12 Essential Songs for July 4th

This Fourth of July weekend, let freedom ring while rocking out to these twelve tracks. 

Whether it is protesting a war, appreciating independence, or marionnettes saving the world, these songs embody the essence of the true American spirit.  

Without further adieu, here is Super Metal World’s essential Fourth of July playlist. 

“Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Selection by: Mark Radlund

Year: 1969

Album: Willy and the Poor Boys

Factoids: Before the “well, actually” guy comes out of the woodworks, let’s get this out of the way. “Fortunate Son” is an anti-war protest song, specifically about Vietnam. Super Metal World is not breaking any news with that statement. That being said, it’s not an anti-american song, like many want to believe. John Fogerty wrote this song in roughly 20 minutes after being drafted in 1965. Fogerty felt that he and countless others were unfairly shipped off to war, specifically those that were not lucky or (wait for it) fortunate enough to be raised into inherently wealthy households that boasted high social and political stature. Fogerty’s brief stint in the military makes this track authentic, unlike the plethora of bubblegum pop-country songs that financially capitalize on patriotism. Fogerty is genuine with his lyricism, and we admire him for that.

Reason for choice: I love this song. It lives and breathes old school rock n’ roll. Any time “The Man” is involved, and an artist plans to “stick it to him,” I am 1,000 percent in. Bossman? Shove it! Taxman? Up yours! “Fortunate Son” embodies the spirit of this exact notion. Of course, “The Man” in this case is the American government and Fogerty’s method of “sticking it to em’” is belting, “IT AIN’T ME!” 

If you feel the need to lecture people that “Fortunate Son” is anti-american, please gently step off your soapbox and enjoy this homegrown american anthem. This country was built on freedom, damnit. If the Foges wants to protest the government (which a multitude of Americans were actively doing during this time frame), then so be it. 

Fogerty may not have been born with a “silver spoon in hand,” but that shouldn’t stop you from pounding a ‘silver bullet’ this weekend. Get on that pontoon, crank this classic, and stick it to the man! 

“The Pride” – Five Finger Death Punch 

Selection by: Ty Bommersbach

Year: 2012

Album: American Capitalist 

Factoids: This song lists 32 buzzwords associated with American culture in rapid succession. You probably have heard of Five Finger Death Punch through their cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company.” 

Reason for Choice: I am the resident metalhead, so I’m betting this song will be new to you. This track is simple in its meaning and that’s what makes it effective. We are what our American culture has molded us into and we can’t help but be anything different. The American identity is what comes from living in a democratic and capitalistic society that will either draw ire or respect from the rest of the world. The pride is meant as a double entendre referring to pride in one’s country and an analogy to a lion’s pride. “I’m not selling out. I’m buying in!” 

Forget Lee Greenwood, this song makes me proud to be an American…only kidding guys that song is also fucking brilliant. 

“War” – Edwin Starr

Selection by: Danielle Jordan 

Year: 1970

Album: Released as a single

Factoids: “War” was originally recorded and performed by The Temptations (best known for their hit “My Girl”) in 1969. However, their label feared the anti-Vietnam War, pacifistic anthem would alienate their more conservative fans, so the song was re-recorded with Edwin Starr as vocalist.

Reason for Choice: While this song was specifically intended to be a statement against the Vietnam War, the lyrics resonate just as loudly today. Starr sings, “War has shattered many young men’s dreams / Made them disabled, bitter and mean / Life is much too short and precious to be fighting war these days / War can’t give life it can only take it away!” It seems as though our country is stuck in a cycle of war with no end in sight; and with America’s forceful presence in the Middle East, an astronomical military budget, and an upcoming presidential election centered on human rights, there is no other time for peace than now.

“Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen

Selection by: Lucas Miller

Year: 1984 

Album: Born in the U.S.A.

Factoids: The album of the same name is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having notched over 18 million copies worldwide. This song is also widely misinterpreted. Most people associate this song with American pride, when in reality, Springsteen wrote it as a critique of how Vietnam War vets were treated at the time. 

Film director Paul Schader (writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) sent Springsteen a script for a film called Born in the U.S.A. about a rock band struggling with life and religion, which is what gave Springsteen the idea in the first place. Schrader ended up renaming his film, “Light of Day” because the title became too associated with Springsteen’s song. As a result, and maybe also out of guilt, Springsteen penned the film’s title track. 

Reason for choice: This is nowhere near my favorite Springsteen song, and probably isn’t even in my top-10. That being said, you better believe “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and the rest of his discography take a back seat come July 4th each year, as does every other song.

