It’s impossible to live in the 50 states and not know about schoolhouse classics like “The Star Spangled Banner” and “This Land Is Your Land,” but those famous odes aren’t the only way to give a musical shout-out to America.
To celebrate the 4th of July, we’ve hand-selected 20 songs, each of which talks about this big, great, complicated country of ours in its own special way — from the critical (Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”) to the full-on celebratory (Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.”).
Check ’em out below.
Miley Cyrus, “Party in the U.S.A.”
Details: This pop classic logged three weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August and September 2009, becoming Cyrus’ highest charting hit to that point. It was featured on Cyrus’ The Time of Our Lives EP, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
Key “America” Lyric: “And I got my hands up/ They’re playin’ my song/ I know I’m gonna be ok/ Yeah, it’s a party in the USA.”
Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”
Details: This oft-misunderstood classic was the third single from The Boss’ album of the same name. It was his seventh studio album; his second to top the Billboard 200 and his first to receive a Grammy nomination for album of the year. The song reached No. 9 on the Hot 100 in January 1985 and received a Grammy nod for record of the year.
Key “America” Lyric: “Nowhere to run/ ain’t got nowhere to go/ Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.”
Lil Wayne, “God Bless Amerika”
Details: This was from the rapper’s eighth studio album, I Am Not a Human Being II, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in April 2013.
Key “America” Lyric: “My country tis of thee/ Sweet land of kill em all and let em die/ God Bless America/ this ol’ godless America.”
Green Day, “American Idiot”
Details: This was the opening track and lead single from Green Day’s album of the same name. American Idiot was their seventh studio album; their second to top the Billboard 200 and their first to receive a Grammy nomination for album of the year. The song reached No. 61 on the Hot 100 in October 2004 and received a Grammy nod for record of the year.
Key “America” Lyric: “Don’t want to be an American idiot/ One nation controlled by the media/ Information age of hysteria/ It’s calling out to idiot America.”
Bonnie McKee, “American Girl”
Details: This non-album single reached No. 87 in September 2013.
Key “America” Lyric: “I wanna see all the stars and everything in between/ I wanna buy a new heart out of a vending machine/ ‘Cause It’s a free country so baby we can do anything (Whoa).”
Simon and Garfunkel, “America”
Details: This melancholy ballad was from the duo’s fourth studio album, Bookends, their first to top the Billboard 200 and their first to receive a Grammy nod for album of the year. The song was finally released as a single in the 1972, to coincide with the release of Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. It peaked at No. 97 in November 1972, just after Richard Nixon’s landslide re-election. Coincidence? You decide.
Key “America” Lyric: “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.”
Madonna, “American Life”
Details: Three years after covering Don McLean’s “American Pie” (for the movie The Next Best Thing), Madonna released an “American” song of her own. This was the first single from Madonna’s album of the same name. American Life was Madonna’s ninth studio album; her fifth to top the Billboard 200. The song reached No. 37 in April 2003.
Key “America” Lyric: “I’d like to express my extreme point-of-view/ I’m not a 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.”
Young the Giant, “Amerika”
Details: This was the opening track from the alternative rock band’s third studio album, Home of the Strange. The album reached No. 12 in September 2016.
Key “America” Lyric: “I’ve been looking for so long/ In Amerika/ Throw my hands in the air!”
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “American Girl”
Details: This was the closing track on the band’s 1976 debut album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Key “America” Lyric: “Well, she was an American girl/ Raised on promises/ She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else.”
Brad Paisley, “American Saturday Night”
Details: This was the opening track and third single from Paisley’s album of the same name. It was Paisley’s eighth studio album; his second to climb as high as No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The song reached No. 67 on the Hot 100 in February 2010.
Key “America” Lyric: “It’s a French kiss, Italian ice/ Margaritas in the moonlight/ Just another American Saturday night.”
Demi Lovato, “Made in the U.S.A.”
Details: This was the second single from Lovato’s fourth studio album, Demi. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The single reached No. 80 on the Hot 100 in August 2013.
Key “America” Lyric: “Our love was made in the U.S.A./ Made in the U.S.A.”
Lana Del Rey, “American”
Details: This was from Del Rey’s EP Paradise, which reached No. 10 on the Billboard 200 in December 2012.
Key “America” Lyric: “Be young, be dope be proud/ Like an American.”
Eminem, “White America”
Details: Hard to imagine a more provocative title. Leave it to Eminem. This was from The Eminem Show, the rapper’s third major-label studio album. The album topped the Billboard 200 for six weeks and received a Grammy nod for album of the year.
Key “America” Lyric: “The women and men who have broke their necks for the freedom of speech the United States Government has sworn to uphold, or (Yo’, I want everybody to listen to the words of this song) so we’re told…”
Lenny Kravitz, “American Woman”
Details: Kravitz covered The Guess Who classic (which had topped the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1970) for the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Kravitz’s version reached No. 49 on the Hot 100 and won a Grammy for best male rock vocal performance.
Key “America” Lyric: “I don’t need your war machines/ I don’t need your ghetto scenes/ Colored lights can hypnotize/ Sparkle someone else’s eyes/ Now woman, get away/ American woman, listen what I say.”
John Mellencamp, “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to ’60s Rock)”
Details: This was the third single from Mellencamp’s eighth studio album, Scarecrow. The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The single reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 in April 1986.
Key “America” Lyric: “Some are black and some are white/ Ain’t to proud to sleep on the floor tonight/ With the blind faith of Jesus you know that they just might/ be Rockin’ in the U.S.A.”
Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)”
Details: This was the opening track and first single from Keith’s album, Unleashed. It was Keith’s seventh studio album; his first to top the Billboard 200. (It was also his first album released after the national trauma of 9/11, hence “The Angry American” subtitle.) The song reached No. 25 on the Hot 100 in August 2002.
Key “America” Lyric: “Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage/ This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage/ 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.”
James Brown, “Living in America”
Details: This song reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 in March 1986, Brown’s highest charting hit since “I Got You (I Feel Good)” more than 20 years earlier. It was taken from the Rocky IV soundtrack and was also featured on Brown’s 53rd (!) studio album, Gravity. The song brought Brown a Grammy for best R&B vocal performance, male.
Key “America” Lyric: “Living in America — hand to hand, across the nation Living in America/ Got to have a celebration/ You might not be looking for the promised land, but you might find it anyway.”
Shea Diamond, “American Pie”
Details: This song was a highlight of the 2018 EP Seen It All by the singer, songwriter and transgender rights activist.
Key “America” Lyric: “Just want my piece of the American pie/ Got your slice, where is mine/ Lick my fingers on this thing called life.”
Don McLean, “American Pie (Parts I and II)”
Details: This classic was the lead single and opening track from McLean’s sophomore album of the same name. The album topped the Billboard 200 for seven weeks and received a Grammy nomination for album of the year. The single topped the Hot 100 for four weeks in January and February 1972 and received Grammy nods for record and song of the year.
Key “America” Lyric: “So bye-bye, miss American pie/ Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.”
Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”
Details: This zesty hit reached No. 25 on the Hot 100 in August 1982. It was from Wilde’s debut album, Kim Wilde.
Key “America” Lyric: “Outside Suburbia’s sprawling everywhere/ I don’t want to go baby/ New York to East California/ There’s a new wave coming I warn you/ We’re the kids in America.”