59 Canadian Singers and Bands Who Made It Big in America
Musicians from Canada Who Made It Big in America
When I say "Canada" what do you say, eh? Do you associate the Great White North with ice hockey? Unwavering politeness or poutine, eh? Instead, does your mind wander to images of lumberjacks? The land of maple, moose, or Canadian geese, eh? Maybe so, but also consider the standout talent of those Canucks at popular music. Celebrate Canadian singers and bands who have made it big in America.
What's your favorite thing about Canada, eh?
1. Shawn Mendes
Here's a pop-rock superstar in the making. Canadian Shawn Mendes made music history when he became the first artist to have three hits on the adult contemporary chart before age 20. In 2014, when he was only 16, Time magazine named him to their list of the "25 Most Influential Teens in the World." Two years later, Forbes recognized him as a "30 under 30" influencer. Mendes has definitely arrived in a big way.
Such prestige, however, is a far cry from the singer-songwriter's modest beginnings. The Ontario native taught himself to play guitar by watching YouTube videos. Then he posted a series of six-second Vines in which he covered popular songs. With charm, a great voice, and good looks, Mendes worked to amass a colossal following on the social media platform.
Eventually, this segued into a career-launching record deal. Mendes became one of only five artists to ever debut an album at the top of the chart before age 18. Not only is he a singer but also a model for the likes of Calvin Klein.
Included among Mendes' hits on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart are these Top 10 selections:
- "Stitches" (2015)
- "Treat You Better" (2016)
- "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" (2017)
- "If I Can't Have You" (2019) and
- "Señorita" (with Camila Cabello) (2019).
2. Michael Bublé
Perhaps British Columbia native Michael Bublé was always destined to make it as a singer. He announced his intended career when he was two years old, developed a specific interest in jazz when he heard Bing Crosby's White Christmas album, and as an adolescent slept with his Bible and prayed to become a singer. His grandfather fueled his love of jazz and paid for his singing lessons. It was gonna happen.
Bublé's big break came when he was invited to sing at the wedding of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's daughter. At the nuptials, the young crooner was introduced to a record executive and producer who worked with some of the top stars in the business.
Although Bublé may sound like he stepped right out of a 1940s time machine, fans love him. The Grammy Award-winning star boasts a string of hits on the adult contemporary chart, and he remains an international favorite as well. Some of his Top 10 songs include:
- "Home" (2005)
- "Save the Last Dance for Me" (2006)
- "Everything" (2007)
- "Lost" (2007)
- "Haven't Met You Yet" (2009)
- "Hollywood" (2010)
- "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (2011)
- "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" / "Jingle Bells" (featuring The Puppini Sisters) (2012)
- "It's a Beautiful Day" (2013) and
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (featuring Idina Menzel) (2014).
3. Avril Lavigne
Because her music can be described as "pop with punk undertones," Canadian singer Avril Lavigne has been dubbed "The Pop Punk Queen." The Ontario native's parents first recognized her natural affinity for singing when she was a mere toddler. They encouraged her talent throughout her youth by converting their basement into a studio and buying her drums, a microphone, keyboards, and other instruments.
At age 15, the singer-songwriter won a radio contest to perform on stage with Shania Twain before a crowd of 20,000. Prophetically, Lavigne told Twain that she intended to become a famous singer. By age 17, Lavigne had released her breakout song, "Complicated" (2002), for which she won a Juno Award and for which she was nominated a Grammy. Included among her Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart have been:
- "Sk8er Boi" (2002)
- "I'm with You" (2002)
- "My Happy Ending" (2004) and
- "Girfriend" (2007).
Both of the singer's ex-husbands are also prominent Canadian musicians: Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and Sum 41 frontman, Deryck Whibley. Lavigne has also famously struggled with Lyme Disease since she was 30 years old. She maintains dual citizenship in both France and Canada.
