Best Songs About America
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! America’s a pretty great country, isn’t it? The spacious skies, amber waves of grain and all that. But there’s more to the nation than just one shade. Move from one state to the next, and you’ll discover different customs, accents and insight about the land that 314 million people call home. Our list of the Best Songs About America doesn’t just look at the U.S. through a pair of red, white and blue glasses. We’ve got some patriotic and joyful songs, but we’ve also got some angry and frustrated ones. They’re all part of the American experience.
The title track of Green Day’s comeback album doubles as the record’s thematic center. ‘American Idiot’ is a concept album filled with ideas that swarm inside any 16-year-old rebel’s head, like how things would be different if the punks were in charge and how much the U.S. mainstream blows. The title cut sums up the hour-long album in less than three minutes.
The Blasters were playing roots music inspired by rock ‘n’ roll pioneers at a time when most bands were ignoring the past. But coming out of the late-’70s and early-’80s L.A. scene, the Blasters injected their Americana with shreds of jagged punk. ‘American Music’ celebrates fast cars, hot girls and a time in U.S. history when it seemed like anything and everything was possible.
The backstory of Wilco’s fourth album is part of its legend. After being rejected by a record-company exec for not being commercial enough, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”s scheduled release in fall 2001 was pushed back. When it finally came out the following spring (on a different label), the album — recorded before 9/11 — sounded eerily prescient in its post-9/11 subject matter. It’s an American album though and through; ‘Ashes of American Flags’ unfurls like a long, sad, lonely requiem.
‘4th of July’
X were one of the most literate and tightest bands to come out of Los Angeles’ late-’70s punk scene. They were starting to fall apart by the time they released their sixth album in 1987, but they had become a stronger and more focused band by then. ‘See How We Are’ is almost Americana in its sound and subject matter. ‘4th of July,’ possibly X’s greatest (and most accessible) single, is basically a breakup tale set against an Independence Day celebration. Side note: The song was written by Dave Alvin, who led the Blasters (their ‘American Music’ is also on our list of the Best Songs About America).
Leave it to a bunch of Brits to rain on our all-American parade. Then again, we did kinda stage a revolution against them a couple hundred years ago. No hard feelings? The Clash run down a list of things about the U.S.A. that either bore them or piss them off, including support of overseas dictatorships, rampant drug use in the Army, Richard Nixon and ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ which always bored us, too.