Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA"
No one has ever heard the opening lines of "Party in the USA" and felt bummed about it. This magical track makes everyone inexplicably happy to be alive and living in America, regardless of whatever political turmoil we're in the middle of. With this 2009 favorite, the Republicans have a perfect song to wave their flags to, while even the most cynical of Democrats can feel less guilty about their own patriotic love of this thing by remembering what a big ol', LGBTQ-loving lefty Miley is. Everybody wins!
Lenny Kravitz, "American Woman"
Thanks to Lenny Kravitz's 2008 rendition of "American Woman," there is a now-commonly-held view that this song is about a woman so sexy and crazy, and crazy-sexy, that not even Lenny Kravitz can take her on. The video hammered the point home, full, as it was, of stars 'n' stripes, fast cars, and tons of cleavage. As such, for people on the right, this song might as well have been called "America the Beautiful." People on the left, however, have more of a tendency to recall that the original version of "American Woman" was written by The Guess Who as "an anti-war protest song" in the midst of the Vietnam War. If a fight breaks out when this track comes on, rest assured that it won't be about party politics, it'll be about sexism. (But that's a topic for another article.)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "This Land is Your Land"
Woody Guthrie's lyrics remind the most patriotic Americans of the vast expanse of this majestic country, from "California to the New York island," name-checking both exquisite countryside (like the "golden valley") and man-made marvels (like "that ribbon of highway") along the way. For conservatives, it's a reminder of how blessed they are to be American. For left-wingers, in Guthrie's hands, "This Land is Your Land" sounds positively Marxist, and Sharon Jones' super-soulful 2012 version carries with it a reminder of racial divides.
Bruce Springsteen, "Born in the USA"
Fact: Bruce Springsteen is more American than everyone else in the country. (Don't question it -- he just is.) He's also a Democrat-favoring, Obama vacation guest who's all about the working man. Strangely though, there are still tons of Republicans wandering around, laboring under the assumption that "Born in the USA" is a declaration of patriotism, rather than an expression of working class frustration. In 1984, when Ronald Reagan wanted to use the song as a campaign anthem, The Boss shut the idea down. Undeterred (and still not understanding what the song was about), Reagan publicly declared, in what was surely one of the most ironic things that has ever happened: "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen." Springsteen later had to also take action to stop both Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan from using "Born in the USA" in their campaigns. Republicans don't seem to listen to the verses on this one, so it's totally safe for your bipartisan barbecue.
Have a great Fourth, everyone!