The best music videos shot in Toronto
When Toronto shows up onscreen, it’s usually masquerading as New York, Chicago or some other American city. But every once in a while—like today, when The Weeknd released the video for “Secrets”—Toronto gets the cinematic treatment it deserves: sweeping shots of the CN Tower, hazy scenes set at Trinity Bellwoods Park, dance-party sequences in abandoned subway stations. Here, our favourite music videos shot in the 6.
Outsiders might not realize “Secrets” was filmed in Toronto, but, to Torontonians, there’s no mistaking the landmark architecture featured in the video: the smooth, signature curves of Raymond Moriyama’s Toronto Reference Library, and the monolithic brutalist spires of U of T’s Scarborough campus. There’s more to come, too. The video for “Comin Out Strong”—a Future and Weeknd collab filmed in Bay Lower station—is set to drop any day.
“Started From the Bottom”
Every video on this list was created in Toronto, but this is the only one that could double as a tourism ad for the city. It opens with a wide shot of little leaguers playing soccer on an official City of Toronto field, flips over to 6Mom Sandi Graham posing outside Drake’s erstwhile Forest Hill home, and shows off the city’s skyline while Champagne Papi flies overhead (in a private jet, naturally). Drizzy’s posse even erected a billboard above the Gardiner for the video (it wouldn’t be the first time, or the last). It’s directed by a Torontonian, too: Director X, the mastermind behind the meme machine “Hotline Bling.” This clip didn’t spawn quite as many Vines, but it did single-handedly make Shoppers Drug Mart sales associate the hottest retail job in Canada.
“Kill V. Maim”
The video for “Kill V. Maim,” arguably the best track off Grimes’ new album Art Angels, is overflowing with cyberpunk sweetness. Partly filmed in Bay Lower station, the four-and-a-half-minute trip follows Claire Boucher and her squad of vampiric sidekicks as they race Mad Max–style through a dystopian city on their way to a bloody, subterranean rave. Just an average night in the Entertainment District.
The Parachute Club
In this ’80s masterpiece, the hippy-dippy members of Parachute Club dance on a flatbed truck as it floats through a residential neighbourhood—full of houses that are undoubtedly worth umpteen times more today. The parade eventually passes the then–newly opened Roy Thomson Hall.
“Love Is New”
The Broken Social Scene co-founder’s smoothest video is a parody of Saturday Night Fever’s opening scene, which features the bell-bottomed, pizza-scarfing, lady-loving John Travolta in New York City. In his rendition, Canning strides through a 1970s-era Kensington Market, hits up Emporium Latino for pupusas and pops by Paul’s Boutique. Bonus points if you can spot all the cameos from BSS members.
“My Moon, My Man”
Like “1234,” Feist’s biggest hands-down hit, the video for “My Moon, My Man” is a meticulously choreographed, single-take spectacle. As Feist frolics along a moving walkway at Pearson, airline staff and tourists alike join her for an impromptu dance party. Of course, in reality, airport security would have shut down that moonlit meeting in one minute flat.
The Shuffle Demons
As they shimmy down Spadina Avenue, these rapping funksters diagnose the state of the TTC circa 1986: “I start to cuss on the Wellesley bus / You can’t go far on the College streetcar / You know the Yonge Street train is a real pain / And the LRT, well that’s not for me.” Yup, still seems accurate.
“King of the Fall”
This video is what we imagine a typical Friday night with Abel Tesfaye might look like: hanging out at house parties populated exclusively by attractive people, walking with his crew through the Queen and Dufferin underpass, popping into a packed Parts and Labour in Parkdale, looking totally bored the whole time.
“Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
The Scarborough soft rockers pay tribute to their home turf by driving along suburban streets, playing in the bed of a pick-up truck and bundling up in toques, scarves and knit sweaters. As if the video couldn’t get any more Canadian, a gang of street hockey–playing hosers yell “CAR!” when the boys drive by.
By the early ’80s, when some Arcade Fire members were still in diapers, these Willowdale prog rockers had already started lamenting the “sprawling on the fringes of the city.” The video opens with long views of Don Valley Parkway traffic before shots of a feather-haired Geddy Lee strolling down Yonge Street offer a quick glimpse of Sam the Record Man (R.I.P.).
In the video for his breakout hit, k-os bounces down Queen Street West, guitar in tow. As for the magical sunglasses that let him spot crabs disguised as humans, well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first time someone started tripping at Trinity Bellwoods.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Drake performed "Subdivisions." Toronto Life regrets the error—but wholeheartedly welcomes the idea of Drizzy covering Rush.