/ / 40 Top Songs About America; The States, Cities, & The American Dream

40 Top Songs About America; The States, Cities, & The American Dream

Songs About America

‘The American dream’ is a goal so thought-provoking and idealistic that people strive for it every day. They work hard to find themselves one day resting peacefully in the comfort of their mansions and giant homes. But that isn’t always how it works out is it?

As artists, musicians have written songs about America, their home states, various American cities, and the elusive American Dream. Evoking emotions about the many ups and downs this beautiful country can represent, these songs are the best of the best when it comes to singing about America.

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Contents

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A by John Mellencamp

Song year: 1986

A tribute to rock and roll in the 1960s, this song is a must on any American playlist. The song is dedicated to musical artists who were not afraid to take a chance on rock and roll.

Mellencamp’s album Scarecrow peaked at #2 and was about the slow decay of rural American life. Although the song R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. was a smash hit, it did not quite add up to the overall theme of the album.

Empire State of Mind by JAY-Z and Alicia Keys, A Popular Song About America

Song year: 2009

A romanticized, yet realistic look at growing up in New York City, this song is definitely an anthem for the diversity and struggle in this busy city. The song is often viewed as one of JAY-Z’s biggest hits.

The song is not only a dedication to the city but also to the people who live there and dream there. You can find the song in a lot of movies and dedicated videos to this great American city.

Meet Me in Montana by Dan Seals and Marie Osmond

Song year: 1985

This country tune hit number one on the Country Hot 100 in October of 1985. The song is about lovers who part to find individual success. When their dreams fall apart, they decide to meet in Montana to find a future together. It was the first hit for Osmond since her Paper Roses album in 1973.

Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen

Song year: 1984

A protest song written about a Vietnam War Veteran coming home to find all he has is a claim to his birthplace, this song is one of the most famous songs of the late 20th century.

Though the song sounds like a proud rally song to America, it truly is a sad portrait of a broken man. Springsteen still performs the song with gusto to this day.

Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash

Song year: 1974

This spoken word masterpiece was written as a way to bring American’s back together during a tumultuous time. Johnny Cash had so much hope in American ways that he wanted to write something to uplift national patriotism.

Though not a traditional song, this artistic piece is often seen as a national treasure. A poem set to a musical background.

America by Simon & Garfunkel

Song year: 1968

Inspired by an actual road trip in the year 1964, this song written by Paul Simon is an ode to lovers hitchhiking across the United States. They are in search of the literal and figurative America that appears to be fading away before them.

The song is treated as one of the group’s most well-written compositions. Even critics choose to cheer it as one of Simon’s most brilliant works.

Only in America by Brooks & Dunn

Song year: 2001

Only in America is an anthem dedicated to the American way of life. Used widely as a political rally song, in advertisements and other various forms of media, this song is often looked at as a reflection of American ideals.

Though it was released before the events of 9/11, many believe that it was a response to the grief the country was feeling at the time. Many Americans used it as a way to feel optimistic after such a hard time for the country.

America the Beautiful by Ray Charles

Song year: 1972

Ray Charles’ adaptation of America the Beautiful is one of the most beautiful and most powerful cover songs of all time. Charles’ crooning voice covers this iconic song with a talent that many consider layered and stunning.

Originally written as music only in 1883, with lyrics coming along in 1895, Charles’ rendition is simply timeless. It also takes on new layers of meaning and interpretation through his performance.

Color Me America by Dolly Parton

Song year: 2003

Written originally as a way to cope with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Dolly Parton wrote and sang this tribute to America. Her grief and sincerity is felt throughout the entire track.

As part of the album For God and Country,this song is one of many tracks that speak to Parton’s love for her country. It could be said to be over the top, but her lyrics and performance are entirely heartfelt.

Rocky Mountain High by John Denver

Song year: 1972

An ode to the state of Colorado, John Denver wrote this song after a few years of living in the beautiful mountain city of Aspen. The song was an unofficial anthem in Colorado until 2007 when it became one of two official state songs.

When it was first released, Denver was put under criticism for the song promoting drug use. He argued in front of Congress to say it was about the elation of being in such a beautiful place.

No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn by Beastie Boys

Song year: 1986

One of the most amazing heavy metal and rap songs of a generation, the Beastie Boys’ release of No Sleep ‘Till Brooklynwas widely celebrated. The song is about what it takes to go through an exhausting tour regime. As the artists are committed to making it to their “home base” of Brooklyn.

It is also one of the most popular songs by the rock, hip-hop trio. The song is incredibly popular even in 2021!

American Dreamin’ by JAY-Z

Song year: 2007

JAY-Z talking about being a dreaming youth in an America where he chooses to never give up. One of the most underrated songs of his career, this is definitely a work of art about achieving the American dream.

