Iggy Pop in his “Wild America” music video.
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin
Sure, there’s “pride” and “patriotism” but let’s get serious for a minute: Being American means blue jeans. It means cowboy boots and dust in your hair and crazy shoulder pads and Lady Gaga shoes. Somewhere there are debt crises and manifest destinies and whatnot, but what really matters on the Fourth of July is optimism—putting on your sunglasses and venturing into the horizon like good Americans. While there are plenty of tunes about being an American, these are the ones that remind us that looking like an American can be weird and crazy but almost always cool. Like, Bruce Springsteen-cool. (No Fourth of July playlist is complete without The Boss and that is an undisputed fact and if you are even questioning our style-commitment to Bruce you should maybe have your passport revoked.)
KATY PERRY: ’FIREWORK’
Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Records
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? No? Is it because you are weighted down with those lovely epaulettes that are draped with crystals, that give that little ball gown thing you are hanging out in on a terrace just the right amount of edge, and as such could not possibly fly away? That’s probably it. Also, the goddess dress ensemble (which is gorgeous and reminds me how beautiful and not just cheeky-cute you are) seems to be shooting off some sort of incendiary, Katy, which is quite nice but dangerous for any passing by.
GREEN DAY: ’AMERICAN IDIOT’
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Please direct your attention to the red tie. Clearly, Billie Joe is punk. The eyeliner and wet-look hair are clear indicators of anti-establishment. But what we like, what really interests us, is not the black or the aggro or the spitting or whatever he does, but that little pop of color he throws in. And he’s done it before but this time it sticks and suddenly there is an entire nation of raccoon-eyed dudes with skinny ties…and I’m not sure how I felt about it then, but now, well, now it’s perfect and sums up the early aughts deliciously.
IGGY POP: ’WILD AMERICA’
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin
Look at Iggy Pop shimmying his pokey man bones all the way around this video, wearing his standard uniform of shirtlessness. Yeah, we can talk for hours about a man who understands the difficulty of properly fitted jeans (worn-in is best, as Mr. Pop graciously displays), but the belt is really what he wants you to look at. In fact, the belt is in many ways a metaphor for Iggy: tough, American, studded and embellished, possibly made of leather. Would we be wrong in saying this video is like a Gap commercial from hell?
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: ’NORTH AMERICAN SCUM’
Photo: Courtesy of DFA/Capitol Records
You thought we would come here and talk about James Murphy’s white sunglasses, but you are totally wrong. He’s at this tiresome photo shoot, and he’s like, screw that noise and he heads to outer space where he encounters his drummer Pat Mahoney looking like a major space ninja. First of all, the tin foil galore is exciting, but Pat’s red suit is so mind-splaying there is envious brain juice dribbling out of my ears. Massive boots, reflective arms, a TV-like head…it is clear James was all, “Pat, you’ve gotta play the bad guy in this video,” and Pat responded, “Fine. But I get the red suit because it is CLEARLY superior.”
LENNY KRAVITZ: ’AMERICAN WOMAN’
Photo: Courtesy of Virgin
Maybe you don’t remember when this video came out, so I’ll recap: The entire world was almost shaken off-course because of the collective dropping of jaws. Think whatever you want about Lenny’s shiny fashion-pants, but Heather Graham is actually summer. She has become a person that has embodied a season, and the season is filled with sunglasses in your hair, mesh shirts and red leather pants (also, blocky heels, but let’s ignore that), and it will last forever.
MILEY CYRUS: ’PARTY IN THE U.S.A.’
Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Records
What is American if not for cowgirl boots? Red-embellished, dust-covered cowgirl boots. They are done nowhere else as well (not even you, JAPAN), and Miley’s look twice her age and decently awesome. She knows it, which is why this video is filled with them kicking up dirt and close-ups on their pearl insets. Country girls, man. They are the coolest.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: ’BORN IN THE U.S.A.’
Photo: Courtesy of Legacy Recordings
When I was a small girl my mother owned Born In The U.S.A. and I think that album cover with Bruce standing all jaunty with a red hanky in his back pocket pretty much dictated my taste in men henceforth. THERE IS NOTHING BETTER, and while one would think “Fourth of July” would be a better song, there is so much going on here it is quiver-making. Bruce’s bandanna tied around his neck and jean jacket OVER his leather is just so down-for-anything that it makes me mad at my parents for not having me earlier so I could have lived out his “Glory Days” with The Boss.
DAVID BOWIE: ’YOUNG AMERICANS’
Photo: Courtesy of ABC
I have nothing more to add to this. If you aren’t sadly eyeing the guys sitting in your vicinity because they could never live up to this, then we are really through. (No we aren’t. But we are on a break right now. And in our off time, just LOOK AT THE SKINNY WALLET CHAIN.) Those molded structured shoulders are so on-point no wonder Lady Gaga borrowed them. The fact that I’m this excited about a brown suit actually upsets me a little.