Oh, United States Of America. We love you, we really do. Hell, we live here, so we kind of have to. We show our love through the composition of endless tributes to the land, the people and the country itself. Clarification: we do this by shamelessly co-opting the entire continental Western Hemisphere for use as our identifying adjective, “American.” (So take that, Canada, Latin
America and anything written about Amerigo Vespucci!)
Think about it: Americana, American-Made, American Dream. Has there ever been a country so awesome at turning itself into an all-purpose adjective*? If there is, you can bet we'll shove our American boot up its ass. And leading the charge, as always, will be the countless musicians who discovered long ago that nothing makes a song really pop like putting “American” in the title. There's just one catch. A lot of people writing these songs kind of suck. Large.
Why do they hate America? We don't know, but they sure love to show it by writing truly awful songs about it. This weekend, when we're celebrating the nation's birthday, let's take a moment and pour one out for the forgotten victims, the people forced to listen to such awful music. Here are The 5 Worst Songs With “American” in the Title:
5) “American Idiot” by Green Day
Yeah, we said it. This song blows.
You know how infuriating it is when politicians go to Washington and, despite the fact they basically won your vote by pretending to actually understand that the two major political factions are enemies with one another, the second they take office they do stupid crap like playing golf with John Boehner? It's like that in music as well. Which is how Green Day went from Oakland gutter punks to Rock royalty and now make music about as edgy as James Blunt.
Like most bands finding themselves in that position, Green Day realized they needed to keep it real again, and quick, so in 2004 they released their hugely successful concept album American Idiot. And admittedly, it's not a terrible album, in the same way that Pizza Hut's pizza isn't terrible either, so long as you pretend you don't live near Casa Bianca. It also does a fine job of skewering America under Bush. But it has some real clunkers, like “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” a song that basically re-writes “Wonderwall” by Oasis and “Dream On” by Aerosmith.
But it's the title track that really makes you want to die inside. It's supposed to be a return to punk rock rage, but you know what? It just sounds like “What I Like About You.”
4) “American Badass” by Kid Rock
Kid Rock sucks. And American Badass is possibly his worst song. A combination of in your face IMMAKICKYERASS jerkassness and swagger so self-conscious it sounds like Drakkar Noir, this song is everything that sucks about American Patriotism and everything that sucks about American Dudebros. It's like being date raped and bombed for your oil at the same time. And that's just during the intro. When he starts listing off the music he likes and you, the listener, realize you like a lot of it, too, it's the final death of the idea that having good taste makes you a cool person. Kid Rock likes Run DMC? Fine, I give up. From now on, I'm a Kid 'n Play fan***.
3) “We're An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad
This is what an American Band sounds like? God, it all makes sense now. This song is conclusive proof that the terrorists don't hate us for our freedom, they hate us for our music.
2) “American Soldier” by Toby Keith
We're not sure there's anything worse than starting a war based on blatant lies, then sending young men and women to die for the vanity of elderly assholes who would rather bleed this country dry than actually part with a a single dime at tax time. But if there is, it's the songs celebrating the sacrifices of the people sent to die in those wars, written by people who themselves would never join the military.
And coming in at number one (like you'll find this surprising) …
1) “American Pie” by Don Mclean
When Don Mclean was a young lad of 14, the aviation industry proved itself to be truly worse than Hitler when Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens** were tragically killed in the crash of their small, rickety airplane near Clear Lake, Iowa. It was a tremendous blow not only to the emerging seriousness of Rock 'n Roll, but to people who actually thought nerds with glasses and Latino musical geniuses had as much right to be at the top of the charts as Pat Boone.
Young Don was, like many Americans his age, deeply traumatized by “The Day The Music Died.” He became a musician himself and when the time came to record his second album, he wrote a song that would live in infamy as the only thing worse than dying in a Midwestern plane crash in the middle of winter. That song, his tribute to Buddy Holly, was called “American Pie.” Coming in at an extraordinary 8:33 in length, it's a meandering, stream of consciousness ramble about Don Mclean's childhood and all that bullshit from the '60s that baby boomers still won't just shut up about.
The greatest crime of “American Pie” might just be the codification of the baby boom's self-obsession, but we're mainly angry with Don for making us think of his awful melody every time we think about eating pie.
*At some point, linguists will discover the only word with more grammatical flexibility than “American” is “fuck.” (Though that point will only come when “American” becomes a synonym for sex, or ripping people off. Since Americans hate sex and would never, ever double deal ever, it'll be a while.)
**Show of hands if you actually think The Big Bopper is actually good enough to be considered in the same category as Holly and Valens. Oh, put your damn hands down you contrarian ass.
***I actually do like Kid 'n Play.