Baseball, apple pie, and kicking your fucking ass: 21 hilariously hyperbolic pro-America songs

Baseball, apple pie, and kicking your fucking ass: 21 hilariously hyperbolic pro-America songs

1. Lee Greenwood, "God Bless The U.S.A."
C-list country singer Lee Greenwood has built a career on his pride in being an American, which at least entitles him to know that he's free. Countless Republican politicians have similarly adopted "God Bless The U.S.A." as a showy demonstration of undying patriotism. But given the song's solemn vow to "gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today," is it possible that Greenwood—in spite of his extensive collection of red, white, and blue jackets—is, in fact, full of it? Considering all of the conflicts this country has been involved with since the song's 1984 release—including Panama, Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq—he's had ample opportunity to "gladly" follow through on the whole "stand up for freedom" thing.

2. "The Star Spangled Banner"
Yes, it's our National Anthem, but "The Star Spangled Banner" also happens to be an overwrought song written by an amateur poet about a war nobody cares about, with a melody nicked from a popular British drinking tune that's really, really hard to sing. Penned by Francis Scott Key during an attack on Fort McHenry during the War Of 1812, "The Star Spangled Banner" actually consists of four stanzas, three of which are almost never sung. There's a good reason for that: "And where is that band who so vauntingly swore /that the havoc of war and the battle's confusion / a home and a country should leave us no more!" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, no matter how many beers you drink before the ball game.

3. Toby Keith, "Courtesy Of The Red White And Blue (The Angry American)"
Toby Keith's "Courtesy Of The Red White And Blue (The Angry American)" marches right past rah-rah flag-waving ("American girls and American guys will always stand up and salute / will always recognize when we see Old Glory flying") into a squirm-inducing celebration of military might. ("And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. / 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way") Inspired by the 9/11 attacks, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart in 2002, but five years and 4,000-plus fallen soldiers after "we lit up your world like the Fourth of July," the song has become more of an embarrassment than a wartime anthem.

4. Johnny Cash, "Ragged Old Flag"
By and large, Johnny Cash eschewed jingoism throughout his career, preferring to sketch a more complicated portrait of America's glory and its mistakes. But even Cash couldn't resist the trend toward spoken-word patriotic fare that became common as the Bicentennial approached. Though "Ragged Old Flag" acknowledges that "the government for which she stands / has been scandalized throughout out the land," the song mythologizes the stars and stripes as a symbol of all the wars that have strengthened America's resolve and character. This song and its ilk were memorably mocked in Robert Altman's Nashville, via "200 Years," the opening song by Roy Acuff surrogate Haven Hamilton. (Sample lyric: "I pray my sons won't go to war / But if they must, they must.")

5. Charlie Daniels, "That Ain't No Rag, It's A Flag"
Charlie Daniels made his reputation as part of the outlaw-country crowd, crowing about his long hair and redneck pride. But after scoring a hit with his response to the Iranian hostage crisis—the lamentation "In America"—Daniels joined the love-it-or-leave-it crowd, replacing his freak flag with God and Old Glory. Post-9/11, Daniels took on al-Qaeda, explaining to the terrorists, "This ain't no rag, it's a flag / And we don't wear it on our heads." He goes on to warn that since the bad guys have "wounded our American pride," we're going to have to go after them "with a gun." It's foreign policy in pep-rally form.

6. Dennis Madalone, "America We Stand As One"
Ostensibly a remembrance for fallen soldiers, Dennis Madalone's video for his power ballad "America We Stand As One" earned the dubious title of "Internet Phenomenon" for its caterwauling cries of "AMERICAAAA" and bludgeoning patriotic imagery that seeks to prove that there is no object over which you cannot drape, wave, or superimpose Old Glory. The mulleted former stuntman's love letter to his dead countrymen comes via bewildering sentiments like "You must be strong, your chin up high / Yes I still live, I did not die / I had to go, but it's okay / You see I'm with you in a different way." Wait, what? No matter; why bother making your anthem original or even coherent when you can simply rely on stock footage of soaring eagles and lots of fist-clenching emoting?

7. Ray Stevens, "Osama Yo Mama"
Taking a lighter approach to Charlie Daniels' "you're messin' with the wrong country" chest-thumping, Ray Stevens' decidedly goofier "Osama Yo Mama" mocks America's most diabolical enemy, teasing that his mother "must have wrapped yo' turban too tight." Stevens also adopts the voice of "Dubya" and grunts, "You in a heap o' trouble, boy," and later points out to Osama that "you're starting to remind us of another maniac...you know who, he started World War II"—thereby invoking Godwin's Law. You've got to hand it to Stevens for using public mockery as a weapon. Who wouldn't be ashamed to be called out by the man who wrote "The Streak" and "Ahab The Arab"?