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Song year: 1974

Written originally as an answer to Neil Young’s Southern Man, this song is about the failures and successes of the political south. Though there have been many different interpretations over the years, Lynyrd Skynyrd stands by the fact that it was written to highlight the judging nature of Northerners towards Southerners and vice versa.

Years later, a co-author of the song spoke out to say that the song was NOT a protest against Northern criticism, but an actual song of support for Southern cultural heritage.

Where the Stars and Stripes and Eagles Fly by Aaron Tippin

Song year: 2002

A tried and true American song about raising your family where there are good people and the opportunities that await. Aaron Tippin released this song shortly after 9/11 as a way to show his love for his country.

The song’s video shows a variety of faces throughout New York City as it heals from the scars of the attack.

Amarillo by Morning by George Strait

Song year: 1983

Originally recorded by Terry Stafford in 1973, this hit song for George Strait is about the life of a rodeo cowboy. His life is in shambles because of his career, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Amarillo by Morning is one of the most commercially successful songs for Strait, even though it is a cover of a cover. Strait initially liked artist Kelly Schoppa's version of the song.

This is America by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover)

Song year: 2018

This song was widely viewed as the ultimate protest song against American gun violence and the effects of systemic racism throughout the country. The song debuted at number one and was celebrated globally.

The song won Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

Private Idaho by The B-52’s

Song year: 1978

Alternative darlings The B-52’s this song is meant to be a discovery of the mysterious state of Idaho. As no members of the band had ever been there, it is a song about getting out of a case of paranoia.

The song’s title was then used as the title of Gus Van Sant’s movie My Own Private Idaho.

The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace

Song year: 1974

Written as a fictional story about Al Capone and Chicago Police having a shootout, the UK-based band Paper Lace found themselves at number one on the Billboard charts with this hit. The song has been used in many movies and television shows and remains a hard-to-beat catchy tune to this day!

American Pie by Don Mclean

Song year: 1971

This classic song discusses the loss of childhood innocence in a generation. With the reference to the plane crash in 1959 that killed Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, the song also references the dark cloud that hung over McLean’s entire generation.

The song briefly mentions other cultural shifts in America at the time, as well as many political and societal events during the late 1960s.

Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight & the Pips

Song year: 1973

A song about failed dreams and broken hearts, this hit by Gladys Knight and the Pips reached number one in 1973. The song was originally written by Jim Weatherly and called Midnight Plane to Houston.It was then covered and rewritten by soul singer Cissy Houston as Midnight Train to Georgia.

Gladys Knight and the Pips covered the song for the group’s album Imagination. It then skyrocketed on the charts to be a huge success.

Do You Know the Way to San Jose by Dionne Warwick

Song year: 1968

This pop song was a smash hit for Dionne Warwick when she was constantly topping the charts in the late sixties. The release and subsequent success also earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1969.

The song has been featured in many movies and television shows.

Living in America by James Brown

Living in America by James Brown

Song year: 1985

This rock and pop jam by the King of Soul James Brown was made popular by both the movie Rocky IV and its late addition to the Grammy Awards in 1987. The song garnered Brown a Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. The song was released in 1985 but really did not become well-known until 1986 and 1987.

The song’s guitar was also recorded by famous guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan!

By the Time I Get to Arizona by Public Enemy

Song year: 1991

A jarring and critical song about the Arizona governor Evan Mecham who had cancelled Martin Luther King Jr. day as a holiday in the state. The video for the song was widely condemned for the violence it depicted, even by King’s widow Coretta Scott King.

Stated to be credible, yet a harsh critique of Arizona, many believe that the politics behind the protest song are still alive today.

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie

Song year: 1967

An anthem for a hippie generation, this hit song was initially written by John Phillips as a reaction to authorities in Monterey, California being overrun with “hippies”. McKenzie’s version of the song is said to be the anti-Vietnam War and super Flower Power anthem the late 1960s needed.

Pink Houses (Ain’t That America) by John Mellencamp

Song year: 1983

Ranked at number 447 on the Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, this is yet another Mellencamp work that celebrates small-town American life. Though the song is one of the biggest hits off of the album Uh-huh,Mellencamp says to this day that he would do a “better job” of the last verse.

Written by John Mellencamp, it was recorded in a farmhouse in rural Indiana, where Mellencamp has lived for a long time.

South Dakota Morning by The Bee Gees

Song year: 1973

This track off of the albumLife in a Tin Can,the song is a curious addition to the soft rock the Bee Gees are known for. The album was reviewed as a typical song for the early 1970s, but the song itself talks about killing strangers and waking to see eagles on a South Dakota morning.

Chattanooga Choo-Choo by Glenn Miller Orchestra

Song year: 1941

Initially a production number for the film Sun Valley Serenade, This song went on to be a number one hit across the US! The song’s lyrics focus on a man asking about a train line and how a woman will be waiting for him at the station so they can finally settle down.