4. Céline Dion
The best-selling Canadian musical artist of all-time, this songstress was named after the tune "Céline." The Quebec native was the youngest of 14 children and dreamed of becoming a singer from a young age. Then when Dion was only 12, her brother sent talent manager René Angélil a song that she had co-written and recorded. It was life-changing. Angélil was so inspired by her voice that he mortgaged his home to finance her fledgling career.
After achieving success as a singer for the Francophone market, Dion worked hard to cross over to the English language market. Since the 1990s, the Canadian singer achieved remarkable success as one of the best-selling artists in the world. Among her hits are the following Top 10 songs on the US Billboard Top 100:
- "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" (1990)
- "Beauty and the Beast" (featuring Peabo Bryson) (1991)
- "If You Asked Me To" (1992)
- "The Power of Love" (1993)
- "Because You Loved Me" (1996)
- "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (1996)
- "All by Myself" (1996)
- "My Heart Will Go On" (1997)
- "I'm Your Angel" (featuring R. Kelly) (1998) and
- "That's the Way It Is" (1999).
Having met René Angélil when she was a pre-teen, Dion waited until she was 20 years old to begin a dating relationship with him. Angélil was 26 years her senior and had been twice divorced. They eventually married and had three children.
5. Justin Bieber
Love him or not, there's no denying that "The Biebs" has made a big splash on the American music scene. In 2008, as a young teen, the Ontario native first drew the attention of a prominent talent manager by uploading his own singing videos to YouTube. The following year, he became the first artist to land seven songs on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart from a debut record. In 2020, he became the first artist to occupy the top spot of both the Billboard R&B chart (for "Yummy") and country chart (for "10,000 Hours," a song with Day + Shay).
At the start of his career, Bieber acquired a star-studded mentor, Usher, who himself had become famous as a teen. Although Usher attempted to guide the 'lil Canuck through the challenges introduced by fame, The Biebs made headlines for a string of poor choices. These included charges of reckless driving, DUI, vandalism, and other brushes with the law. That's all behind him now.
Bieber burned up the charts with hits such as these Top 10 US Billboard songs:
- "Baby" (featuring Ludacris) (2010)
- "Boyfriend" (2012)
- "As Long as You Love Me" (featuring Big Sean) (2012)
- "Where Are Ü Now" (with Jack Ü) (2015)
- "What Do You Mean?" (2015)
- "Love Yourself" (2015)
- "Let Me Love You" (featuring DJ Snake) (2016)
- "Despacito" (featuring Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee) (2017)
"I'm the One" (DJ Khaled, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne) (2017) and
- "I Don't Care" (with Ed Sheeran) (2019)
Bieber famously had an on-again/off-again relationship with fellow singer Selena Gomez, but then in 2018, they called it quits for good. Six months later, he married model model Hailey Baldwin at a New York City courthouse.
6. Shania Twain
Ever since Shania Twain asked folks, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" the Canadian songbird has been establishing her undeniable place as the Queen of Country Pop. The Grammy Award-winning artist has released a steady parade of hits on the Country Billboard chart, some of which crossed over to the mainstream pop and international charts:
- "Any Man of Mine" (1995)
- "(If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!" (1995)
- "You Win My Love" (1996)
- "No One Needs to Know" (1996)
- "Love Gets Me Every Time" (1997)
- "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)" (1997)
- "You're Still the One" (1998)
- "From This Moment On" (1998)
- "Honey, I'm Home" (1998)
- "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" (1999)
- "Come On Over" (1999)
- "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" (2002)
- "Forever and for Always" (2003) and
- "She's Not Just a Pretty Face" (2003).
Twain grew up in a poor, food-insecure Ontario family and sang to help put meals on the table. Later, when her parents died in a car accident, she took care of her younger siblings by working as a performer at a nearby resort until they could move out on their own.
The Canadian songstress had a less than impressive career start, having wanted initially to be a pop singer. However, in 1993, she then met legendary record producer Mutt Lange who was 17 years her senior. He offered to help write and produce her music, then married her six months later. Their divorce was finalized in 2010 after Lange had an affair with Twain's best friend.
