Fourth of July: A Short Playlist

Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley Offer Varied Commentaries

What’s on your Fourth of July playlist?

Maybe it’s Lee Greenwood’s durable “God Bless the U.S.A.” and Elvis Presley’s take on Mickey Newbury’s arrangement of “American Trilogy.” Or maybe it’s the two very different takes following the attacks of 9/11 — Toby Keith’s no-holds-barred “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” and Alan Jackson’s eloquent “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

As always, the only playlist that really matters is the one you devise for yourself, but here are five videos to consider as you prepare to celebrate the holiday.

Dierks Bentley, “Home”
Bentley doesn’t make a lot of noise and is very understated. Still, his career shows a growing body of songs with an evolving maturity. Written by Bentley, Brett Beavers and Dan Wilson, “Home” is a tasteful, soft-spoken yet proud song of patriotism. He sings: “West, on a plane bound west/I see her stretching out below/Land, blessed motherland/The place where I was born.” “Home” remains a full-bore Bentley sentiment and very emblematic of his view of his life and his work.

Brooks & Dunn, “Only in America”
Released a few months prior to 9/11, “Only in America” became an anthem at Brooks & Dunn’s concerts following the attack on the World Trade Center. Musical hooks abound as the lyrics provide a snapshot of people living their daily lives. Although the song celebrates the “promise of the promised land,” it’s not about waving flags. With lines about one kid potentially ending up in prison while another becomes president, the message subtly suggests that a person’s ability to fulfill the American dream generally comes down to personal choices and attitudes. That alone is something worth celebrating.
Tim McGraw, “If You’re Reading This”
“Looks like I only got a one-way ticket over here.” That’s all McGraw has to sing to tell you exactly what this song is about: a soldier laying down his gun, hanging up his boots and saying goodbye to his family in a letter he wrote before he died. It makes me sad to my very core, and at the same time, so overjoyed to be an American. That was especially true when he debuted the song on the ACM Awards in 2007 with families of fallen soldiers onstage with him. It was a memorable five minutes for America and country music.
Brad Paisley, “American Saturday Night”
One thing that rarely comes up in songs dedicated to the good ol’ U.S.A. is the idea that many things that make us uniquely American actually came from somewhere else. Brazilian boots and a German car may not be part of the average American’s everyday experience, but how about French kisses and pizza pies? Even horses, cattle, beer and country music itself owe their existence here to other parts of the world. A great line in the bouncy tune is a reminder that no matter where an idea started, Americans take pride in making it our own. “When my great, great, great granddaddy stepped off of that ship/I bet he never ever dreamed we’d have all this.”
Carrie Underwood, “All-American Girl”
It’s the one where Underwood is a painter, a firefighter, an OB/GYN, a chef, a swimmer, a beauty queen, a nurse, a cowgirl, a waitress, a cop, a photographer, a flight attendant and more. I always loved that video because it shows in a very literal way all the things a beautiful, wonderful, perfect girl can be. It had kind of a “we-run-the-world” message before Beyoncé started singing hers. And it also gives “America the Beautiful” a whole new meaning.