If 2020 was the year the pandemic put the music industry into a state of flux, then 2021 was the year of the slight return. Venues re-opened and postponed tours resumed as the world began to somewhat go back to normal—for a while at least, before Omicron said, “What’s up?” As we headed back to concerts, clubs, and festivals, artists pushed themselves to make more music for us to laugh, cry, and dance to again. Drake finally blessed us with Certified Lover Boy and it was well worth the wait, giving us yet another iconic music video (shoutout to Kawhi’s dancing on “Way 2 Sexy”) and one of the smoothest intros he’s ever had on “Champagne Poetry.” But Drizzy aside, plenty of Canadian talent put out some of their best music yet.
While the pandemic may have delayed things, the extra time to experiment and refine their sounds allowed musicians to challenge themselves and get more bold. Many used the opportunity to celebrate: DijahSB released the bouncy, house-inspired “Overtime” about perseverance, and Smiley had the most fun he’s had yet with the braggadocious, Drake-assisted “Over the Top.” The Weeknd continued to release banger after banger as he closed out the After Hours era. But it wasn’t all about reveling in the return to normal, as other artists including Haviah Mighty and The Halluci Nation made some of their most urgent and eye-opening music about the ongoing reckonings and traumas in BIPOC communities.
From the songs that pushed us to think, to the ones that made us groove, these tracks got us through the second year of a very strange, very unpredictable juncture in history. Here are the 30 best Canadian songs of 2021.