One of the cultural capitals of the Midwest, Minnesota has a strong history in music, literature and the fine arts. Some of the country’s best writers, musicians and artists have called the state home, and the state’s great lyrical tradition is evident in this playlist. A strong emphasis on the literary and artistic is evident in the state’s music and musical traditions.
1. Good as Hell – Lizzo – 2019
Classically trained flautist, rapper, singer-songwriter and social advocate, Lizzo is one of contemporary pop’s most interesting performers. Known as much for her body positivity and social advocacy as for her music, Lizzo has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards as well as a headliner for major nation-wide tours.
2. Little Red Corvette – Prince – 1983
The favorite son of Minneapolis, global icon Prince is easily Minneapolis’ most beloved musician. The ever evolving Prince was a star in funk, R&B, rock, soul, and pop. The singer-songwriter was also an excellent guitarist, producer, dancer, actor and filmmaker. Prince remains one of the best-selling artists of all-time and won seven Grammy Awards before his tragic death in 2016.
3. Androgynous – The Replacements – 1984
One of Minnesota’s many alternative rock bands, The Replacements featured honest punk lyrics with alternative instrumentation. The band was famous for their notoriously poor live performances as well. They were permanently banned from Saturday Night Live after an especially terrible performance in 1986.
4. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan – 1973
Universally recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of all-time, Bob Dylan was an American cultural icon of the 60’s. Although originally from Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan has become the pride of the whole state, if not the nation. His songs earned him not only critical praise from music critics, but also a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.
5. Sunshine – Atmosphere – 2018
Hip-hop duo Sean Daley and Anthony Davis make up Atmosphere, one of Minneapolis’ most popular hip-hop groups. The duo have released fourteen studio albums and continue to make music well into their third decade of existence.
6. Wait so Long – Trampled by Turtles – 2010
Bluegrass and folk rock band Trampled by Turtles hail from Duluth and are one of Minnesota’s most prolific bands. Since 2004 the band has released ten studio albums and tour widely through the nation, playing at some of the country’s biggest music festivals.
7. The Future Freaks Me Out – Motion City Soundtrack – 2003
A staple of the Warped Tour, Motion City Soundtrack was a key player in the pop punk popularity of the early 2000’s. The band released six studio albums and were known for their lyrics that dealt with mental illness and substance abuse.
8. Fireflies – Owl City – 2009
Formed in Adam Young’s basement in 2007, Owl City developed a following on MySpace before achieving mainstream popularity in the late 2000’s after singing on major record labels such as Universal. Owl City released six studio albums, their most successful being Ocean Eyes in 2009.
9. Blue – The Jayhawks – 1995
Alternative country band The Jayhawks have released ten studio albums and are one of the most popular alternative country rock bands to come out of Minnesota.
10. The Trolley Song – Judy Garland – 1945
Acclaimed actress, singer and dancer, Judy Garland was awarded Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Tony’s and Grammy Awards. She is best known for her appearance as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, but Garland also had a successful musical career.
11. Heaven – Mason Jennings – 2016
Folk pop singer-songwriter Mason Jennings has released over a dozen studio albums in just over twenty years of work. He is known for his introspective lyrics and distinct voice.
12. Lullaby – Low – 1994
Known for their distinct vocal harmonies, Low combine slow tempos with minimalist instrumentation. The band has been active since 1993 and still tour widely.
13. Kismet Kill – Haley Bonar – 2016
With ten studio albums in the last twenty years, Haley Bonar is one of the most prolific artists in the DIY folk scene. Bonar was born in Manitoba, Canada but spent her childhood in Rapid City, South Dakota. She has since relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota where she launched her rising musical career.
14. This Too Will Pass – Peter Himmelman – 1991
Singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman played in the band Sussman Lawrence before pursuing his solo career. He has released over ten studio albums since beginning n 1986.
15. Let’s Go! – The Hopefuls – 2004
Winners of the 2005 Minnesota Music Awards, The Hopefuls make power pop music best suited for the cheerful and optimistic. Their music has been described as insufferably peppy and deliberately corny.
16. Jungle Love – The Time – 1984
Created by Prince in 1981, The Time mix soul with funk and dance music. The band were close associates of Prince and remain the most successful artists to work with the Minnesota legend.
17. Sex & Candy – Marcy Playground – 1997
Power pop group Marcy Playground released four albums in their time together as one of Minnesota’s top post-grunge alternative bands.
18. Sweet ’69 – Babes in Toyland – 1995
Punk band Babes in Toyland were formed by Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero and Michelle Leon. The band was heavily influential to the riot grrrl movement of the Pacific Northwest, although the band never consciously identified themselves as such.
19. Closing Time – Semisonic – 2003
Formed in Minneapolis in 1995, Semisonic was one of Minnesota’s most popular 90’s alternative rock bands. Their song Closing Time remains their biggest enduring hit.
20. Love Is the Law – The Suburbs – 2001
Popular through the 70’s and 80’s, The Suburbs mixed punk rock with new wave to create a unique sound. They continue to tour widely through the country.