Taste in music is completely subjective. Let’s get that out of the way first. I was in a band that did this, and a lot of you will probably think it’s terrible or “just another rock song” or whatever — and I thought it was one of the good ones! — which is entirely fair. I know, at least a little bit, what it means to put a lot into a song and to put it out there for people to listen to and to care about the craft, and I respect the hell out of people who are able to make music, even if they’re not making the same stylistic choices that I would.
That all said, some songs are fucking terrible.
And this brings us to a recently released list from the CBC, the 100 best Canadian songs ever. Obviously it’s a larf, but obviously it’s full of some pure, unrepentant trash, and obviously I’m about to shit on some songs you like. Relax, it’s merely what I happen to think.*
I’ll link to each individual song, but you can listen to them all in one YouTube playlist if you prefer. They’re listed here in order of the CBC’s ranking, from 1 to 100.
Before we dig in, though, I must add that, to the list-makers’ credit, their little exercise has at least got me thinking about some of the great Canadian artists and songs that they left out, or that I just love or had forgotten for too long, like Michel Pagliaro, The Viletones, Skinny Puppy, METZ, Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers, Eric’s Trip, No Dynamics, The Ugly Ducklings, Vent du Mont Schärr, The Dears, Peaches, The Deadly Snakes, Jale, The Mark Inside, AIDS Wolf, Rusty, Helix, John & Lee & The Checkmates, Voivod, The Staccatos, and so, so many more you should check out if you’re unfamiliar. So… good on them for that, I guess? This fucking list, though…
. . .
“Both Sides Now” – Joni Mitchell – Joni Mitchell isn’t for me, but that’s only because she’s fucking terrible. Oh, shit, but did the guy from Moxy fucking Fruvous “endorse” this crayon-written horseshit? Well then!
“Helpless” – Neil Young – Very probably the worst Neil Young song. Hey but I guess if it gives a warm fuzzy to confused teenagers and old drunks for the word Ontario we have to pretend it’s some cultural touchtone. Neil Young’s singer-songwriter-y stuff can kinda fuck off. In fact, everyone’s can.
“Wheat Kings” – The Tragically Hip – If we’re basing the best our culture has to offer on what date-rapists in Orangeville listened to in 1998, great job, CBC! This is horrible.
“The Weight” – The Band – Can you imagine the dudes who intentionally listen to this unironically? Get some more wax for your shitty moustache and pretend you’re the only person in the world who likes bourbon, you fuck!
“Wake Up” – The Arcade Fire – *wank off motion*
“American Woman” – The Guess Who – That Burton Cummings is a thing that exists remains hilarious, but that doesn’t make this (especially the start) not kinda embarrassing.
“Tom Sawyer” – Rush – We all secretly like this song, but that’s mostly because it’s just so fucking stupid. The video that looks like it was shot in Neil Peart’s backwoods fuck cabin does not redeem it.
“Suzanne” – Leonard Cohen – This song is five hundred times better than Joni Mitchell singing about fucking clouds. Holy shit.
“Mushaboom” – Feist – OK, this might not be as bad as I want to think it is. But probably.
“Let Your Backbone Slide” – Maestro Fresh Wes – Classic. Unassailable.
“Hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen – Whatever spirit this one might have been imbued with at one point has long been fucked to death by every clown who has covered it. It sucks either way, though.
“Summer Of 69” – Bryan Adams – Are you fucking serious?
“Four Strong Winds” – Ian & Sylvia – I can dig it, I guess.
“Universal Soldier” – Buffy Sainte Marie – I can see how this was an important song in its time, or something, but I sure as fuck don’t want to have to actually listen to it.
“Lovers In A Dangerous Time” – Bruce Cockburn – The Barenaked Ladies ruined whatever smoldering remains of this one that the shitty 80s guitar tone couldn’t get. And yet I still don’t entirely hate it somehow.
“Lost Together” – Blue Rodeo – Holy shit, this “lyric video” on the CBC playlist is godawful. So much so that it’s almost hard to notice how bad the song is. Not that hard, though! I do not get the fascination with this band. At all.
“Sundown” – Gordon Lightfoot – So not remotely close to Lightfoot’s best. Not that I’m a huge fan, but holy shit. Trash.
