Influential Artists of the Canadian Music Industry

The Canadian music industry has contributed largely to the image of Canada. Some of the world’s most well-known and influential figures in pop culture come from Canada, putting the country on the international map. Here is a list of musicians who have gained worldwide success and shed light on the talent within the country.

Aubrey Drake Graham, known as Drake, was born in 1986 in Toronto. His father was a drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis so he has always been surrounded by music.


Drake first got his start on the Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation playing the role of Jimmy Brooks for seven years (2001-2009) alongside Nina Dobrev, a now well-known Canadian actress. He got the role because one of his classmates’ parents was an agent.

“His dad would say, ‘If there’s anyone in the class that makes you laugh, have them audition for me.’ After the audition, he became my agent,” said Drake in an interview.

While starring on Degrassi, Drake began to drop music and slowly make his way into the hip hop scene, releasing projects such as Room for Improvement in 2006 and Comeback Season in 2007.

After the show ended, Drake was on the verge of looking for a day job when Lil Wayne called him and invited him to go on his Carter III tour. After hearing his song Replacement Girl which featured a sample of Man of the Year, Wayne immediately contacted Drake.

In 2009 Drake released his third mixtape So Far Gone which included his first hit single Best I Ever Had. The song gained a number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. He then signed a deal with Lil Wayne’s record company Young Money Entertainment.

What makes Drake so unique is that he incorporates singing and rapping. This style was not well known within the hip hop community until Drake entered the scene and has since inspired many, including Post Malone.

The Fader reported that Drake’s influence in Toronto is responsible for five per cent of the tourism income within the city (roughly around $440 million of the $8.8 billion).

Photo: Nicolas Padovani via Flickr

The Weeknd

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, was born in 1990 in Toronto. The R&B singer mainly grew up in the suburbs of Scarborough but eventually moved to Toronto.

The Weeknd dropped out of high school in grade 11 and worked at American Apparel while beginning his music career. He worked with Jeremy Rose to produce songs, such as The Morning and What You Need that included both singing and rapping. The songs were uploaded to YouTube in 2010 and were reposted by Drake, which fuelled the artist’s popularity.

Drake’s recognition allowed more doors to be opened. In 2011 The Weeknd released his mixtape House of Balloons which included popular songs such as High For This and Wicked Games. In 2011 he was featured on Drake’s song Crew Love.

After signing with Republic Records in 2012, The Weeknd released Trilogy and Kiss Land in 2013 but they weren’t as successful. It wasn’t until his feature on Ariana Grande’s Love me Harder that the artist began to gain traction. The song was released in 2014 and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard chart. His songs Earned It, The Hills and Can’t Feel My Face brought The Weeknd to international fame.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is one the most well-known Canadian artists in the world and one of the best-selling artists. He was born in 1994 in London, Ont., and was raised by his mother in Stratford.

Bieber’s love for music started at a very young age. He taught himself how to play the drums, guitar and piano. He began to gain attention from the videos his mother posted on YouTube. He was then discovered by record executive Scooter Bruan and signed a deal with Usher. His career started with the first album My World in 2009 which featured his smash hit One Time.

On his second album release in 2010, My World 2.0 his hit song Baby with Ludacris topped charts. Boyfriend, a hit from his 2012 album titled Believe, helped him gain significant recognition worldwide.

Since then, Bieber’s music continues to remain on the charts, including his first number-one single What Do You Mean in 2015. His song Despacito with Luis Fonsi broke records in 2017 for most consecutive weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard Top 100.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes was born in 1998, in Pickering, Ont. He first sprung to fame in 2013 by posting covers on social media platforms, the most frequent being the now-discontinued app, Vine. After signing with Island Records he released his first single Life Of The Party which gained the No. 24 spot on the Billboard 100. He then went on to tour with big artists, including Taylor Swift while continuing to write his own music.

His first EP release in 2015 titled The Shawn Mendes EP hit No. 5 on the Billboard music charts. His debut album Handwritten hit No.1 in the US and Canada. Singles such as Stitches, I Know What You Did Last Summer featuring Camila Cabello, and Treat You Better were all successful and began to top charts in both Europe and North America. His 2016 album Illuminate gained great success going Platinum in both the US and Canada. His third self-titled album in 2018 earned him the number one spot on the Billboard top 200 and a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Lennon Stella

Lennon Stella was born in 1999, and grew up in Oshawa, Ont. Her parents, Marylynne Stella and Brad Stella performed as a duo called The Stellas.

Lennon and her younger sister Maisy Stella got their start on the hit Drama TV series Nashville playing the daughters of a famous country singer. The musically driven show had the girls perform songs as a duo and released on the Nashville soundtracks. The girls gained the most single sales compared to any of the other cast members. Lennon later co-wrote many songs for the show, including Saved, In Love, Clockwork and Tennis Shoes. When Nashville ended in 2018, Stella signed with Records LLC and dropped her first acoustic single Like Everybody Else and followed up with her first EP titled Love, Me. In 2020, she released her highly anticipated debut album Three. Two. One.

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