Happy 4th of July to our American readers! While many ‘top 10 rock songs about America’ lists will focus on the classics like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA”, or pop lists will focus on ‘classics’ like Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA, Alternative Nation will focus on alternative rock bands in the last 25 years songs about America.
10. The Killers – “Battle Born”
The Killers tackled the 2008 economic crisis and the painful recovery Americans suffered through on Battle Born’s title track, singing about Americans being ‘up against the wall’ and that the ‘dream doesn’t die.’
9. Violent Femmes – “American Music”
A song simply about loving American music, because it is in their soul, baby.
8. Smashing Pumpkins – “United States”
“United States” is probably the most doom metal track in The Smashing Pumpkins’ discography, outside of maybe “Heavy Metal Machine.” The track is the musical representation of the cover of the album it is on, Zeitgeist, which depicts the statue of liberty sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. The live version of the song has always been superior to the studio one, with Jimmy Chamberlin’s thunderous drums dominating the stage.
7. Rage Against The Machine – “Know Your Enemy”
“Know Your Enemy” really represents Rage Against The Machine’s rebellious political nature, with Zack de la Rocha calling for a revolution, and for people to ‘fight the war’ and ‘fuck the norm.’
6. Green Day – “American Idiot”
American Idiot was very polarizing when it was released in 2004, especially considering its political nature compared to Green Day’s previous albums, but it is unquestionably the band’s most important album culturally. Title track “American Idiot” ended up being the definitive 2000’s anti-Iraq war song, and it has even spawned a Broadway musical years later.
5. Velvet Revolver – “American Man”
“American Man” appeared on Velvet Revolver’s second and final album Libertad, which translates to ‘freedom’ in English. The album itself focused more on Scott Weiland’s marriage, loss of his brother, and a few storytelling tracks like “Just Sixteen,” but “American Man” definitely builds on Libertad‘s title and album cover. Weiland’s lyrics seem to touch on the idea of freedom being weakened in 2007 society with what was going on in the world at the time: ‘Freedom, the naked power, weakened by the ages/Raped but not forgotten, all its supple secrets/Gods and liberations, those that try to use it/Are those that try to sheath it, wide awake.’
4. Soundgarden – “4th of July”
“4th of July” is not necessarily a political song or a track about America, but the 4th of July is used as a backdrop for a very dark song featuring a brooding guitar riff and dark lyrics from Chris Cornell.
3. David Bowie – “I’m Afraid of Americans”
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor helped David Bowie update his sound to fit the alternative 90’s with his version of “I’m Afraid of Americans.” David Bowie described the song, “It’s not as truly hostile about Americans as say ‘Born in the U.S.A.’: it’s merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald’s went up: it was like, ‘for fuck’s sake.’ The invasion by any homogenized culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.”
2. The Killers – “Sam’s Town”
Brandon Flowers described The Killers second album Sam’s Town in 2006 as somewhat of a response to Green Day’s American Idiot, which was very cynical in nature when it came to the state of America. Flowers chose to ignore politics and sing about his love of American values on the title track for Sam’s Town. The bombastic track set the tone for the album, and is a great example of Flowers’ optimistic nature in many of his songs.
1. Pearl Jam – Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young cover)
While “Rockin’ in the Free World” is a Neil Young cover, it has become one of Pearl Jam’s greatest live songs. It is a staple at concerts, closing out many sets, with a star studded group of guests joining the band for the song last year in New York.