One of the country’s most populous states, Florida is also one of its most interesting. A unique blend of influences have shaped the state’s culture. The upper panhandle has heavy Southern influences, while a large Cuban population in the southern tip injects Caribbean influences into the state. This all helps to explain Florida’s unique musical sound.
1. American Girl – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – 1976
An iconic American rock star, Tom Petty hails from Gainesville and is best known for his songs American Girl, Freefallin or Mary Jane’s Last Dance. Many of his songs have become part of the canon of American rock. Tom Petty was also known for bridging elements of Southern rock with heartland rock and remaining popular even when other heartland rock bands fell off in the 1990’s.
2. Bust It Baby Pt. 2 – Plies, Ne-yo – 2008
Born in Fort Myers, Plies was a college wide receiver before dropping out to pursue a rap career. He follows the long line of Florida based rappers.
3. Hero – Enrique Iglesias – 2001
One of the best-selling singles of all-time, Hero was chosen by radio DJ’s in New York City to be the unofficial theme song for first responders. (The song was released only eight days before the September 11th attacks). The song also cemented Iglesias’ crossover appeal in both Latin Pop and mainstream American pop.
4. Whatcha Say – Jason Derulo – 2010
One of the top R&B hits of 2009 and 2010, Whatcha Say built out Jason Derulo’s career and helped propel him to major commercial success in the first half of the 2010’s.
5. One Last Time – Ariana Grande – 2014
Arguably Florida’s biggest musical star of all time, Ariana Grande has matured from former teen actress to a global icon of music, fashion and glamour. She owns dozens of Billboard records including being the first solo artist to hold the top three spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100. She is also a social media star, usually cited as one of the most followed people in the world.
6. Naked As We Come – Iron & Wine – 2004
Iron & Wine was started by Samuel Beam while he worked as a professor of film at the University of Miami. While he had been making music for years, it wasn’t until a friend gave him a four-track recorder that Beam seriously considered releasing his songs. His first album was released in 2002 to critical acclaim and earned him comparisons to Nick Drake, Elliot Smith and Simon & Garfunkel. Since then, he has been a staple of contemporary folk.
7. All My Best Friends Are Metalheads – Less Than Jake – 1998
One of the country’s most successful ska bands, Less Than Jake has released eight studio albums and helped to shape the genre of ska and punk. Their energetic performances and wry lyrics endeared them to a faithful following of supporters.
8. Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard – 2003
The band’s major label debut, Ocean Avenue was a commercial success that brought pop-punk into the musical mainstream. The album was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed and the chorus from the title song was named by Billboard as one of the best choruses of the 2000’s.
9. Face Down – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – 2006
Formed in Middleburg, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was another popular pop punk band to emerge from 2000’s Florida. They have released five studio albums and continue to tour into their second decade.
10. Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional – 2003
An emo legend and one of the originators of emo rock, Dashboard Confessional released seven studio albums and helped define an entire genre. Melding acoustic and indie rock with emo athmospheres, Dashboard Confessional were one of the most popular musical acts of the decade.
11. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd – 1974
Formed in Jacksonville in 1964, Lynyrd Skynyrd developed into a Southern rock icon and one of America’s great rock and roll bands. The band has released fifteen albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
12. My Friends Over You – New Found Glory – 2002
Over a lengthy recording career, pop punk band New Found Glory has released nine studio albums. Generally considered one of the originators of the genre, the band has had an unheard longevity for a pop punk band.
13. Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band – 1989
One of the great jam bands of the 70’s and 80’s, The Allman Brothers also were fundamental in brining blues, jazz and country elements into American rock and roll. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and are commonly listed as one of the greatest artists of all-time.
14. Green Grass & High Tides – The Outlaws – 1975
One of the 70’s most popular Southern rock bands, The Outlaws performed with Lynyrd Skynyrd and were popular with audiences nationwide.
15. 3 AM – Matchbox Twenty – 1996
Formed in Orlando in 1995, Matchbox Twenty were one of the 90’s and early 2000’s most popular alternative rock bands. Many of their albums are certified platinum, their 1996 album Yourself or Someone Like You was certified diamond. They continue to have influence as one of the most famous post-grunge bands.
16. Let Your Love Flow – Bellamy Brothers – 1976
A crossover hit that led to the Bellamy Brothers’ great popularity in the 70’s and 80’s, Let Your Love Flow is a country pop song that led the band to international stardom.
17. I’d Love You To Want Me – Lobo – 1972
A popular fixture on easy listening radio stations, Lobo was a soft rock star in the 70’s, scoring several Top Ten singles.
18. Only Hope – Mandy Moore – 2004
An acting and musical sensation in the 2000’s, Mandy Moore combined a good-natured demeanor with princess pop to build out a successful acting and singing career. She has sold more than five million albums world-wide as well as received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her acting.
19. Little Do You Know – Alex & Sierra – 2014
The first winners of the American version of the X Factor, Alex & Sierra combined musical talent with a heartwarming origination story. Unfortunately, the couple later broke up and ceased making music together but not before releasing one of the top singles of 2014.
20. Senorita – Camilla Caballo – 2019
Florida raised Camilla Caballo has opened for acts such as Taylor Swift and has melded an R&B sound with Latin influences. Her single Senorita with Shawn Mendes was one of the top hits of 2019.
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