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

gaga american still 600.jpg

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.

Presented by

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.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

Just In