I would say most millennials, myself included, are unhappy with the current state of our country. Our contemporary chart topping “patriotic” songs are more like protest songs, like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” Pussy Riot’s “Make America Great Again” and Joey Bad$$’s “Land of the Free.”
But in the ‘80s, that was not the case. Holy hell, people really loved America in the ‘80s. Music and music videos were bursting with patriotism. Performers ranging from legendary soul artists to roots rockers and hair metal bands earnestly praised America. For them, America was a land of super highways that people from everywhere around the world came to and a place where you could still rock.
As the resident 20-something music rat at BTRtoday, my editor was curious about how I’d react to these patriotic tunes from the past. Except for the classic “Born In The U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen, I hadn’t heard any of these songs before.
Listening to these songs about how America is the greatest country in the world was a rollercoaster of reactions that swung wildly from funny to confused. They’re actually all pretty catchy. Don’t get me wrong: I never want to hear most of them ever again. They’re just so cheesy. I mean painfully cheesy.
James Brown – Living In America
Well, I love James Brown, but he was also a drug-addicted serial domestic abuser, so the absurdity of this song and video does not surprise me all that much. Sure, some may think, “wow, a song about highways, this is dumb.” But like, if you think about it, it’s kinda cool that we can just hop in a car and drive cross-country. I don’t think that’s limited to America, but ya know, close enough. James Brown is just so absurd to me that everything he does is amazing—plus, my parents’ first date was at a James Brown concert, so I’m a little biased. Also, hell yeah to the shout out to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
Neil Diamond – Coming To America
Why do I love this song? I really have no idea. I feel like the government has just been subliminally pushing this song on me for my entire life and I’ve never noticed. But whenever I hear it I’m like, “yes, they are coming to America.” (Who are they? I’m not sure.) Yes, America is a new shiny place. It’s just like that sparkly shirt and ascot Neil sports in the video. Sparkle on USA! (And can we take a quick second to appreciate the couple this video keeps flashing back to in the audience, that guy seems like he’s trying really hard to not make eye contact with the woman he’s with. Why hasn’t that become a meme yet?)
John Mellencamp – R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.
I’m actually kind of into this song. I mean, it’s a little obnoxious after a while, but I’m down to salute American rock music from the ‘60s—that’s my shit. Singing about rock ‘n’ roll, getting gritty and crashing on people’s floors—I can tell you first hand that that’s still R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.
Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock In America
Ugh, can I do a bigger eye roll then the one I did just now? The thing about hair metal bands is that a lot of them are so blatantly big old creeps, it’s hard for me to get down to them. I mean, this song alone references a 16-year-old girl right in the beginning and uses the term “little girl”—like, excuse me I can definitely still rock in America, but you definitely can’t still refer to me as “little girl.”
Hulk Hogan – Real American
What the actual fuck … This video is only 35 seconds in and I already cannot believe it exists. There are so many things happening in this video, it’s jumbling my brain. Everybody needs to watch this masterpiece. “Eat your vitamins and be true to yourself”—that’s something I can definitely get behind.
Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.
Oh come on, if you don’t love this song you can go fuck yourself. (Wow, I think that’s the most American thing I’ve ever said in my life.) Also, denim and leather? What a trendsetter. I’m so happy this video ended on his butt.