8. Chely Wright, "The Bumper Of My SUV"
As far as jingoistic songs go, Chely Wright's "The Bumper Of My SUV" is pretty tame, essentially an examination of blue-red relations. Still, it's pretty hilarious: A woman in a mini-van gives Wright the finger, and Wright assumes it's because she has a U.S. Marines bumper sticker on her SUV. Hey Chely, maybe it's because you're taking up two lanes or wasting what's left of the earth's petroleum. Who knew that pro-America country singers—with especially overwrought Southern accents—hated minivans and private school?

9. Darryl Worley, "Have You Forgotten"
Americans are still confused enough to assume a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11, and while most of the blame for that rests with the Bush administration, Darryl Worley also deserves a nice, warm seat in Hell for the timely propaganda of "Have You Forgotten." Released the same month the U.S. invaded Iraq, the song shot to number one by capturing the tenor of the times, which was overflowing with love of flag, country, and songs telling whiny, peace-preachin' hippies to shut the fuck up. In the first chorus, Worley sings, "Have you forgotten how it felt that day, to see your homeland under fire and her people blown away? And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden, have you forgotten?" By the second chorus, Worley claims, "we vowed to get the ones behind bin Laden." Then Worley makes his final case: "Some say this country's just out looking for a fight / After 9/11, man, I'd have to say that's right." Even Donald Rumsfeld wasn't this effective at substituting Iraq for bin Laden in the public's mind.

10. Merle Haggard, "Fightin' Side Of Me"
On "Okie From Muskogee," Merle Haggard offered up a tongue-in-cheek reactionary ode to middle American values that was accepted, sans irony, by the very people it was satirizing. By the time of "Fightin' Side Of Me" Haggard decided he didn't need irony, either, and instead embraced full-on "love it or leave it" jingoism. Actually, make that "love it or me and my fishin' buddies will turn your face into blood sausage," especially if you're a "squirrelly guy who claims he just don't believe in fightin'." Hag believes in free speech, he just doesn't like people "harpin' on the wars we fight" and "gripin' 'bout the way things oughta be." At least he's kind enough to lay out the conditions for his nationalistic beatdowns.

11. Randy Travis, "America Will Always Stand"
There's nothing really wrong with the sentiments of Randy Travis' post-9/11 song "America Will Always Stand." It's just that, like so many self-consciously patriotic songs, it's just too easy. Travis sounds as if working from a checklist: Reference to Old Glory? Check. Hat tip to our fighting forces? Check. Faintly martial drumbeat during the fade-out? You got it. The song is the musical equivalent of saying "I love America" without really explaining why.

12. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Red, White And Blue"
This 2003 song from Lynyrd Skynyrd, or the band now calling itself Lynyrd Skynyrd, begins as a paean to working-class values, as singer Johnny Van Zant asserts that he's just as cool hanging out with a "waitress busting ass in some liquor stand" as with lawyers and Texas oilmen. Seems his hair is turning white, his neck has always been red, and his collar is still blue. But the song takes a weird turn toward the end, when he talks about working hard, loving his family, and paying his taxes, then concludes that if "they don't like it, they can just get the hell out." Who's "they"? Slackers? Tax evaders? Family-haters? Anyone that doesn't look like Van Zant? The song lets listeners draw their own conclusions. (He couldn't mean people recently arrested for failing to register as sex offenders after being convicted of capital sexual battery against little girls, like former Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, could he?)

13. Len Doolin, "There Ain't No Yellow In The Red White & Blue"
This playful boogie number sounds a little too happy that terrorists attacked America—like Len Doolin was just waiting to start a little piano-led ass-whuppin' when the time came. It's telling that the song is virtually impossible to find now, with no YouTube video and no iTunes download. (You can find it via Len's MySpace page, or if you want his entire disc, it's available starting at 75 cents on Amazon.) The song itself is almost playfully gung-ho, with the kind of lyrics somebody poking fun at 9/11 songs might write: "They're tryin' to destroy the American way / But the USA is here to stay / We may bend, but we won't break / That's where they made their big mistake."

14. Sammy Hagar, "VOA"
On its own, the title track of Sammy Hagar's 1984 album is an entertaining, though unremarkable, relic of the Cold War, a mix of jingoism and meathead-rocker bravado: "You push too hard, you're gonna fall / we got 50 million rockers / we're all on guard!" But the song's video transforms Hagar's hard-rockin' saber-rattling into delicious high camp wrapped in parachute pants. Like VOA's album cover, the video begins with Hagar parachuting into the White House, then bam, he's in secret-agent mode, in hot pursuit of some Soviet/Arab baddies. The awkwardly choreographed fights, the off-time lip-synching, Hagar's ludicrous outfit and hair, which scream "Filmed in the '80s!"… It's hard to imagine how anyone ever thought this was a good idea.

