Toronto’s songs of summer ’16

A recap of the sweltering season's music news and trends in five songs


Summer Sixteen (Universal)

It’s not a stretch to say the biggest name in Canadian hip-hop is now the biggest name in hip-hop. Period. Drake vowed to be everywhere in 2016 in his combative one-off, Summer Sixteen, and has since made good on his lyrical bravado. Unimpeded by lukewarm reviews, his Views album went triple-platinum in the U.S. and spawned four chart hits, including the number-one pop single One Dance. He’s in the midst of a 60-date North American tour that included four star-studded nights at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. If you feel left out, the 6ix God returns to Toronto for a victory lap this fall.

At the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay) with Future, dvsn and Roy Woods on October 8 and 9. $49.50-$179.50.




The Tragically Hip have been another inescapable name in Canadian music this year, for bittersweet reasons. The band embarked on what was likely their final tour after announcing that lead singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Goodwill morphed into fan frustration when tickets sold out instantly, leading to a backlash against Ticketmaster. But when the band took the stage for the first of three gigs at the ACC, the mood of fans was emotional and celebratory. Of all the tributes this summer, Leslie Feist’s acoustic cover of the Hip’s 1996 Flamenco sticks out for the direct and pointed way it highlights the enduring power of Downie’s songwriting.



Luv (Interscope/Universal)

One of the biggest musical trends of 2016 has been the popularity of dancehall and soca in mainstream pop. Caribbean music is ubiquitous in Toronto, but reggae has been considered too niche for radio play south of the border. Not the case this year: Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Meghan Trainor, Drake and Rihanna have all scored hits with dancehall- or soca-influenced songs. The breeziest of the breezy is perhaps Toronto MC Tory Lanez’s Luv, which climbed the pop charts with the help of a sample from Tanto Metro & Devonte’s infectious 90s dancehall hit Everyone Falls In Love.

At the Sound Academy (11 Polson) with Jacquees and Kranium on November 30. $36.50.



Killer (CLK Creative Works/Reign Music)

Black Lives Matter polarized Toronto by staging a protest action during the Pride parade, but agree or disagree, the movement has effectively kept racial inequality top of mind for the better part of the summer. Earlier this year, BLM released a mixtape that included this 2014 track by Toronto MC King Reign, who passed away at 40 in June. Originally recorded and released in the wake of former mayor Rob Ford’s crack video scandal, Killer looks at the collision of political spin and racial stereotypes and demonstrates why Reign was considered one of this city’s freshest and most incisive lyricists. 



In Your Eyes feat. Charlotte Day Wilson (Arts & Crafts)

While Drake and his OVO crewmates dvsn and PARTYNEXTDOOR are leading the R&B renaissance, a new wave of soul musicians favouring more nostalgic and analog sounds have been bubbling up over the past few years. Tanika Charles, River Tiber, Daniel Caesar and Charlotte Day Wilson have all put out solid releases recently. A connector for many of these acts is quartet BADBADNOTGOOD, whose repertoire has expanded from jazzy hip-hop covers to encompass vintage soul sounds with distinctly 70s influences. A standout cut from their recent IV album is the dusty ballad In Your Eyes, with Day Wilson on vocals. | @kevinritchie

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