offer a momentary reprieve from the harsh realities of the day. Whatever the case, there was no shortage of tunes we could get behind.

Below are some of the Canadian songs our staff rocked with the most this June.

Jon Vinyl, "Stacy"

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Jon Vinyl’s follow-up to “Told You” doesn’t disappoint. The Toronto singer-songwriter leans into romance on the fun-loving track “Stacy,” which is all about feeling good while figuring things out with someone you like. “Hate to see you fall, but love to see you win/Pictures on my phone remind me of your lips,” he sings, turning on the charm. His buttery vocals soar, and if your name is Stacy, you’ve got no choice but to swoon. —Natalie Harmsen

LOONY, "ours"

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R&B singer LOONY’s “ours” mixes moments of jazz with ambient neo-soul for a fresh yet dreamy song that captures the excitement of the ‘what if?’ state of a relationship. Analyzing the limbo of possibility, the track simmers with sensual rhythms and pensive lyricism. It’s one of the standouts from the Scarborough artist’s latest bluesy EP soft thing, which traverses all territories of the heart with a dash of ’90s R&B flavour. —Natalie Harmsen

Chiiild, "Eventually"

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For blissful, summery vibes, Chiiild’s “Eventually” hits the sweet spot. The harmonies and lush instrumentation, combined with a healthy amount of reverb, make the lyrics about wanting a lover back all the more fun. “Life gets better when we’re lovers and not enemies,” Yonatan Ayal sings. The chorus is funky and the melody is sweet, and that psychedelic Tame Impala influence peeks through while still leaving something enigmatic for listeners to grasp at. —Natalie Harmsen

Backxwash, "Wail of the Banshee"

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Backxwash says her Polaris Music Prize-winning sophomore album God Has Nothing To Do With It, Leave Him Out of It was a study in mercy. But on the Montreal horrorcore rapper/producer’s latest, I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dresses, there’s no room for forgiveness. “Wail of the Banshee” sees Backxwash give into the darkness. Over a thunderous, ghostly track built off a reverb-laden loop of blood-curdling screams—evoking the voices in her head she can’t seem to mute—she lays her soul bare, working through her personal demons, from addiction to depression to suicidal ideation. “I should have left a note/Cause if life is what you make of it, I’m going for the do-or-die approach,” she spits, before detailing the highball of pills and booze she’s about to down. So, the feel-good hit of the summer this is not. But it’s also the most unapologetically honest and original thing I’ve heard all year. —Alex Nino Gheciu

Wolf Castle, "Welfman"

Tristan Grant, a.k.a. Wolf Castle, a Mi’kmaq rapper from Pabineau First Nation, near New Brunswick, just dropped this track along with the announcement of his forthcoming EP, Da Vinci’s Inquest. Coming off two East Coast Music Award nominations for his previous EP, Gold Rush, Grant returns with this bouncy, unflappable track with shades of Mac Miller and Vince Staples. Grant explains that “Welf” was an insult he received when he was in school, short for “welfare,” and used to “make fun of people who were poor.” The track sees him perform lyrical judo, using his antagonists’ negative energy against them. —Beatriz Baleeiro 

TOBi f/ Baby Rose, "Come As You Are"

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Fresh off his Juno win for Rap Recording of the Year, there’s no slowing down for TOBi in sight. If anything, the Toronto rapper has consistently been releasing music, and this right here is not only the ultimate summer cruising track, but a heartfelt song about acceptance in relationships. I asked TOBi what this track meant to him and he told me this:

“This song is very special to me. I wrote it three years ago and I didn’t record it until last year during the pandemic. I wanted to talk about the kind of relationships I want to be in. One where you are your authentic self from the beginning. So there’s no surprises, there’s no fear of not being who you really want to be. I understand that as human beings we change over time, we evolve, and I want to make room for that. You know? I want someone to take me as I am and know that this isn’t the end of the journey. There’s still more to go, there’s still growth. That’s ‘Come As You Are.’” —Alex Narvaez

Haviah Mighty f/ Yizzy, "Protest"

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From the first time I heard Haviah body a verse on “TeamBackpack” to watching her win the Polaris Music Prize to this very moment, her journey has been incredible to witness and her growth has been anchored in her messaging. That’s evident in her latest song “Protest” featuring Yizzy, a song that truly explores the Black experience in Canada with lyrics addressing systematic racism. Haviah once told me when she writes lyrics with an intention to create change, she doesn’t rely on just opinions, but rather bases her messaging on research and facts. You can hear that in bars like, “Shit is a race game, and this game is hopeless/From the ’60s they displaced the Scotians/Back then they made slave patrol and night watches, they became the roaches.” These are historical references to the racism in this country that many seem to think doesn’t exist. —Alex Narvaez

