Last year, we compiled a list of summer songs that, by and large, paired emerging artists with established faves like Blue Rodeo and the Tragically Hip. Of course, as many pointed out, we missed some of the most crucial summer songs: Where was Bryan Adams? Or Kim Mitchell? Or the Guess Who?
Those questions, though, illustrated an undeniable truth about summer music: When the mercury rises, sometimes we want straight-up jams. We want Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” when we’re hitting up the beach. We want AM-tested classic rock radio for late-night roadtrips. We want Maxi Priest and Shaggy for sugary patio drink. We want “Summer Girls,” because it’s the most immaculate summer track ever written. (Sorry, Indie88, we love you, but you’re wrong about this one.) We want that basic shit, that time-tested classic shit. Don’t even pretend that’s a bad thing.
So, here, without further ado, are our favourite iconic, hilarious, cheesy, and undeniably Canadian summer songs. Whip out that sunglasses emoji.
Bryan Adams — “Summer of 69”
“Summer of ’69” sounds exactly like Canadian summer, if only because as soon as May hits, every classic-rock radio station worth their salt plays it like, 6,798 times a day. (Shout outs to the Wolf!) And why not? All mid-tempo, muscled heartland rock, it’s essentially Canada’s answer to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane”—and paints a picture-perfect image of nostalgia. Because what’s more summery than reminiscing about summers past?
Kim Mitchell — “Patio Lanterns”
Long-haired Q107 ace Kim Mitchell’s “Patio Lanterns,” as one AUX commenter pointed out, is perhaps the most pointed song about Canadian summers ever written: I mean, come on, it’s called freaking “Patio Lanterns.” Like Bryan Adams, this one’s all about reminiscing about the eternal, romantic summers of youth, and the video even begins at a Chinese factory, where workers puzzle over these odd patio lanterns Canadians seem to celebrate. Because, apparently, patios don’t exist in China.
Grimes — “Oblivion”
At first, you’re like, “Shit, is ‘Oblivion’ seriously a summer classic already?” But next time it’s on, take a look around: You’ll be surrounded by impossibly sunburnt cottage-country teens from Elora, ON. An aviator sunglass-toting girl, likely armed with an instantly regrettable feather headdress, will be sitting perched atop her tank-top toting boyfriend’s shoulder. Both will be absolutely losing their shit. Then, you’ll be all like, “Oh, I guess Grimes has made it, eh?”
Guess Who’s “These Eyes” / Maestro’s “Stick to Your Vision”
“Stick to Your Vision” is the Cancon answer to Public Enemy’s “He’s Got Game”: They’re both ’90s rap hits that sampled summery rock tracks of yore. In Public Enemy’s case, they used Buffalo Springfield; in Maestro’s comeback single, he used the Guess Who. Both are unfrontable.
Prozzak — “Sucks to be You”
The cynics will scoff that we included Prozzak, the bizarre cartoon offshoot from some randos from the Philosopher Kings, in this list. But seriously, listen to “Sucks to be You.” Beyond the faux-“Living La Vida Loca” guitars and the glossed-up ’90s pop production, Prozzak was built to score theme park game-booths world-over. “Sucks to be You” sounds like playing whack-a-mole at Canada’s Wonderland, and come on—is there anything more summery than that?
Wave — “California”
“California” is a perfect Canadian summer song, because it’s essentially about the perfectly cliched Canadian summer joke. (That joke? “There are only two seasons in Canada: Winter and construction.”) So, Wave’s biggest hit taps into a prime desire of all Canadians, especially during the snowy months—it’s all about getting the fuck out of Canada for somewhere without crushing humidity, black flies the size of your head, and a mosquitoes as far as the eye can see.
Loverboy — “Working For the Weekend”
“Working For the Weekend” is a cottage-country anthem. Because despite leaving the office early, getting caught in gridlock for hours, and arriving to a rained-out fire pit, the devoted still work for the weekend.
Alanis Morrisette — “One Hand in my Pocket
While “You Oughta Know,” the first single from Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill, was the Ottawa singer’s biggest hit, the album yielded its polar opposite in “One Hand in My Pocket.” With crunchy, processed drums and carefree guitars, a sun lobotomized Morrisette sings about everything she could with one hand in her pocket: Give a high five, flick a cigarette, hail a taxi, flash a peace sign, and give a high five. Whimsical, bruh.
