Don't Tread on Me: The Top 10 Musical Celebrations of American Might
Rock and pop music in the United States has earned a distinguished reputation for quality protest anthems and anti-war songs, from Country Joe and the Fish all the way up to friggin' Green Day. And that's great; it really is.
Not only are many of the tunes timeless, but criticism of our society's more destructive tendencies is a necessary function of art. If you can listen to "Fortunate Son" without feeling anything, chances are you haven't been paying attention for the past 40 years.
When July 4 rolls around, however, we don't particularly wanna hear any of that pussy shit. We've got 364 other days of the year to feel guilty, conflicted and torn with regard to U.S. foreign policy and aggression. What harm is there in taking a day off from all that to revel in America's unchallenged military supremacy? Stealth bombers are fucking cool!
Luckily, American artists also have a glorious legacy of unabashed jingoism, providing us with the perfect soundtrack for celebrating our nation's deadly might. Before we commemorate 236 years of learning democracy on the job this holiday, take a few minutes to crank up the volume and bask in America's violently obscene awesomeness. Just don't overdo it--a few of these songs have previously been weaponized.
10. Slayer, "War Ensemble"
The songs that defined the Vietnam experience have been drilled into our heads by 40 years of Hollywood movies, but what are the soldiers of our modern wars listening to on the battlefield? A lot of Slayer, as it turns out. In 2004, Professor Jonathan Pieslak, a composer and an associate professor of music at New York's City College, interviewed young soldiers and vets about their wartime playlists. Slayer popped up again and again.
Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman grew up in a military family where war stories were commonplace. Horrific versions of those stories became songs like 1990's "War Ensemble," and it's easy to see their value to soldiers facing combat. At its best, heavy metal makes the listener feel indestructible, and if Dave Lombardo's bass drums can't psyche you up to blast a machine gun from the back of a Humvee, nothing will.
9. Eminem, "Soldier"
According to Pieslak's data, Eminem is far and away the most popular rap artist among our troops in the field. That's easy to believe, considering Em is one of the popular rappers anywhere ever, but even a cursory listen to his more aggressive tracks such as "Soldier" make it clear how this music could help keep a young private going when he'd much prefer curling up into a ball. The supreme confidence, determination and fury in Eminem's voice are exactly what a soldier needs to stay mentally strong in the face of danger.
8. Randy Travis, "America Will Always Stand"
In the aftermath of 9/11, dissent was not looked upon kindly in mainstream Country music. One of the genre's biggest acts, the Dixie Chicks, were more or less ruined by singer Natalie Maines' criticism of everybody's favorite War President. Many Americans were looking for songs to reassure them of America's greatness, not remind us of our mistakes.
Luckily, Randy Travis was on the spot, boy. The country crooner salutes Old Glory, the troops and the eternal rule of freedom in this by-the-book patriot polemic, the first of many such songs to come in 2001. It's kind of a cash grab, sure, but it comes from a sincere place. Right? Probably.