“Coax Me” – Sloan – If this was number one I wouldn’t have argued.
“The Needle And The Damage Done” – Neil Young – OK, it’s pretty alright.
“Constant Craving” – k.d. lang – This is better than Dream Warriors, Northern Touch, Death From Above, Paul Anka, and the Constantines?? Get fucked.
“These Eyes” – The Guess Who – If this was a list of the best songs to play the end of over and over and over while screaming blasted on cocaine then maybe this placement would make sense.
“Nowhere With You” – Joel Plaskett Emergency – Awful.
“River” – Joni Mitchell – If there’s one warbling overwrought lady you want to provide the soundtrack to your early 70s divorce, it sure as fuck is Joni. Trash.
“Snowbird” – Anne Murray – Fuck you, this song is pretty great.
“Un Canadien Errant” – Ian & Sylvia – So the best Canadian song sung in French is performed by a couple of Anglos and was written back in eighteen-fifty-who-gives-a-fuck?
“Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen – Oh, so this IS a joke list?
“Old Man” – Neil Young – If this was a song by Uriah Heep you’d laugh at it. I promise you.
“The Maker” – Daniel Lanois – Nobody actually listens to this, but I guess it was super important to acknowledge the garbage clown behind U2’s worst atrocities, which… actually that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. This song is fucking terrible, by the way. Oh, but the guitar tone!
“The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot – Truly awful. Bonus points for getting name-checked on Seinfeld, though. Ahh… fuck, maybe it’s alright.
“Nautical Disaster” – The Tragically Hip – I remember in Grade 10 English class, our teacher played this song for us and we looked at the imagery and symbolism and other lyrical devices in it and I thought it was so cool. What an idiot I was!
“You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette – If you suck Dave Coulier’s dick you get to write a hit song about it. That’s Canadian law, and it’s fair. But that doesn’t mean that this horseshit shouldn’t have been fired into the fucking sun long ago. Garbage.
“Northern Touch” – Rascalz ft. Kardinal Offishal, Choclair, CheckMate, Thrust – Yep. Great.
“Still The One” – Shania Twain – I could watch the video on mute, I guess.
“Takin’ Care Of Business” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive – GET TO THE WORKING OVERTIME PART! Or… actually… don’t. Just stop.
“Sudbury Saturday Night” – Stompin’ Tom Connors – Back in the 80s my nan ran into Tom in a Zellers and told him that she’d seen k.d. lang on Johnny Carson talking about him, which he was apparently taken aback by. Soon enough after, though, those two were doing songs together. So… I’ll give Nan credit for Tom’s k.d.-fuelled late-career renaissance, though I’m obviously horribly biased. Solid pick.
“Life Is A Highway” – Tom Cochrane – I’d make a joke about this being proof that CANCON laws work, but fucking Americans liked it too! What the fuck is their excuse?!?!!? (I might not hate “Lunatic Fringe,” though, but I’ll never tell!)
“Barrett’s Privateers” – Stan Rogers – Stan Rogers died in pretty much the worst possible way, which is super badass, and nothing against him or anything, but the thing is, this song is terrible. You’re not supposed to say so, though, especially not in front of a maritimer!
“Basement Apartment” – Sarah Harmer – Canada has a whole host of terrific female artists. Sarah Harmer might be one of them, but it sure as fuck isn’t on the basis of this MOR fluff, even if it does reference homemade bongs.
“Log Driver’s Waltz” – Kate And Anna McGarrigle – You have to kid yourself pretty fucking hard to think this isn’t unlistenable.
“Building A Mystery” – Sarah McLachlan – Ha!
“Born To Be Wild” – Steppenwolf – The Pusher is way better (though written by an American, Hoyt Axton), but this is OK, and maybe would be even better than that if I could stop holding its ubiquitousness against it.
“My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style” – Dream Warriors – Even those fucking Austin Powers movies couldn’t ruin it. That says a lot.
“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” – Celine Dion – Not even going to bother listening to this one. (Because I already know it’s fucking amazing.)
“Walking With A Ghost” – Tegan And Sara – I once read something about this song being a rip-off of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Gold Lion.” It wishes. And that song sucks too.
