19 famous artists you didn’t know were from Canada

Last updated on March 15th, 2023 at 11:02 pm


Some musical acts are so ingrained in the music culture in the United States that many fans don’t know they’re actually Canadian. How many of the artists on this list surprise you?

1. Justin Bieber

Bieber is one of the most notable names in the Canadian music scene and, in many people’s opinions, the world.

He experienced his breakthrough when Scooter Braun, a college dropout wanna-be record executive, came across one of his YouTube performances in 2007.

He was so impressed that he immediately tracked him down by calling multiple school districts until he got the right one.

He got his mom’s number and explained that he wanted to sign Justin. She thought it was a joke and hung up. It took him a while to convince her.

Needless to say, his career ended up taking off. His first song of significance was “Boyfriend,” a 2012 single that reached the second spot on the American music charts.

He had several songs on the Billboard Top 100 in the years that preceded and followed, his first #1 hits, “What Do You Mean?” “Sorry” and “Love Yourself,” were released in 2015.

His latest hit, accompanied by Ed Sheeran, is “I Don’t Care.” It reached the #2 spot on that chart.

2. Carly Rae Jepsen

Call me maybe? That’s what Carly Rae Jepsen was asking prior to “Call Me Maybe” becoming a worldwide hit in 2012, topping the musical charts in 18 countries.

It had been recorded on Sept. 20, 2011, and initially received moderate attention, simply entering Canada’s top 100. That was until Justin Bieber and others promoted it on their socials, and even lip-synced to it in a famous YouTube video.

She later recorded another #1 hit in Canada, “Good Time” with Owl City; that song reached the eighth spot in the United States.

3. Celine Dion

Celine Dion is from Quebec, and currently lives in Henderson, Nevada.

Europeans are especially excused from not realizing that Celine Dion is Canadian considering that she won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 while representing Switzerland.

Although she had been producing music since 1981, Dion didn’t start receiving significant attention in North America until 1990, when “(If There Was) Any Other Way” became her first top-40 hit, peaking at #35, and “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” shot to the #4 spot.

Interestingly, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” did better in the U.S. charts than in Canada, where it was sixth.

The first #1 hit for Dion was “The Power of Love,” which was released in 1993. “Because You Love Me,” released in 1996, became her second.

Meanwhile, perhaps the song that she’s most known, for partly due to its connection with the blockbuster movie, Titanic, is “My Heart Will Go On.” It topped the charts in more than 20 countries in 1997.

Celine Dion spent the next seventeen years before she reached the Billboard charts again. Her album “Courage” was released November 15, 2019 and hit number one, followed by a world tour.

4. The Weeknd

The Weeknd is from Abel Makkonen Tesfaye on Feb. 16, 1990, in Toronto before being raised in the eastern suburb of Scarborough and later moving back to Toronto. He has since settled down in Hidden Hills, California.

Tesfaye first started receiving significant attention after he released his debut mixtape, House of Balloons.

On that tape was his first song to attain spots on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian Top 100, coming in 53rd and 43rd on those respective charts in 2012. However, it took two more years for him to experience his big breakthrough.

“Love Me Harder,” a duet with Ariana Grande released in 2014 shot up to the seventh spot in the U.S. while “Earned It” reached even higher that year, reaching the third slot.

But it was 2015 when he could start laying claim to #1 hits, doing so twice that year with “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” He then teamed up with Daft Punk in 2016 to create “Starboy,” another #1 song.

5. Drake

Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham on Oct. 24, 1986, in Toronto, was initially known throughout Canada as a star on “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” portraying a basketball player who was later shot and paralyzed.

Drake worked on Degrassi for several seasons before getting fired from the show.

It took a few years of creating music for him to break through, but, once he did, he experienced a tremendous amount of success.

This came after So Far Gone, his third mixtape, came out in 2009. Drake offered it for free, and the move paid off as that exposure led to so much interest that three of its songs reached the top 40.

This included a #2 hit in “Best I Ever Had” as well as “Successful,” which peaked in the seventeenth slot, and “I’m Goin’ In,” which was fortieth on that chart.

The hits kept coming in the following years. He followed those three songs with more than 30 additional entries that peaked in the top 20 of the Billboard Top 100.

These included #1 songs “One Dance” (2016), “God’s Plan” (2018), “Nice for What” (2018) and “In My Feelings” (2018).

6. Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes is from Pickering, Canada. He became famous by uploading six-second clips of cover songs to Vine.

His hit songs “Treat You Better”, “Mercy” and “Stitches” have earned him an estimated net worth of $12 million.

7. Neil Young

Neil Young, another Toronto native, having been born there on November 12, 1945, is one of the most impressive additions to this collection of incredible musical gifts that Canada has provided the world.

Throughout his childhood, Neil Young listened to a variety of music and was especially influenced by Elvis Presley. He then began creating his own, first on a ukulele before moving on to other instruments.

He’s perhaps best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, although he has had a lot of solo contributions to music as well.

Young’s first and only #1 song, “Heart of Gold,” was just his second to reach the Billboard Hot 100’s top 40, which it did in 1971.

In the years that have passed since, other songs such as “Old Man” and “Harvest Moon” have received attention too.