Emanuel, "Worldwide"

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Canadians are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with vaccinations on the rise and restrictions slowly being lifted. If there’s one thing we’ve missed, it’s traveling, and there’s no better song to get you fantasizing about your first post-COVID vacay than this! Embodying the golden era of R&B with a touch of that modern Toronto sound, Emanuel’s song about global exploration and his mission to “take the damn thing worldwide” brings on a hopeful and nostalgic sentiment around expanding one’s horizons. The music video, directed by Kit Weyman, features stunning “magic hour” shots and beautiful pastel colours that will put you in a zone. —Alex Narvaez

Roy Woods, "Touch You"

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I had a chance to speak with Roy Woods one year ago, when we were all living under the dark cloud of the pandemic with no relief in sight. He opened up about battling depression since he was a kid and the importance of finding someone you can talk to. “As a human being, you need to show emotions and feelings; you can’t hide it,” he said. “If you’re going to hide it, then you’re just going to keep it internal and it’s going to show up in other forms, other ways.” Fast forward a year later and on this track you can hear him triumphantly declare, “Fuck a COVID-19/Long as I get to see that body on a beach.” On the surface a dope summer anthem, at its core this is song about making it through a pandemic and not feeling alone. —Alex Narvaez

Talk, "Run Away to Mars"

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If you’re up on TikTok, you know the power this social media platform can have on a musician’s careers. Artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Lil Nas X all got their start on it. Here’s a new Canadian artist who’s quickly racking up views and followers on the platform that I have my eye on. With close to 100K followers, Talk already had the following in place to drop his debut single, “Run Away to Mars.” Produced alongside Ken Lewis and Brent Kolatalo, who have produced for the likes of Drake, Taylor Swift, and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few, Talk’s career is off to an amazing start. —Alex Narvaez

Doja Cat f/ The Weeknd, "You Right"

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When The Weeknd retired his red-suited After Hours alter ego at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, we didn’t know just how long we’d have to wait until the “dawn.” Turns out he didn’t want to skip a beat, as he hopped on Doja Cat’s third studio album, Planet Her. The second collab between the two artists, “You Right” doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Everything from the lyrics to the music video are fairly on-the-nose about a dark, sordid love affair. The classic eighth note hi-hat layer under the downbeat kick pattern is blatantly poppy—not that it’s bad, you just wouldn’t call this the most creative track. With that said, Doja brings her patented charm and infectious melody to this track, while Abel elevates it to another level with his smooth, sensual, run-filled vocals. Ultimately, what I enjoy about this track is the ease of getting into the groove, and the undeniable vocal talent. —Brian Park

Nemahsis, “what if I took it off for you?”

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If you’re a fan of Mustafa, you’re gonna be a fan of Nemahsis. Not only did the former co-write the latter’s debut project, but when it comes to musicality, they have a lot in common. Firstly, they both have an airy tone in their voices that immediately captures your attention—soothing, but it’s also innately different from today’s pop voices. Secondly, they use similar progressions and cadences. They love transitioning with minor keys before resolving into the home chords. There’s also how seriously they take their music. Mustafa’s entire catalogue is essentially dedicated to bringing awareness to his community’s struggles, seeking justice, and hoping for reconciliation. If you know the Regent Park neighbourhood, you know exactly how impactful his music is. Similarly, in a powerful debut, Nemahsis commences her musical career by addressing being treated inequitably by a multimillion-dollar company. If this is any indication of how she’s approaching the rest of her journey, she’s got my utmost attention. —Brian Park

TOBi, "Don't Touch!" (Prod. Kaytranada & BadBadNotGood)

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On his supersonic, hypnotic, and funky-fresh new track “Don’t Touch!,” Nigerian-Canadian artist TOBi expands his musical repertoire, and reiterates that he’s not just moody rapper. Just in time for summer, TOBi links up with two other Canadian icons to bring an extra bounce to your double-vaxxed step (get vaccinated, people!). While the incredible energy and the head-bobbing chorus are addictive, the song is not without its meaning. In a short two-minute span, TOBi addresses racial inequality, talks about his idols, and places himself in all of this. Next time you go on your mid-day coffee run, give this tune a listen—you won’t regret it. —Brian Park

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