“The Old Prince Still Lives At Home” – SHAD – This might be way cool if it wasn’t from 2008. Or… actually it might just be way cool.
“Pour un Instant” – Harmonium – This twee smooth jazz bullshit and no Pagliaro? Tabernac.
“Letter From An Occupant” – The New Pornographers – This is actually pretty good. See, I knew I didn’t dislike all female musicians!
“Black History Month” – Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights” is five hundred times the song this is, but at least these guys are way, way better than most of the other trash on this list.
“Diana” – Paul Anka – If this was number one I wouldn’t have complained.
“Ready To Start” – Arcade Fire – *wank off motion*
“Marvin’s Room” – Drake – I don’t listen to Drake, but this is his best song, and it ranks here? Uh… OK? I mean, obviously it’s fucking terrible, but that just seems weird.
“Echo Beach” – Martha And The Muffins – This has the greatest ratio of awesome intro to fucking terrible verse and chorus of any song in the known universe.
“Black Velvet” – Alannah Myles – Apparently there was a time in the world where you could get away with dripping so much phony earnestness into a song that it’d fill your leather chaps. Who knew!?! Awful.
“I Just Wanna Stop” – Gino Vanelli – This is actually awesome. As a joke. I think.
“Brian Wilson” – Barenaked Ladies – Fuck. Right. Off.
“Shine A Light” – Wolf Parade – This is worse than the song ahead of it? Holy pissing shitting fuck, who made this list? I’m all for this one.
“Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” – Blue Rodeo – Nope. Still don’t get it.
“Underwhelmed” – Sloan – I’d probably take “500 Up” or “I Am The Cancer” if we’re picking something from Smeared, but it’s all stupidly good.
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – The Band – They went “na, na, na, na, na, na– holy fuck this is terrible.”
“Young Lions” – The Constantines – Not necessarily my favorite Cons song, but how could I possibly complain?
“The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids – Who the fuck likes this shit? I hope someone gets laid because of it, at least.
“I Go Blind” – 54-40 – I wouldn’t gripe too much if a 54-40 song showed up on this list somewhere, I guess. Or… well, I probably would, actually. But the one fucking Hootie did? Give me a break.
“Sunglasses At Night” – Corey Hart – Visions in his ass? Uh… anyway, always seems like it ought to be good for a larf, and you start off feeling like you might sorta “get it,” but when was the last time anyone actually made it all the way through a listen of this? I’m good for about one chorus.
“J’ai Rencontré l’Homme de ma Vie” – Diane Dufresne – Meh.
“Rock Me Gently” – Andy Kim – Just a really fucking well put-together pop song. No qualms. Easily Canada’s finest Neil Diamond rip-off.
“Working For The Weekend” – Loverboy – Obviously terrible, but corny enough that it might actually be kind of great. That can’t possibly be right, though.
“I’m Like A Bird” – Nelly Furtado – Was embarrassed having this come out of my speakers.
“7/4 Shoreline” – Broken Social Scene – This song’s alright, but maybe that’s just nostalgia and the Sonic Youth-y guitar bits. The video, though? Woof.
“Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” – Stars – Hey cool, you’re a band my grandmother wouldn’t find offensive. Great.
“Strawberry Blonde” – Ron Sexsmith – We’re really still letting this be a thing, huh?
“I’m Moving On” – Hank Snow – So fucking good.
“Complicated” – Avril Lavigne – No.
“Left And Leaving” – The Weakerthans – Who wants to hear a man sing a song? Don’t encourage this, please.
“How You Remind Me” – Nickelback – If Chad Kroeger was a German he’d be jaunty and hilarious and the world would love him. Think about it. Sadly for this shitty list, Chad Kroeger is not German, and this nod to some payola scam, or whateverthefuck it is, is inex-fucking-plicable. Seems like a really shitty dude, too.
“Rows Of Houses” – Dan Mangan – You don’t have to wring fucking evocative sincerity out of every single ounce of your song, Dan. How did we get so lost down this fucking path, and what is with all the goddamn “ooh”s and “ahh”s???
“Ordinary Day” – Great Big Sea – You’ve got to be abso-fucking-lutely fucking kidding me.