7. Alanis Morissette
It's hard to imagine that this bitter, intense rocker chick used to open for Vanilla Ice back in the day. In 1995, when Ottawa native Alanis Morissette released "You Oughta Know"—a blistering takedown of a lover who cheated, broke the narrator's heart, and left—the raw song was like few others. Rolling Stone called Morissette the "Queen of Alt-Rock Angst."
The Juno and Grammy Award-winning singer holds the record for the best-selling debut album worldwide (Jagged Little Pill, 1995). The Canadian songstress now has dual citizenship in the US. Although a number of her songs have demonstrated broad international appeal, the following are Top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart:
- "You Oughta Know" (1995)
- "Ironic" (1996) and
- "You Learn" (1996).
Like all of us, this angry young Gen X woman mellowed into somebody's mom.
Born Aubrey Drake Graham, this Toronto-born rapper, singer-songwriter, and music producer drew widespread attention for his meme-worthy footwork on his single, "Hotline Bling." No offense, but he's dad dancing or dancing like he has bad knees.
The Grammy and Juno-winning singer is otherwise talented, having racked up hit tunes on the international, R&B/hip-hop, and rap charts. Among the #1 mainstream pop hits for the Canadian song maker are
- "What's My Name?" (featuring Rihanna) (2010)
- "One Dance" (featuring Wizkid and Kyla) (2016)
- "Work" (featuring Rihanna) (2016)
- "God's Plan" (2018)
- "Good for What" (2018)
- "In My Feelings" (2018) and
- "Sicko Mode" (featuring Travis Scott, Swae Lee and Big Hawk) (2018)
Drake dated Rihanna on and off for seven years. He now has dual citizenship in the United States and Canada.
9. Sarah McLachlan
You probably know adult contemporary recording artist Sarah McLachlan best from her song, "Angel." It's the theme song for the heartwrenching television fundraising commercials for the ASPCA. McLachlan admits that she can't bear to see the images of freezing, homeless dogs and cats so she turns the channel when the commercial comes on!
Although the Nova Scotia-born musician has primarily been popular in her native Canada, she has enjoyed success on the US pop chart as well as the adult alternative, dance club, and alternative rock charts. Among her Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits include:
- "Adia" (1998)
- "Angel" (1998)
- "I Will Remember You" (1999)
- "River" (2006)
- "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (2006) and
- "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (2006)
McLachlan has been awarded both Grammy and Juno awards. In addition, the canuck is known for launching Lilith Fair, a traveling tour of female headlining acts in the late 1990s. She also had a stalker who obsessively wrote her love letters for two years, sued her in order to get close to her, then killed himself before the case could go to trial.
10. The Weeknd
If you're like me, you've probably wondered why Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, who goes by the pseudonym "The Weeknd," misspells the moniker. He adopted the name because he left home one weekend as a teen and didn't return, then dropped the "e" to differentiate himself from a band by the same name.
The Weeknd is a Grammy and Juno Award-winning recording artist who rose to prominence after uploading his singing videos to YouTube in 2010. The Toronto-born singer and songwriter excels at pop and cutting edge R&B tunes. Within just three years, the Canadian had achieved music history, becoming the first musician to concurrently hold the top three positions on the Billboard R&B list.
Examples of his Top 10 hits on the mainstream pop chart include the following songs:
- "Love Me Harder" (with Ariana Grande) (2014)
- "Earned It" (2014)
- "The Hills" (2015)
- "Can't Feel My Face" (2015)
- "Starboy" (featuring Daft Punk) (2016)
- "I Feel It Coming" (featuring Daft Punk) (2016)
- "Pray for Me" (with Kendrick Lamar) (2018)
- "Call Out My Name" (2018) and
- "Heartless" (2020).
