Top 20 best Minnesota songs: #20-11

Top 20 best Minnesota songs: #20-11

Top 20 best Minnesota songs: #10-1
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians
First Avenue's 20 best concerts
50 cool facts about the Minnesota music scene

Countless songwriters have found inspiration in the Land of 10,000 Lakes over the years, and even more have hit upon something revelatory about Minnesota without ever becoming full-time residents. Sometimes these songs are backhanded compliments, and some are full-on gushfests set to shove "Hail! Minnesota" to the curb. Here are our picks for the finest of the umpteen tracks that wouldn't be the same without, ya know, us. --Reed Fischer

20. "Minneapolis" - The Ray Charles Singers

It's hard not to feel a little warm and fuzzy listening to this bubbly little number. By the first couple of bars, it's clear that this 1966 track does not feature the voice of the most famous man ever named Ray Charles -- the one once portrayed by Jamie Foxx in a feature film, the drinker of Diet Pepsi, and the one frequently nicknamed "the Genius." Instead, this Ray Charles is an accomplished songwriter from Chicago who also wrote "We're Gonna Win Twins" and the theme from Three's Company. (He did not, however, write The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme "Love Is All Around," which could've very well made this list too.) Here, "each season brings a new discovery," and this was easily enough to win a contest held by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. A bit more of Charles' story is found on the Hymie's Vintage Records blog, and special thanks to Hymie's for providing the audio. --Reed Fischer

19. "Minnesoter" - The Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor-Taylor must have really known a girl from Minnesota and possibly embarked on quite a strange relationship with her. "With her shirt off, man her skin's soft/but in a mood, she'd rather if I jerked off" he says in one passage, illustrating the passive-aggressive nature of the natives here pretty well -- maybe it takes an outsider's perspective to explain that state-wide quirk so succinctly. This garage-rock gem is more fun to sing along with than just about anything else you can think of, and though they hail from Portland, any Minnesota mixtape you're thinking about making is incomplete without this song on it. --Pat O'Brien

18. "10,000 Lakes" - Kid Dakota

Darren Jackson has more power pop in his pinky than most of us do in our entire bodies, but he unplugs and slows things down on this pensive, wintry (in every sense of that word) offering from 2004's The West Is the Future. "I didn't come for ice fishin, I didn't come for duck huntin'/I'm not Scandinavian or in search of Paul Bunyan," he sings, and if you didn't come to Minnesota for those things it can seem incredibly isolating here at times, especially during the winters, which bring on those feelings of isolation tenfold, regardless of your pastimes. This song makes you want to don a parka even if it's 85 and sunny and, like Jackson, the thought of 10,000 lakes makes us feel smaller, too, but maybe those lakes are what keeps Minnesotans humble. --Pat O'Brien

17. "Uptown Suckers" - Cows

Minneapolis hardcore band Cows were never all that interested in celebrating the local attractions or people that made their city so great -- they were much more concerned in blowing out the eardrums of their fans, and decimating whatever music venue that would allow them to play live. But if they did have a backhanded tribute to the area music scene, it would certainly have to be the riotous "Uptown Suckers," which finds frontman Shannon Selberg delivering caustic compliments to the various miscreants he would encounter in the Uptown area and beyond. You can just imagine him sneering with delight as he delivers the acerbic lines, "Those uptown suckers got smiling hands/They steal my T.V., then cheer my band," right before he either spits on the crowd or jumps directly into the audience, looking to mix it up with these shady characters who he both loves and hates, and clearly drew plenty of inspiration from. -- Erik Thompson

16. "Math is Money" - Lifter Puller

Craig Finn and Slug have been friends since 1995, when both Lifter Puller and Atmosphere were starting to make major waves within the Twin Cities music scene. And while both bands dropped sly lyrical references to each other in their lyrics (with Slug even going so far as to name an Atmosphere track "Lift Her Pull Her"), one of the only official collaborations between the two artists is on the Lifter Puller track "Math is Money." In between references to Jefferson Ave. and assless chaps, Slug joins Finn on the animated chorus, which finds them both proclaiming how "Math is money, and money is math." Finn goes on to exclaim that the "Twin Cities, they're gangin' up on me/Twin Cities, they're double teamin' me." Now whether or not that is a positive local reference or not fully depends on your idea of a good night out. But with Craig Finn, it's never bound to be a boring one. --Erik Thompson

15. "Escapade" - Janet Jackson

What started out as a "Nowhere to Run" cover by Martha and the Vandellas ended up an updated ode to partying and dancing. After a long week of hard work, Miss Janet approaches a dapper gentleman and offers to party away the weekend on an "Escapade." The shout out to "Minneapolis!" during the breakdown is just that -- a shout out. Janet spent much of her young life living in the Twin Cities and recording at Flyte Tyme Studios with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She was showing some love for her home away from home. Aw. Love you too, Janet. --Lars Larson

14. "Minnesota" - Northern Light

This 1975 track by Northern Light, which was eventually picked up by Columbia Records, is indulgent in a way that might make the Ray Charles Singers blush. According to an interview with Crap From the Past, songwriter David Sandler grew up in Iowa until he was 15, and then moved to Minnesota, which proved to be the gateway to his soul, according to the song. The dew-kissed number begins with a loon call, and then its syrupy devotion to our state unfolds with harmonies upon harmonies packed tightly inside. While there's a reason that the Beach Boys got more recognition nationally, this became a massive local favorite in its time. --Reed Fischer

13. "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock" - NOFX

In 2006, Los Angeles punk pranksters NOFX laid down a drunken love letter to both the Triple Rock Social Club and the closely associated Dillinger Four (guitarist Erik Funk co-owns the venue). The details are specific enough -- "It's where you wanna get snowed in when you get snowed in" and "watching Paddy [bassist Patrick Costello] talk" -- that this isn't just a Fat Mike acid trip. By the way, "drinking quota" does indeed rhyme with "Minnesota." --Reed Fischer

12. "Minneap'lis, Minnesota" - Rufus Lumley

Bless the good folks at Secret Stash Records for recovering this gem by Rufus Lumley, which was recorded in a Detroit bowling alley in 1968. It was made available locally on Record Store Day as a limited edition "45 a few weeks back. Lumley, who was a minor star in the Northern Soul movement of the time, has a few other jaunty classics like "I'm Standing" to his name. This particular song is set to be part of Secret Stash's double LP/CD compilation of Minneapolis funk and soul between 1963 and 1978 or so, which will predate the Prince era. Look for the collection this fall. --Reed Fischer

11. "Room With a View" - Brother Ali

No artist has painted a clearer picture of the Northside than Brother Ali. The song title is just that, a room with a view. Ali looks out the window, and details the Wild West of what was Lowry Avenue back in the late '90's and early zeros: Drugs, prostitution and low hope, people just trying to survive any way they could on the block. The blaring horns on the song almost serve as a wake up call to anyone listening. Today Malone's Funeral Home is gone and the block has been cleaned up a little, but still more is needed. Even today as I drive past the library on Lowry, this song always pops in my head. --Lars Larson

The best Minnesota songs #10-1 will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Top 20 best Minnesota songs: #10-1
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians
First Avenue's 20 best concerts
50 cool facts about the Minnesota music scene

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