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10 American Anthems Perfect for Your Fourth of July Playlist

As everyone gears up for the Fourth of July with coolers stocked, flags waving, and fireworks shows planned, have you considered what’s on your party playlist? To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 10 American anthems perfect for your backyard BBQs.

To impress your guests, here are the backstories of these iconic songs that have become staples in U.S. celebrations.

James Brown’s 1985 hit “Living in America” is a celebration of the American dream, symbolizing the endless possibilities just a road trip or train ride away. Featured in “Rocky IV,” the song encapsulates the franchise’s message that hard work and perseverance can make dreams come true. While the song was written by Dan Hartman and Charles Midnight, it was James Brown who brought it to life on the silver screen.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is often misunderstood as a patriotic anthem. Written in 1984, this song actually critiques the struggles of Vietnam veterans. Its loud and triumphant chorus masks the detailed verses that paint a picture of economic hardship. The song poignantly uses freedom of speech to criticize how veterans are treated, making it a nuanced reflection of American patriotism.

Though Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” is an ode to Alabama, none of its writers—Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, and Ed King—were from the state. Written as a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” the song aimed to show that not everyone in the South should be painted as bigoted. Despite its complex history involving references to Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace, the song carries a message of hope for reconciliation.

Katy Perry’s “Firework” may not be overtly about America, but its explosive energy aligns perfectly with the holiday’s spirit. Co-written by Perry, the song is a metaphor for inner self-discovery and empowerment. Influenced by Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road,” Perry envisioned it as a call to celebrate one’s inner strength, making it fitting for the Fourth of July.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” has become a classic rock staple. First recorded on July 4, 1976, the song is about a young woman’s search for a better future. Misinterpreted as a tale of tragedy, Petty clarified that it was inspired by the sounds of cars on a freeway, evoking a dream of achieving something greater, just like his own journey to Los Angeles.

Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” captures the exhilaration of arriving in Los Angeles, a city synonymous with dreams and new beginnings. Written by Jessie J, Dr. Luke, and Claude Kelly, it became an anthem of optimism and self-expression, reflecting the quintessential American experience of chasing opportunities and national pride.

Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” celebrates her roots while highlighting resilience and empowerment. Part of her latest album “Cowboy Carter,” the song honors Black pioneers’ contributions to American culture. Following backlash in 2016 during the CMA Awards performance, Beyoncé’s triumphant return with “Texas Hold ‘Em” marks a significant shift in the country music scene.

Neil Diamond’s “America” conveys the hopes and struggles of immigrants pursuing the American dream. Featured in the 1980 film “The Jazz Singer,” the song is a tribute to Diamond’s own immigrant grandparents. Its heartfelt message resonates with the narrative of hope and determination integral to the American experience.

Chuck Berry’s 1959 track “Back in the USA” celebrates the joys and freedoms of American life. Written upon Berry’s return from an Australian tour, the song appreciates quintessential American scenes like drive-in movies and diner meals. Berry’s impact on rock and roll is profound, influencing bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” is a quintessential American anthem that embodies the carefree spirit of beach culture. Credited to Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry, the song was a rewrite of Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” tailored to surfing spots. With its catchy tune and nostalgic feel, the song is a lasting symbol of youthful adventure and the California dream.

With this mix of classic and contemporary American hits, your Fourth of July playlist is sure to be a hit. Each of these songs brings its own unique flavor to the celebration, encapsulating different facets of the American experience.

Source: NPR