There’s a lot to celebrate in America these days. We’ve finally found a misogynistic, racist moron to steer us off a cliff, we might get a shiny new healthcare system that gives tax cuts to the wealthy in exchange for our lives, and we’ve decided that global warming and science are the new “fetch.” God bless America for being the land of the free and home to democracy, right?
America is literally in a four-year-long dumpster fire fueled by Russian vodka that we’ve only just started to settle into, which means that the family BBQs that’ll be happening for Independence Day are going to be a wild ride through Bigotville. It’s already grating enough to watch your racist relatives drink beer that tastes like pee while they spew conspiracies about immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, and every other subset of people imaginable. This year, these family are going to be spouting off this garbage with confidence thanks to the rise of Trump’s America—but you can resist.
This Fourth of July, it’s up to you to fight for your right to protest through music. We’ve curated ten essential tracks about America that subvert patriotism with lyrics made to drag Lady Liberty’s homeland to filth. So, while the apple pie is prepped and the grill is fired up, take control of the music and fight back one secretly anti-American song at a time.
Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”
If there were ever a redneck anthem to trick your relatives into thinking is pro-America, it’s this. Bruce Springsteen’s music is classic and guaranteed to get a room full of white people or a stadium full of Nascar enthusiasts on their feet stomping their boots. This track, about how fucked up the Vietnam War was, is one of the most misunderstood songs in pop culture—so much so that Ronald Reagan used it in his 1984 re-election campaign.
Best Lyric: “Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand. Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man…”
Madonna — “American Life”
Yes, the name “Madonna” might get one or two of your more fringe family members to launch into a misogynistic tangent, but don’t press pause. When this track was released in 2003, it nearly ruined her career because of her danceable critique of the American dream. While some may remember that, we’re betting that 14 years is enough time to safely play it and have the whole BBQ just think you’re having a little gay moment over a song about America.
Best Lyric: “I’m not Christian and I’m not a Jew. I’m just living out the American dream and I just realized that nothing Is what it seems.”
John Mellencamp — “Pink Houses”
Long before the Weeds theme song critiqued America’s suburban sprawl of “little boxes on the hillside,” another house-themed song came along to condemn segregation. John Mellencamp may also have some major Southern street cred as a classic Americana artist, but this song isn’t as pleasantly patriotic as it seems. Not only does it but housing segregation on blast, but it also serves as a longer story about the death of the American dream.
Best Lyric: “And there’s winners and there’s losers but they ain’t no big deal, cause the simple man baby pays for the thrills, the bills. The pills that kill.”
Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen — “That’s What Makes Us Great”
What’s better than pissing your family off with one anti-American Bruce Springsteen jam? Pissing them off with another one. This track features Springsteen and his friend Joe Grushecky roasting Trump in all his stupid, orange glory. Besides calling him out for his lies and deceit, it also acts as a battle cry for people who want to fight back against Trump’s America.
Best Lyric: “And don’t you brag to me that you never read a book. I never put my faith in a con man and his crooks.”
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers — “American Girl”
There’s nothing petty about this classic song. Impress your relatives and then leave them shook when you explain that this jam isn’t just a heteronormative ode to broken-hearted boys. It’s also about a girl who is ready to escape America for new lands (that are probably not run by billionaire tyrants).
Best Lyric: “She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else. After all, it was a great big world with lots of places to run to.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Fortunate Son”
There was something brewin’ in Louisiana when Creedence Clearwater released this track. Although they might fool your relatives into a false sense of security, this track is vehemently anti-war and criticizes the military action taken by the US in the 1960s. Of course, that meaning is often lost, which means the track has been featured in everything from video games and TV shows to commercials for denim jeans.
Best Lyric: “Some folks inherit star spangled eyes. Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord, and when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer More, more, more!”
The Throne — “Made in America”
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s The Throne project may not seem like the first choice for a family BBQ, but trust us when we say that “Made in America” will change your mind. This bop is a no-holds-barred commentary on the plight of minority males in America coated in a great beat and topped with a title that actually sounds optimistic about America.
Best Lyric: “The streets raised me, pardon my bad manners. I got my liberty chopping grams up. Street justice, I pray God understand us. I pledge allegiance to all the scramblers. This is the Star Spangled Banner.”
The Guess Who — “American Woman”
No, this is not the Lenny Kravitz cover that your aunt grinded on a bar stool to once at Chili’s. The original track, by The Guess Who, was largely improvised when it was made and is the most damning anti-draft song from a group of Canadians ever. Nothing beats commenting on the disastrous Vietnam War from the sidelines (Canadians didn’t engage in the war)—and singing about the war machines and ghetto scenes in America just confirms our stamp of approval.
Best Lyric: “Don’t come a-hangin’ around my door. Don’t wanna see your face no more. I don’t need your war machines. I don’t need your ghetto scenes”
Woodie Guthrie — “This Land Is Your Land”
Us Americans have been forced against our will to sing this song in elementary school while holding hands. While that definitely won’t happen at your BBQ, it is worth playing this pro-immigration song now to show solidarity with the refugees trying to make it to America. When your grandparents start to recognize the track, don’t forget to let them know that Guthrie wrote it in the 1940s about the extreme poverty throughout the country.
Best Lyric: “As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there and that sign said – no tresspassin. But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin! Now that side was made for you and me!”
The Steve Miller Band — “Living in the U.S.A.”
An upbeat chorus may cloak this track in American spirit, but not everything is as it seems. The song actually targets the war on the poor and the division between the diverse communities in America. Close out your lowkey, anti-American playlist by throwing this on the mix just in time for the burgers and hot dogs to finish grilling. Living in the U.S.A. may get depressing, but at least there’s music to keep us going.
Best Lyric: “I see a yellow man, a brown man, a white man, a red man. Lookin’ for Uncle Sam to give you a helpin’ hand but everybody’s kickin’ sand.”
For more of our music recommendations, check out our list of 10 wildly trippy albums right here.
- Writer: Chris Thomas
- Cover Image: Still from Madonna's "American Life" video