8. Bryan Adams

We couldn’t leave the singer of “Summer of ’69” off of this list.

Bryan Adams is from Kingston, Ontario. Adams has been producing top music since “Lonely Nights” came out in 1982, quickly following that up with “Straight from the Heart,” “Cuts Like a Knife” and “This Time” a year later.

In fact, the hits just kept coming. He ended up with 10 top-20 hits from 1983-87. But it was 1991 when his top song, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” came out; it topped the charts in no fewer than 16 countries.

“All for Love,” which he recorded with Sting and Rod Stewart, also reached the top spot in numerous countries in 1993.

9. Rush

Rush formed in 1968 in the Willowdale neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. The original members were Alex Lifeson, Jeff Jones, John Rutsey. They later acquired Geddy Lee and Neal Peart.

Rush began as a blues band, but eventually became known for their progressive rock hits like “Tom Sawyer,” “Subdivisions,” “Limelight,” and many others.

10. k.d. lang

Another spectacular Canadian singer is k.d. lang, who was born Kathryn Dawn Lang on November 2, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta.

Her career started making waves after she released the album Angel with a Lariat in 1987. It received critical acclaim although none of its songs reached the Billboard Hot 100.

However, she started receiving greater recognition in Canada and throughout the world when she sang, “The Alberta Rose,” on Feb. 28, 1988, during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, which were hosted in nearby Calgary.

Lang recorded a version of “Crying” with Roy Orbison in 1987 that received significant attention, while her biggest hit was arguably “Constant Craving” (1992).

She also received further Olympic recognition with her rendition of “Hallelujah,” which was sung at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

11. Arcade Fire

The Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire was formed in 2001 by Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. Win’s younger brother William Butler also joined in along with Jeremy Gara, Richard Reed Parry, and Tim Kingsbury.

The Grammy-winning group hails from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and is responsible for hits like “Wake Up,” “Neighborhood I,” “Sprawl,” and many others.

12. Simple Plan

Rock band Simple Plan was founded in 1999 in Montreal, Quebec. The band’s founding lineup is Pierre Bouvier, Jeff Stinco, Sébastien Lefebvre, David Desrosiers, and Chuck Comeau, all born in Montreal, Quebec.

The origin of their name is somewhat obscure, with members giving various responses, including one claiming it was their “simple plan to avoid working at McDonald’s.”

13. Avril Lavigne

Canadian singer, songwriter and actress Avril Lavigne is from Belleville, Ontario, on September 27, 1984.

In 1999, Lavigne won a radio contest to perform with Shania Twain. She has gone on to make a name for herself with several hit pop-punk songs. Lavigne has her own clothing line called Abbey Dawn, which is now exclusive to the US retailer Kohl’s.

14. Alanis Morissette

Alanis Nadine Morissette is from Ottawa, Ontario. Morissette is a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, record producer, and actress. In the early 1990s she dated actor Dave Coulier, who claimed he was the inspiration for her song “You Oughta Know.”

Morissette has never confirmed this theory. In 2017, her business manager was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing over $5 million from her.

15. Barenaked Ladies

Barenaked Ladies were founded as a duo of Steven Page and Ed Robertson in Scarborough, Ontario in 1988. The band is currently composed of Robertson, Jim Creeggan, Kevin Hearn, and Tyler Stewart.

They have a cult-like following and actually used their website to allow fans to choose between two songs to be included on their greatest hits CD. Barenaked Ladies also held a fan cruise in January of 2007, called “Ships and Dip,” which became a popular event and has since happened 3 additional times.

16. Michael Bublè

Singer, songwriter, record producer and actor Michael Steven Bublé was born on September 9, 1975 in Burnaby, British Columbia. Bublé was discovered by record producer David Foster while singing at a wedding.

Foster was hesitant to sign him initially, due to his unique sound. Michael has held dual Italian-Canadian citizenship since 2005 and is an avid ice hockey fan. His son Noah was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2016.

17. Nickelback

Rock band Nickleback was founded in 1995 in Hanna, Alberta. The founding members are Chad Kroeger, Ryan Peake, Mike Kroeger, and Daniel Adair.

The band’s name came from band member Mike Kroeger’s time working at Starbucks, where he would frequently tell customers, “Here’s your nickel back.” In 2013, Rolling Stone magazine named Nickelback the second-worst band of the 1990s.

18. Shania Twain

Shania Twain is from Windsor, Ontario. She was discovered by Toronto DJ Stan Campbell.

Twain is the sixth best-selling female artist in the United States. On November 1, 1987, Twain’s mother and stepfather died in a car accident. Shania is beginning her second Vegas residency in December of 2019.

19. Sum 41

Sum 41 was founded in 1996 in Ajax, Ontario. The current band members are Deryck Whibley, Dave Baksh, Tom Thacker, Jason “Cone” McCaslin, and Frank Zummo.

During shows, Sum 41 would occasionally play as an alter-ego 1980s heavy metal band called, Pain for Pleasure. The band performs extensively, often touring for over a year and performing in excess of 300 events per year.

Written by Bo Weber

Supporting artists since 2014


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