“Oblivion” – Grimes – Can’t lie: if you held a gun to my head and asked me what the best song on this list is, it’s this one. By, like, miles, actually.
“The Day We Hit The Coast” – Thrush Hermit – I have a real soft spot for this song, but it’s maybe not as good as I remembered. That said, it’s kinda great.
“Brother Down” – Sam Roberts – I don’t have a anything remotely like a soft spot for this song, but it’s maybe not as bad as I remembered. Probably better than that, even, if you’re some bro in a bead necklace.
“Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” – Glass Tiger – I loved this song when I was six. Now? I know it was the 80s but that adults made it with a straight face is mind-boggling. Not as mind-boggling as anyone actually putting it on a list that’s supposed to be about good songs, mind you. Anyway, it’s shit.
“Monster Hospital” – Metric – Is she seriously scatting gibberish at the start of this song? What the hell is that about? I don’t really like this band or get what this song is supposed to be about. That said, there sure is a whole lot worse (see above).
“Place de la Republique” – Coeur de Pirate – It’s in French!
“Bad Time To Be Poor” – Rheostatics – I totally guarantee you that Dave Bidini will read this list. HI DAVE!!! I actually kinda like this song.
“The Great Escape” – Patrick Watson – Can you imagine how uncomfortable this would be to actually have to watch live? Like, is it a fucking recital? Can I drink a beer? Am I allowed to even be here if I’m not wearing a sweater? What the fuck??
“Here For A Good Time” – Trooper – That the video the CBC linked to is from these guys on You Can’t Do That On Television almost made me forget for a moment what total pile of rotting garbage this is. IT’S NOT EVEN THE BEST TROOPER SONG!
“Heaven Only Knows” – K-os – Hey, I remember this. I think I liked the other one better.
“Change The Sheets” – Kathleen Edwards – This is plenty well done, it’s just not really for me. Can’t find a reason to shit on it, though.
“Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk” – Rufus Wainwright – He HAS to have better songs than this, right? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard one of his songs that wasn’t terrible, but this is pretty fucking useless right here. Maybe if I was in a Starbucks or something? I don’t know. It kinda got better on subsequent listens, I guess. But what the fuck is a criving?
“Insensitive” – Jann Arden – If I was some Chuck Klosterman doofus I might try to argue that this is actually secretly the best Canadian song ever, but then I’d be a fucking idiot.
“The Way I Walk” – Jack Scott – The live in 1988 version that the CBC links to doesn’t do this anything remotely close to justice, but it’s still a pretty forgettable late 50s rock and roll tune.
“Nova Heart” – Spoons – Whoa. I had totally forgotten about this one and thought “Romantic Traffic” was their best. My bad, Spoons. This is actually slightly amazing, and such a perfect slice of that weird faux-British new wave thing that was massive in this country for a few minutes in the early 80s.
“Seasons In The Sun” – Terry Jacks – Trash.
“Les Chemins De Verre” – Karkwa – Hey, it’s a band that sounds like this but sings in French. Oh, and with a weird breakdown in the middle that really isn’t helping anything. Not the worst, though, actually.
“Sweet City Woman” – Stampeders – Fuck. This is going to be in my head for days now and it’s fucking terrible. Fuck.
“Sometimes When We Touch” – Dan Hill – This motherfucker wrote the song that plays over the closing credits of First Blood and you chose this piece of shit??!?
“Patio Lanterns” – Kim Mitchell – You’re not even trying anymore.
“Five Dollar Bill” – Corb Lund – For fuck sakes.
“BaKardi Slang” – Kardinal Offishall – Kinda weak but I guess it still beats some of this other horse piss. Maybe?
“I’m An Adult Now” – The Pursuit Of Happiness – It’s absolutely amazing to me that this was once a band that a lot of people thought was cool. Maybe I was just too young to be in on the joke. All that confusion aside, though, musically, this makes Teenage Head and the Viletones look like fucking Brahms. Yet it’s a guilty pleasure, too. I karaoke’d it once. It did not go well. And I still miss Moe Berg’s DJ nights at the Tap.
“Hot Child In The City” – Nick Gilder – My brain is mush from listening to all these songs, but I think I’m still strong enough to have noticed that this is awful.
* I’m right, though.