This is Springsteen at his peak. Having come off Nebraska, The River, Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run, ‘The Boss’ should have been on the decline. Artists are always faced with the daunting task of having to outdo their last project. Springsteen became the 80’s version of what Bob Dylan was to the 60’s, and did so in large part because of this timeframe. This era should have been a failure and yet, it wasn’t, in large part due to the emotionally charged delivery and anti-war themes messaged throughout. 

This may be the most standard, obvious choice when thinking of 4th of July songs, but I just don’t care. 

“Freedom” – Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar

Selection by: Danielle Jordan 

Year: 2016

Album: Lemonade

Factoids:  Beyonce and Lamar’s opening performance of “Freedom” at the 2016 BET Awards was preceded by a voiceover of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, leaving no room for doubt about this track’s political overtones.

Reason for Choice: Masterfully, this song weaves together the story of a woman fighting for her marriage for the sake of her children and a battle cry for the liberation of black women everywhere. When Beyonce belts, “Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cauz’ I need freedom, too!” she sings from both her personal experience as a woman struggling to heal from the pain of her husband’s infidelity, as well as her drive for cultural and racial freedom for black people in America. Lamar’s verse reinforces by asserting that even though national media may tell black individuals they are “regressing” in their tactics, his fight for freedom will never cease. What’s more, he ends by reassuring listeners that FREEDOM will be etched on his gravestone.

“National Anthem” – Lana Del Rey

Selection by: Lucas Miller

Year: 2012

Album: Born to Die

Factoids: Del Rey was inspired by her real-life relationship with a wealthy ex-boyfriend she used to go on luxurious vacations with. In the music video, Del Rey, along with friend and collaborator ASAP Rocky, reenact the assassination of JFK.

Del Rey’s second studio album, Born to Die, is only the third album by a female to spend 300 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.

Reason for Choice: Pop’s sad girl has made a career out of writing about the intricacies and hardships associated with love and relationships.  The fifth single off Born To Die is no different. 

“National Anthem” tells the story of two lovers from the point of view a girl, who at first is totally smitten over the stereotypical “bad boy” type. With each new verse, we watch the once naive girl slowly, but surely, morph into her male counterpart; obsessed with money and status. 

Del Rey’s hip-hop styled delivery in her verses help land the sweeping pop chorus, “Tell me I’m your National Anthem/ Red! White! Blue’s in the sky! Summer’s in the air, baby heaven’s in your eyes,” and help make this one of her most memorable.  

“Amerika” – Rammstein

Selection by: Ty Bommersbach

Year: 2004

Album: Reise, Reise 

Factoids: This song satirizes the Americanization of the world and is one of the rare songs where Till Lindemann sings in English for portions of the song. You probably have heard of Rammstein through their most popular track “Du Hast.” 

Reason for Choice: It is kind of neat tradition for seemingly patriotic songs to be anything but. If you don’t speak German you probably won’t be offended and will be singing along with the lyrics all the same. Think of it as the metal version of “Born in the U.S.A.” Hell, I know what the song is about and still enjoy it. Play it at the BBQ. No one will give it a second thought. The music video is a trip too. 

“Independence Day” – Martina McBride

Selection by: Danielle Jordan

Year: 1994

Album: The Way That I Am

Factoids: Shortly after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Republican Fox News commentator Sean Hannity used the chorus of “Independence Day” for his talk show intro. McBride protested this usage. Although ultimately she was not able to stop him from using the track, she collected royalties from its placement and donated all of those funds to charity (cauz’ she’s a BOSS).

Reason for Choice: Much like “Freedom,” this song has a double meaning. “Independence Day” tells us the story of a young girl whose mother is abused by her father. On Independence Day, while the young girl visits a carnival in town, her mother sets fire to their home, subsequently escaping and finding her own independence from an abusive relationship. July 4, America’s Independence Day, becomes this woman’s personal independence day. I bump this EVERY year on the Fourth of July because (a) it slaps, and (b) it reminds me that the freedom of a nation is, in fact, built on the freedom of women. 

Who runs the world?!

“American Girl” – Tom Petty

Selection by: Lucas Miller

Year: 1976

Album: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Factoids: The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas admitted to using the same riff from “American Girl” in, arguably, the band’s most popular song, “Last Nite”. The track was never a hit upon its release, but has gone on to become the band’s most popular and most downloaded song on Spotify. 

Coincidentally, “American Girl” was recorded on July 4, 1976. 