11. Anne Murray
If you've never heard of Canadian songbird Anne Murray, then do yourself a favor and correct that situation now. Her Christmas albums are truly timeless standouts.
Country pop artist Anne Murray was the first Canadian woman to score a number one hit on the U.S. Billboard charts. From the 1970s and beyond, she paved the way for subsequent Canadian female recording musicians, including Shania Twain, k.d. lang, and Céline Dion.
The Nova Scotia native is a Grammy Award winner, was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was named by Billboard as one of the 50 Biggest Adult Contemporary Artists Ever. Many of her hits were country crossovers to the adult alternative and mainstream pop chart. Among her biggest hits on the US Billboard Pop 100 chart include:
- "Snowbird" (1970)
- "Danny's Song" (1972)
- "A Love Song" (1973)
- "You Won't See Me" (1974)
- "You Needed Me" (1978)
- "I Just Fall in Love Again" (1979)
- "Broken Hearted Me" (1979) and
- "Daydream Believer" (1980).
This classic 80s band was a rocking group of Canucks from Calgary, and you can still hear their tunes on the radio, especially on Fridays when it's time to celebrate the weekend. Some of their hottest hits on the mainstream rock chart included these numbers:
- "Turn Me Loose" (1980)
- "Working for the Weekend" (1981)
- "Hot Girls in Love" (1983)
- "Lovin' Every Minute of It" (1985)
- "This Could Be the Night" (1986) and
- "Notorious" (1987).
13. Barenaked Ladies
This alt rock band was formed in Ontario and developed a devoted, cult-like fanbase. Barenaked Ladies was known for engaging in improvisational rapping and comedic banter between songs at their concerts. Fans loved it. The Juno Award-winning group's highest's charting songs on the US Billboard Hot 100 included, "One Week" (1998) and "Pinch Me" (2000).
According to Billboard, Nickelback is the most successful rock band of the 2000s, and their 2001 chart-busting single, "How You Remind Me" was the best-selling rock song of that decade. The Canadian band's rock songs were frequent crossovers to both the adult contemporary chart and US Hot 100 mainstream pop chart. In addition, they enjoyed international popularity.
Their discography includes the following list of #1 tunes on the rock charts:
- "How You Remind Me" (2001)
- "Too Bad" (2002)
- "Never Again" (2002)
- "Figured You Out" (2003)
- "Photograph" (2005)
- "Animals" (2005)
- "Something in Your Mouth" (2008) and
- "Edge of a Revolution" (2014)
15. Bachman-Turner Overdrive
This Winnipeg-based classic rock group was formed when Randy Bachman left The Guess Who at the top of the band's success, feeling like "a lunatic and a loser" that no one wanted to work with. The guitar-heavy band he cobbled together eventually landed these and other memorable top hits on the US Billboard Hot 100:
- "Takin' Care of Business" (1974)
- "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (1974) and
- "Roll on Down the Highway" (1975).
