If you're tired of the same old playlist of predictable Bruce Springsteen/ John Mellencamp/ Tom Petty/ Neil Diamond/ Lee Greenwood songs your buddy always rolls out for his annual Fourth of July barbecue, take heart. While we love us some "Born in the U.S.A." and "Proud to Be an American," the Independence Day soundtrack needs a serious makeover, and we've combed through our collections to come up with a fresh take on patriotic songs for the nation's birthday.
Sure, some of them are flag-waving in name only, others make it unclear how the artist feels about the nation and some are just on there because they're awesome, but all will light your wick and make your Fourth extra fiery.
Katy Perry, "Firework": OK, this song has nothing to do with jingoistic chest-beating, but it does have a killer Fourth-centric title, a video full of CGI bottle rockets and a nice message about American individualism.
The Throne, "Made in America": Jay-Z liked this song from his collabo album with Kanye West so much he used it as the name of his upcoming music festival in Philadelphia. In addition to name-checking such iconic Americans as Martin Luther King Jr. and wife Coretta Scott King and Malcolm X, Jay pledges allegiance to his granny for serving up his slice of Americana: her banana pudding. Jigga also gives props to apple pie while Kanye focuses on his only-in-America success story and brags a bit about the riches he's earned from rapping. Because conspicuous consumption is, after all, as American as baseball, apple pie and morbid obesity caused by all that apple pie. (See also: Jay's "Empire State of Mind.")
Lana Del Rey, "National Anthem": The wispy chanteuse paid homage to two of the ultimate American icons in the JFK-focused video for this song. While you won't find it blasting at a good 'ol boy backyard bootscootin' party, Rey also nods to the national obsession with fame and fortune in the lines, "Money is the anthem/ Of success," begging her lover to call her his national anthem and waxing philosophical about "red, white and blue[s] in the skies."
Lenny Kravitz, "Black and White America": The "American Woman" singer made his life as a biracial American the theme of his most recent album. The title track opens with a lyric about MLK's vision and a plea to not look back on the civil rights leader's dream of a unified country, before moving on to Kravitz's own tale of growing up in a mixed household. "We're the children of one father," he sings. "If you're looking back don't bother/ We're black and white America." If that doesn't get your flag waving, nothing will.
Lady Gaga, "Americano": We will fully admit we have no clue what this funky bilingual song is about. Other than the Latinized title and lines about meeting a "girl in East L.A. in floral shorts" and skirting the law, it has nothing to do with Independence Day. But Gaga gets a pass because what's more American than making a mariachi dance pop song about immigration, gay marriage and Christianity? Think of it as the liberal baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.
Animal Collective, "Fireworks": Like the Perry song, this one pretty much has nothing to do with celebrating our freedom. It does, however, touch on a genie who makes humans out of the Earth's skin, blood rivers, warm cereal, pickpocket elephants and color blindness. Did we mention how awesome fireworks are?
Kelis, "4th of July (Fireworks)": Like bands who release nostalgic songs with wistful titles just in time for graduation, Nas' ex clearly had seasonal sales (and Google searches) in mind with this one. Hell, this is mostly a bitter break-up and rebirth song with an almost afterthought nod to the holiday right near the end. Still counts, though.
Wilco, "Ashes of American Flags": On its surface, the title alone seems to disqualify this song from the running. And the lyrics, well, they're a poetic trip through Jeff Tweedy's twisted psyche as he ponders materialism, the emptiness of our daily existence and our society's lack of substance. Did you catch the title though? America, f--- yeah!
Have a great Fourth!
What's your favorite non-traditional Fourth of July song? Let us know in comments below!