Playlist – Michigan
Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but Michigan has produced some amazing musical talent. So much that I couldn’t eliminate any of the 30 songs and artists I chose. I grew up listening to a substantial amount of Motown music, what with Detroit area “Oldies” stations playing artists such as Smokey Robinson and any group starting with “The” constantly. When Mark and I started dating, he noted my affinity for the sound. While he’d heard of Motown, he could only name The Temptations as a group typically associated with the genre. He was astounded by my ability to name and recite songs from all of the artists listed in the inset below.
The artists featured above are not only just Motown Record label artists, they’re all actually from Michigan! There are also many other artists from (and artists inspired by) “The Mitten State” who have had substantial influence on the musical world and some who are up and coming to greatness. Enjoy!
1. Madonna – Like A Prayer
A song and video that embodies Madonna’s uncanny ability to break records, top charts, and cause controversy. This video caused quite a stir in the late 80s. Pepsi had just created one of those costly and lengthy 1980s cola company ads featuring Madonna and the song “Like a Prayer” before she released the music video. When the music video debuted, religious groups (including The Vatican) were angry over her use of religious imagery and made enough noise that Pepsi removed their commercial from the air waves. You can see that commercial HERE and other ridiculous 1980s cola commercials HERE and HERE (sorry they’re all very blurry. Blame the 80s).
2. Eminem – 8 Mile
Eminem uses 8 Mile Road as a metaphor that divides the southern inner city from the northern affluent suburbs of Detroit. However, Eight Mile stretches over 40 miles east to west and this metaphor doesn’t hold up the further west one travels. Regardless of this fact, every time Mark and I pass Eight Mile about 30 miles west of Detroit, he sings the hook of “8 Mile Road” and asks if we are near where Eminem grew up.
3. Kid Rock – Cowboy
Kid Rock is a polarizing figure for Michiganders in my experience. Some despise him for his sloppy dressing, alcohol glorification, and womanizing, but this is exactly why others love him. Me? I took his advice to head out west, but passed on finding a spot to pimp and “Kid Rockin” up and down the block.
4. Mike Posner – Cooler Than Me
In this song, Posner sings about wearing large designer shades making one think they are cooler than someone else. Most of the time when I wear large (fake) designer shades to hide my face, it’s because I just woke up in an RV and haven’t had a chance to wash my face yet. Not cooler than you.
5. Bob Seger – Main Street
If our playlist were to reflect the play count of Michigan radio stations, then Bob Seger would be every other song. You cannot take a 30 minute car ride here without hearing at least 2 Seger songs. But, we’re not complaining. Seger hails from my hometown of Dearborn and then later moved to Ann Arbor, attending Pioneer High School, which is located diagonally from The Big House. “Main Street” was written about a street in Ann Arbor by the same name that we frequent whenever we visit.
6. KISS – Detroit Rock City
Apparently, this song was written by Paul Stanley for a Detroit area KISS fan who was killed in a car accident on the way to a KISS concert. How can there be such a tragic story behind such an upbeat song?
7. Alice Cooper – School’s Out
While Cooper talks about the end of school days, he himself attended Lutheran High School in Westland, Michigan before moving to Arizona where he finished high school. In recent years, Cooper has earned an honorary degree from Grand Canyon University and has also been outspoken about his support of musical education.
8. Ted Nugent – Cat Scratch Fever
“You know, during the concert I rewrote some of Ted Nugent’s songs with your name in it. Okay, which one do you like better…Cat Scratch Jackie, or Jackie Scratch Fever?” – Michael Kelso, That 70s Show. Personally, I prefer Jackie Scratch Fever.
9. Iggy Pop – The Passenger
The passenger in The Highland Flinger is subjected to some pretty annoying tasks. There are no automatic mirrors, so the passenger must roll down the window, reach out (usually causing the seatbelt to dig into the neck), and adjust the typically dirty mirror to the driver’s liking. This seems trivial, but each time the passenger door is opened, it must be readjusted. So this routine happens 3-10 times per day.
10. The White Stripes – Icky Thump (Album Version)
Icky Thump apparently alludes to a saying in Northern England “Ecky Thump”, which is an exclamation of surprise akin to “Oh God!” or “Bloody Hell.” e.g. Me: “I’m taking a year to travel the country in an RV and visit sporting events.” Family: “Ecky thump!”
11. Benny and the Jets – Alright
I grew up spotting this van all over southeastern Michigan and assumed it belonged to some Elton John fanatic (the “.com” wasn’t there in early days). However, as an internet using adult, I looked it up and it’s a band that plays all over the area. Well, alright.
12. Sufjan Stevens – Oh Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
Michigan native Sufjan Stevens aspires to write an album for each of the 50 states. Read more about him and his project in a 2005 interview with SFWeekly.
13. Arkells – Michigan Left
To the outsider, this phrase might invoke the sense that Michigan has gone elsewhere. However, a Michigan Left is a type of road formation, which many people find terribly inconvenient. Instead of being able to turn left wherever you’d like, in many cases you must pass it, sometimes by 100+yards, enter a turn-around, and then turn right into your destination. As annoying as this can be, studies have shown that they reduce collisions and hazards to pedestrians, which I think we can all agree is better for everyone. Learn more at MDOT.
14. Stepdad- My Leather, My Fur, My Nails
Michigan indie electronic pop. If you don’t know what these 3 words mean, be sure to have a listen.
15. Dog & Panther – On My Friends
“We don’t necessarily want to pick up chicks with it or do shows or that kind of thing, or try to get people to like us…We just like making the music. And then once we had it we were like, ‘Oh, I really want people to hear this. I’m proud of it.’” As they should be. Read more of their fresh perspective on music at Analogues.