Even More Canadian Singers and Bands Who Made It Big in America
Examples of Popular Singles
New World Man (1982), Show Don't Tell (1989), Ghost of a Chance (1992)
17. Diana Krall
The Look of Love (2001), Just Like a Butterfly That's Caught in the Rain (2012)
18. Bryan Adams
Heaven (1985), (Everything I Do) I Do It for You (1991), Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? (1995), Here I Am (2002)
19. Joni Mitchell
Big Yellow Taxi (1970), Help Me (1974), Free Man in Paris (1974)
20. Arcade Fire
Ready to Start (2010), Reflektor (2013), Everything Now (2017)
21. Robin Thicke
Lost Without You (2007), Magic (2008), Sex Therapy (2009), Blurred Lines (2014)
22. Alessia Cara
Here (2015), Scars to Your Beautiful (2016), Stay (2017)
23. Terri Clark
Better Things to Do (1995), When Boy Meets Girl (1995), Poor Poor Pitiful Me (1996), You're Easy on the Eyes (1998), Girls Lie Too (2004)
24. Leonard Cohen
25. Tom Cochrane (solo)
Life Is a Highway (1991), No Regrets (1991)
rock, hard rock
26. Red Rider
Lunatic Fringe (1981), Human Race (1983), Big League (1988)
rock, hard rock
27. The Band
Up on Cripple Creek (1969), The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (1969), Don't Do It (1972)
28. Alannah Myles
Black Velvet (1989)
29. Hank Snow
I'm Moving On (1950), I've Been Everywhere (1962), Hello Love (1974)
30. Neil Young
Cinnamon Girl (1970), Only Love Can Break Your Heart (1970)
31. Jeff Healey
Angel Eyes (1989), I Think I Love You Too Much (1990), Cruel Little Number (1992),
blues rock, jazz
32. Gordon Lightfoot
If You Could Read My Mind (1970), Talking in Your Sleep (1971), Rainy Day People (1975), The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1976)
folk rock, soft rock
33. Nelly Furtado
Turn Off the Light (2001), Promiscuous (2006), Maneater (2006)
pop, R&B, hip-hop
34. Corey Hart
Sunglasses at Night (1984), Never Surrender (1985), Can't Help Falling in Love (1986)
35. Paul Anka
Diana (1957), Lonely Boy (1959), Put Your Head on My Shoulder (1959), Puppy Love (1960), (You're) Having My Baby (1974), One Man Woman/One Woman Man (1974)
pop, soft rock
36. k.d. lang
Crying (1987), I'm Down to My Last Cigarette (1988), Constant Craving (1992)
37. Percy Faith and His Orchestra
Delicado (1952), Theme from A Summer Place (1959)
38. The Guess Who
Shakin' All Over (1965), These Eyes (1969), American Woman (1970)
Born to Be Wild (1968), Magic Carpet Ride (1968)
41. Daniel Powter
Bad Day (2005), Love You Lately (2006)
pop, adult contemporary
42. Three Days Grace
Just Like You (2004), Animal I Have Become (2006), Never Too Late (2007), Break (2009), The Mountain (2018)
post-grunge, hard rock, alt rock
43. Theory of a Deadman
Nothing Could Come Between Us (2002), So Happy (2008), Bad Girlfriend (2008), Lowlife (2011), Angel (2015), Rx (Medicate) (2017)
post-grunge, hard rock, alt rock
44. Carly Rae Jepsen
Call Me Maybe (2011), Good Time (2012), I Really Like You (2015)
45. Crash Test Dummies
Superman's Song (1991), Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm (1993)
alt rock, folk rock
46. Sum 41
Fat Lip (2001), In Too Deep (2001), Still Waiting (2002)
47. April Wine
You Could Have Been a Lady (1972), Roller (1979), I Like to Rock (1980)1972)
48. Tegan and Sara
Alligator (2009), Closer (2012)
49. Simple Plan
Perfect (2003), Addicted (2003), Welcome to My Life (2004)
rock, pop punk
My Moon My Man (2007), 1234 (2007), How Come You Never Go There (2011)
51. Emerson Drive
I Should Be Sleeping (2001), Fall Into Me (2002), Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You) (2003), Moments (2006)
Hold On (1979), Fight the Good Fight (1981), All the Way (1983), A World of Fantasy (1983)
53. The Tragically Hip
New Orleans Is Sinking (1989), Courage (1993), Poets (1998)
54. Billy Talent
Try Honesty (2003)
55. Bran Van 3000
56. Hot Hot Heat
Bandages (2003), Talk to Me, Dance with Me (2003), Goodnight Goodnight (2005), Middle of Nowhere (2005)
Help I'm Alive (2008), Gold Guns Girls (2009), Youth Without Youth (2012), Breathing Underwater (2012), The Shade (2015)
alt rock, new wave
58. Death from Above
Trainwreck 1979 (2014), Freeze Me (2017)
59. Jann Arden
Could I Be Your Girl (1994), Insensitive (1994)
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