15. Canibus, "Draft Me"
Next-big-thing turned hip-hop footnote Canibus leaped into the post-9/11 xenophobic fray with the noxious macho fantasy "Draft Me." With sophisticated lyrics like "Draft me! I wanna fight for my country / Jump in a Humvee and murder those monkeys!" the song instantly hurled itself into a time capsule of kitsch. At least Canibus proved a man of his word: Denied the compulsory draft he so richly desired, he enrolled in the Army, only to be kicked out for smoking cannabis. How appropriate.

16. Murphy's Law, "America Rules"
New York band Murphy's Law had the well-earned reputation of being hardcore's goofball, as the title of its 1989 album, Back With A Bong!, made clear. But it wasn't all fun and games: Among the 25 songs on Bong! is "America Rules," which makes its case as succinctly as the title implies. "We take what we want, we do what we please / That's why it's called the land of the free," followed by a chorus of "America… rules!" Singer Jimmy Gestapo then goes on to list the three things that embody why the U.S. rules so hard, stuff no other country has: "Yeah, America! Baseball, pretty girls, rock 'n' roll!"

17. Iced Earth, "When The Eagle Cries"
Tuneful death-metal band Iced Earth takes a look back at the countless sacrifices made to produce the Declaration Of Independence, and asks defiantly of America's British tyrannical oppressors: "How could they?" Though no less a history lesson than the rest of the war-history-inspired The Glorious Burden, "When The Eagle Cries" perfectly captures the American revolutionaries' outraged ballsiness, over icy acoustic guitars and an absolutely majestic, explosive chorus: "All they've done is made us stronger / The sleeping giant is asleep no longer / If need be, we'll die free."

18. Hulk Hogan And The Wrestling Boot Band, "American Made"
A standout track off of Hulk Rules, perhaps the greatest album ever to come out of the WWF, "American Made" transforms the crushing, bloody reality of war into a entertainingly fakey spectacle perfectly suited for the undisputed king of entertainingly fakey spectacles. "He'll fight for your freedom if you really believe," proclaims the comically screechy singer—who, sadly, is not Hulk Hogan. He goes on to list the Hulkster's many pro-America attributes, which include (but are not excluded to): having red, white, and blue (along with stars and stripes) running through his veins, having the pride of his country on his sleeve (even though Hulk never wears sleeves), and passing "U.S. grade" inspection.

19. Clint Black, "Iraq & Roll"
Only an artist as earnest as Clint Black could capture America's uncertain zeitgeist during the recently post-9/11, post-Iraq invasion period with equal parts tact and bombast. After a triumphant, twang-y strain of "Star-Spangled Banner," Black quickly dispenses with the Iraq War protestors by reminding them that our precious freedom enables them to disagree, and that they can either "Come along / Or you can stay behind / Or you can get out of the way." Fortunately, 2003's "Iraq & Roll" avoids further touchy ruminations on politics in favor of touting America's "high-tech G.I. Joe" badass weaponry to "take out the garbage": "I got infrared, I got GPS / I got that good old-fashioned lead / Now it might be a smart bomb, they find stupid people too / If you stand with the likes of Saddam, one might just find you."

20. Milo Tremley, "Kick Ass U.S.A."
Neither as sincere as most of the songs on this list, nor as subsequently embarrassing, "Kick Ass U.S.A." proved a minor hit for Milo Tremley, the shit-kickin' good-ol-boy persona of comedian James Lee Reeves. Like so many pitch-perfect parodies, it seemed to find its biggest audience among those who took it wholly seriously, though the way the catchy, dumb chorus heads straight for the lizard brain makes it hard to blame them. At least Reeves doesn't focus on the specific foreigners America should be booting; "Kick Ass U.S.A." is an all-purpose general cry of defiance against enemies and doubters of all stripes, delivered by a character who claims he enrolled in the military to defend the country, then toughened up to the point where "I break blocks with my head, I eat bullets in bed, and I chase 'em with 90 octane." What to do with all that power? Kick ass for the U.S.A, of course.

21. Team America, "America, Fuck Yeah"
Okay, so Team America's song is clearly a joke, a response to the sorts of songs that make up the majority of this list. But take out some of the obvious cracks ("Slavery! Fuck yeah! Fake tits! Fuck yeah!") and it isn't that far removed in sentiment from, say, Sammy Hagar's "VOA." Sing along: "Coming again, to save the motherfucking day / America, fuck yeah! Freedom is the only way / Terrorist, your game is through, 'cause now you have to answer to / America, fuck yeah!"

BONUS VIDEO: Bob Odenkirk as "C.S. Lewis Jr., Patriotic Country Singer."

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