Len — “Steal My Sunshine”
In the eternal summer of our minds, we’re hanging out on a Jersey Shore-style boardwalk on scooters, all while Moka Only stuffs his face full of cotton candy. Len somehow managed to capture that fantasy in video format, and that’s precisely why “Steal My Sunshine” works.
Shiloh — “Operator (Girl Like Me)”
Toronto, stand up. There’s very few summertime pleasures akin to people-watching in Kensington Market (you can find us, usually sun-stroked, on the Ronnie’s patio), and that’s something Shiloh understands. It’s the perfect video for a mindless pop-ska song—why didn’t the Planet Smashers think of this for “Super Orgy Porno Party?”
Bedouin Soundclash — “When the Night Feels My Song”
Speaking of breezy pop-ska, Bedouin Soundclash seems to exclusively make music for boardshort-wearing folks during boardshort season. “When the Night Feels My Song” is a slow-burning, balmy-evening jam which evokes a very specific feeling: It’s like holding your favourite Etsy store owner in your arms during magic hour at a folk-music festival.
The Moffatts — “Bang Bang Boom”
OK, maybe we’ve watched Can’t Hardly Wait one too many times. But shit, doesn’t “Bang Bang Boom” sound like every single throwaway teen comedy ever? That’s gotta count for something.
Stampeders — “Sweet City Woman”
Back on that classic rock tip, Calgary-based Stampeders 1971 hit “Sweet City Woman” was, in a way, a Western Canadian version of “In the Summertime.” Led by a banjo, a derped-out bassline, and a powerful, beers-up chorus, it, like Mungo Jerry, felt like a kitchen party. Unlike Mungo Jerry, though, the song doesn’t promote drunk driving and misogyny—we’ll call that a win for the Stampeders.
Corey Hart — “Sunglasses at Night”
Corey Hart’s biggest hit, “Sunglasses At Night,” makes us nostalgic for when we were cool-guy 1980s teens, even if we never were. It makes us want to buy a tight-fitting leather jacket and one villainous, dangly silver earring—which we’d show off all summer while hanging out in the parking lot of the local drive-thru. If any jocks show up, we’re gonna brawl.
Avril Lavigne — “Sk8r Boi”
OK, listen, you might hate Avril’s husband and that weird, probably racist Japanese-themed video she made. But who doesn’t love a nice wee lil summer romance? “Sk8er Boi” sounds like the crush you had on the dude / dudette who worked at the food court Orange Julius. Too bad you were too chickenshit to say hi—instead, whenever you got your chance, you just stared at your Osiris D3s and stuffed more Edo Japan into your pathetic, dumb face. Why do you always do this to yourself?
Steppenwolf — “Born to Be Wild”
Honestly, every wakeboard-riding small-town badman has “Born to be Wild” playing in their head as they speed down the empty night streets of Keswick, ON in their ATV, high on life and plenty of other substances. This song’s the aural equivalent of a sticker of Calvin pissing—take that as you will. (And yes, we know that Steppenwolf is from L.A., but they have members in the Canada’s Walk of Fame. So they count.)
Kardinal Offishall — “Bakardi Slang”
Before Drake made Toronto cool, there was Kardinal. And before he became a respected producer world-over, there was “Bakardi Slang,” a song that not only celebrated his hometown—which, at that point, was basically seen as a stuffy upper-Canadian bore-zone—but celebrated the ring of ‘burbs around it. (NoYo surely loved this one.) For that reason, as soon as it’s warm enough to roll our car windows down, we’re blasing “Bakardi Slang.”
Choclair — “Let’s Ride”
Less city specific but no less of a banger, “Let’s Ride,” with its sharp beats and skittering piano line, was built to be played with the windows down. Heck, its video begins in the back of a damn Jeep, so it’s clear that Choclair knew this one would be certified summer hold.
Stereos — “Summer Girls”
Stereos, even if they were a bizarre Canadian pop-punk boy band, gets a complete G pass from us. I mean, never mind that they sound like—”Summer Girl” was like an updated version of “Summer Girls,” which, if you haven’t been paying attention, is the greatest summer song ever written. Don’t hate.