When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to eat barbecue, forget to wear sunscreen, dodge errant fireworks and get mildly-to-moderately-to-extremely drunk, those people celebrate the Fourth of July.
But one fun fact about Independence Day that people often forget is that it also marks the moment when Paul Giamatti—er, John Adams—Thomas Jefferson, Ben “Jammin'” Franklin and the original G-Dub rallied 'round the family with a pocketful of musket balls to give mother England their collective 2 cents (or pence, if you want to get technical).
Before drafting the Constitution (which today trails just behind the Ten Commandments, Dianetics and Dog the Bounty Hunter: The Best of Season 1 in deciding the laws of our land), the forefathers penned a little ditty called the Declaration of Independence.
It's a timeless document, to be sure. But has American music fared as well in the centuries since “Yankee Doodle,” “The Battle of the Kegs” and “Hail, Columbia” were all the rage? By using the Declaration (with a few alterations) as our guide, we're about to find out:“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all MUSIC is created equal.”
All music may be created equal, but we want to know if U.S. bands are more equal than their British counterparts.
1. The Clash vs. Green Day—Puh-lease. Brits win round one.
2. The Who vs. Pearl Jam—Sonuva. Two-nil.
3. Spice Girls vs. Pussycat Dolls = Two words: Spice World. Point for us.
4. Amy Winehouse vs. Britney Spears—Nice try, Amy. But you're going to have to do better to be a true national embarrassment. We're all knotted up.
5. The Sex Pistols vs. The Ramones—Call it a tie before the universe implodes. “SONGS are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights… among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Here are some songs that, for better or worse, embrace this principle:
1. “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy—For worse.
2. “Freedom of Choice” by Devo—For better.
3. “Six Pack” by Black Flag—For better.
4. Any song by Toby Keith—For worse.
5. “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” by Kiss—For worse. You will need to sleep occasionally if you do, in fact, wish to also party every day. “ARTISTS are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Ah, yes. The emo clause. Something tells me that musicians in 1776 weren't as whiny as these guys. But how bad are they really?
1. Fugazi—Bad only in the sense that they started the genre.
2. Jimmy Eat World—Actually not that bad.
3. Taking Back Sunday—Terrible.
4. Dashboard Confessional—Musical equivalent of salmonella poisoning.
5. Bright Eyes—The real reason why Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart. Twice.
“For the support of this Declaration… we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our PATRIOTIC SONGS.”
In other words, music inspired by “love it or leave it” mudflaps. America, fuck yeah!
1. Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA”—Moderate indigestion with completely involuntary goosebumps.
2. Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)”—The sound of Uncle Sam retching after an all-night bender with a toothless hooker.
3. Irving Berlin, “God Bless America”—Gushing standard written by a guy from Belarus.
4. Neil Young, “Hawks & Doves” and “Comin' Apart at Every Nail”—Neil, seriously, WTF?! Forget the fact that he's technically Canadian and just let that “U.S.A., U.S.A.” refrain from “Hawks & Doves” melt your brain.
5. Rick Derringer, “Real American”—Hulk Hogan's theme song and another reason foreigners hate us.“When a long train of abuses and usurpations... evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government IN SONG.”
Music that does for the U.S. what “God Save the Queen” did for the U.K.
1. Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the USA”—Arguably the most misunderstood “patriotic” song of all time. Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign anthem without realizing the Boss was delivering a scathing critique of the Vietnam War aftermath.
2. Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land”—On the surface, this is as innocuous as “God Bless America,” but there's a subtle power-to-the-people bent to the lyrics. The standard version also excludes more incisive verses. Plus, Guthrie killed fascists and blamed it on his guitar.
3. Green Day, American Idiot—You have to have a really incompetent prick in the Oval Office in order to inspire an entire concept album.
4. Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”—Whenever you give Elvis and John Wayne the finger in a song, you know you've penned an acerbic anthem.
5. The Flaming Lips, “The W.A.N.D.”—There are a thousand other protest songs, but nobody expected the Lips to stop dropping acid long enough to write one this good. “Such has been the patient sufferance of these MUSIC FANS AND ARTISTS; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of LISTENING TO AND PRODUCING MUSIC.”
Here are some ways musicians and fans have broken away from the oppression of the industry to embrace music on their own terms.
1. Madonna, Nine Inch Nails and other major artists ditch big labels to go it alone—Colonies breaking away from England. Well, kinda.
2. File-sharing—The music industry equivalent of the Boston Tea Party.
3. MySpace—A Revolutionary War against MTV and commercial radio.
4. Blogs—Freedom of the “press.” Sure, blogs have their faults, but the constant flow of independent opinion proves our revolutionary spirit is alive, if not well.