Reason for Choice: I remember first hearing this song in my parent’s basement when watching The Silence of the Lambs alone, which, by the way, was a great lapse in judgment on my part.One of the best scenes in the movie (which if you haven’t seen, you should) is when Catherine Martin jams out to “American Girl” alone in her Chevy, before eventually being abducted by the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill.  

This scene told us everything we needed to know about Catherine in the ten seconds of screen time we got. We knew exactly who she was without having heard or seen her before, because she loved a song so simple and classic, that we also adore, and sang it just like you’re supposed to; at the top of your lungs. 

“Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” – Toby Keith

Selection by: Mark Radlund

Year: 2002

Album: Unleashed

Factoids: Released in May of 2002, “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” reached number one on the Billboard Top 100 Country Songs over the Fourth of July weekend that same year. No surprise that a heavy inspiration for this track was the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent War in Afghanistan. Additionally, Toby Keith’s father, a military veteran himself, passed away in a car accident a few months prior. “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” is a culmination of Keith’s outrage of the 9/11 attacks, mixed with his loyal patriotism. 

While this mega-hit was beloved by many Americans (especially during this time frame), “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” did spark a feud with fellow country artists, the Dixie Chicks. Lead singer Natalie Maines publicly stated that the track “…made country music sound ignorant.” Keith clapped back by consistently displaying a backdrop at his concerts, featuring a doctored photo of Maines alongside Saddam Hussein. The final nail in this quarrel came at the 2003 Country Music Awards, where Maines flaunted a shirt with the bold acronym “FUTK.” She claimed (at the time) that it stood for “Friends United in Truth and Kindness,” when in reality it stood for (you guessed it), “Fuck You Toby Keith.” 

Reason for choice: Keith claimed to have wrote this song in twenty minutes, and it shows. Lyrically, “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” reads as if Keith did a quick Google (possibly Altavista, being it was 2002) search of “common American terms.” Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty, and Old Glory all make cameos. We are also treated to “mother freedom ringing her bell” as well as “an eagle will fly, and there’s gonna be hell.” To be quite frank, this is cut from the same cloth as Charlie Kelly’s “Rock, Flag, and Eagle” anthem in Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

But, honestly, should we truly give two shits about the lyricism in a Toby Keith song? I say nay.  

As I sit on the dock this Fourth weekend, beer in one hand and a live bottle rocket in the other, I won’t be thinking of Toby Keith asking Jeeves about American synonyms. I’ll be enjoying this masterpiece, a now Fourth of July anthem, for what it is. Patriotic tears will be streaming down my face, envisioning the “Statue of Liberty shaking her fist” and Old Glory “putting a boot in someone’s ass.” 

Those tears may also be due to a potential bottle rocket explosion that occurred my hand. Practice firework safety this weekend, kids. 

“America, F*ck Yeah” – Trey Parker 

Selection by: Ty Bommersbach

Year: 2004 

Album: Team America World Police Soundtrack 

Factoids: This is the theme song from the movie Team America World Police made by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The movie was filmed using nothing but marionettes as the human characters. 

Reason for choice: If you sense a common theme in my list you’d be on the money. All three of my songs have included either satire of American culture, listing American buzzwords in rapid succession, or both. It’s easy to win my heart folks. This is simultaneously the most over-the-top and spot-on patriotic song there is. 

If they had any sense up on Capitol Hill, it would have been our national anthem years ago. If you don’t agree, well, “lick my butt and suck on my balls.” 

“Real American” – Rick Derringer

Selection by: Mark Radlund

Year: 1985

Album: The Wrestling Album

Factoids: “Real American” is most known for being iconic wrestler Hulk Hogan’s theme song. The track appeared on the The Wrestling Album, which was a compilation of entrance songs and sound bites from the World Wrestling Federation during the mid-eighties. Former President Barack Obama also paid homage to the song at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, where he unveiled his birth certificate to the audience. 

Reason for choice: I am truly at a loss for words after watching this music video. If someone asked me to create a parody for “Real American,” I couldn’t dream of producing something of this quality. It’s perfect. The video features appearances from several “Real Americans,” including Abe Lincoln, Sitting Bull, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are treated to a JFK speech, in addition to numerous quick cuts and transitions, which look like a fourth grader discovering Microsoft Powerpoint for the first time. 

“But wait, Mark, I’m not sold yet. Does this video feature ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan shredding a flag guitar over iconic American landmarks and fireworks?”

You’re damn right it does. 

This concludes Super Metal World’s essential Fourth of July playlist. Bump these tracks while you’re on the boat, lighting off fireworks, or making smores around the campfire. 

As the Hulkster would say, “Train, eat your vitamins, and be a real American” this weekend. 

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