America by Song: 8 Tunes From 2011 About the U.S.A.

Our country as portrayed by today's rappers, country stars, and pop icons

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LadyGaga.com

As long as there's been an America, there have been attempts to understand America in song. This year has seen its share of musicians trying to come to grips with an ever-more conflicted and polarizing national identity.

Across the following eight songs from 2011, we can bear witness to old-fashioned ideas of stubborn patriotism, ambivalence about capitalism, emphatic nudges in a variety of moral directions, optimism, and cynicism—not to mention a unicorn, a can of WD-40, and David Letterman. If anything, as we celebrate our country's 235th birthday this year, we can take pride in the fact that our country, flawed as she might be, is far from boring.

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Eric Harvey is a PhD candidate in Indiana University's Department of Communication and Culture. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, and The Village Voice.

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