With Independence Day right around the corner, we'll all be debating what songs qualify as the most patriotic ever recorded in these here United States. Or at least songs that wanted to be on such a list. This is what we came up with.
"America" — Neil Diamond: Diamond is the grandmaster of arena-appropriate pop, and this ridiculously catchy ode to the immigrant's plight is one of his greatest. Try to not sing along with it — we dare you.
Patriot factor: 10 (if you're an East Coast liberal); 3 (if you're a conservative who thinks "ethnic types" are ruining the country even if their restaurants serve great food).
Rock 'n' Roll's National Anthems
"I'm Just a Bill" — Bill (Jack Sheldon): "Schoolhouse Rock" taught American children while rocking it hard, as we all remember so well. "I'm Just a Bill" remains the most famous, since it's probably the only reason several generations of Americans can recall how a bill actually becomes a law.
Patriot factor: 7
Educational value: 10
"The Star Spangled Banner" — Jimi Hendrix: Easily one of the most iconic moments in rock history, Hendrix's feedback-bruised take on the national anthem used chords to imply machine-gun fire and the whistling of dropping bombs to the 400,000 men and women at Woodstock. It persists as a haunting attack on the government charged with defending the flag he was paying tribute to. Just as relevant today as it was then, come to think of it.
Patriot factor: 8
"Born in the USA" — Bruce Springsteen: Contrary to what Ronald Reagan thought, Springsteen's classic is not about being proud of America. It's about the Vietnam War, those who died, and those who came back and were overlooked by their indifferent government. In fact, it's vitriol is what makes the song so damned American.
Patriot factor: 8
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Misunderstood factor: 9
"Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)" — Toby Keith: Country music was just beginning to regain some of the respect it lost in the '90s when Toby Keith started making patriotic music like this. Consider these lyrics: "Man, we lit up your world like the Fourth of July... And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." The American way, really? So are you saying we actually are the war-mongering monsters most of the world has come to believe we are, or are you saying we're just a bunch of assholes like you? Sadly, a disturbing percentage of Americans have adopted this as their new national anthem.
Patriot factor: 10 (if you like Keith or didn't reach junior high school); 2 (if you're none of the above)
Hillbilly irony factor: Beyond quantifiable.