The song is famous for the singers’ imitations of train sounds, as well as the fun and creative musical performance by the band.

Living in the Promiseland by Willie Nelson

Song year: 1986

Country music artist Willie Nelson performed this poetic ode to the American dream and it was country music hit. The song was Willie Nelson’s 12th number one hit on the country charts. The song’s lyrics paint a beautiful image of America welcoming the sick, the poor, the broken and making them new again.

California Gurls by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg

Song year: 2010

This fun pop song was released as a single off of Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream. The song stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks. It was initially written as a response to JAY-Z’s Empire State of Mind. The old West coast versus East coast adage coming to life once more.

Angel of Harlem by U2

Song year: 1988

This song was off of the albumRattle and Hum and was written as a tribute to legend Billie Holiday. The song was written as a reflection of U2’s first trip to the city of New York.

The song is also said to pay homage to the Blues and Jazz roots that basically created American music.

Back in the USA by Chuck Berry

Song year: 1959

The song, written by Chuck Berry himself, is said to be a reflection of his life in America following a visit to Australia. There he saw how the native Aborigines lived and wrote the song as a form of gratitude for the standards of living in the USA.


Though Berry has had many hits that have stood the test of time, Back in the USA is one of his most popular compositions.

Mississippi Girl by Faith Hill

Song year: 2005

This song is about how though she has seen fame, fortune, and is known around the world, Faith Hill is still just a girl from Mississippi. A country hit from her album Fireflies, Hill sings about being down to Earth and staying true to her roots.

This particular track was recorded in response to people not liking that she had tried her hand at acting in recent years. Kind of a way to tell her fans that she is still a country singer through and through.

I Love L.A. by Randy Newman

Song year: 1983

This song is about the opulence around the dream of living in Los Angeles. Sure, there are beautiful coastal views and beautiful people, but there are also homeless people and those who have fallen hard.

Randy Newman took his time to write this song, and the album Trouble in Paradise, after his last album Born Again from 1979. It was written after spending several years relaxing with his family.

America by Neil Diamond

Song year: 1980

Written for the movie The Jazz Singer, the song is basically a very optimistic view of being an immigrant in America. It is one of the most uplifting arrangements for Americans celebrating their country.

It is one of Diamond’s most recognizable songs. Besides songs like Sweet Caroline,this track off of a movie soundtrack was one of his most successful songs.

Oklahoma Sky by Miranda Lambert

Song year: 2011

This song is about a woman finally finding the love of her life. It is also a love letter to the state she moved to after being born in Texas. After moving to Oklahoma, the country singer fell in love with both someone from the state and the state itself. The song is off of the country superstar’s albumFour the Record.

City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie

Song year: 1972

Off of the album Hobo’s Lullaby, this folk song by Arlo Guthrie is about a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. Though the folk singer is still very famous today, this song turned out to be his only Top 40 hit.

The song’s writer, Steve Goodman, approached the performer in a bar and asked to play his song for him. Guthrie liked it well enough to record it.

I Love America by Alice Cooper

Song year: 1983

From the albumDaDa,this is a satirical and funny ode to American life. Cooper is known for his rock antics on stage, but with this song, he put his sarcasm on display for the whole world.

It is basically a track making fun of all of the overly patriotic songs of the late seventies and early ’80s. The album focuses on mental illness and has Cooper taking on many characters, including an American “patriot”.

Virginia Moon by the Foo Fighters and Norah Jones

Song year: 2005

This is a soft, crooning song from the albumFor Your Honor.The song has been interpreted many ways, but it is simply about romanticizing the moon and stars. The song is a complicated bossa nova-type song that is a far cry from the normal Foo Fighters rock anthems.

Dave Grohl had said after recording that Norah Jones was one of the most talented artists he had ever worked with, and that is an extreme compliment. Especially considering his amazing resume.

Party in the U.S.A. by Miley Cyrus

Song year: 2009

This song, performed by Miley Cyrus, was actually co-written by pop star Jessie J. The song was initially meant for the English songstress, but she passed it up and Cyrus took it on as her own. The song was wildly successful and was one of the first post-Hannah Montana creations for Cyrus.

Cyrus later claimed that the song is not really in her stylistic wheelhouse and that she prefers songs that are a bit edgier.

Theme from New York, New York by Frank Sinatra

Song year: 1979

This is an iconic song about one of the United States cities that never sleeps. Originally a part of the score from Martin Scorsese’s film of the same title, and performed by Liza Minnelli, it was Sinatra’s take that made the song successful.

Sinatra had originally performed the song as part of a concert. He then recorded the song for his album Trilogy: Past Present Future.

Best Songs About America Ever, Final Thoughts

America is a big country. With fifty states and several territories around the globe, it is not surprising to find many songs and artists who have opinions on the country as a whole. There are many things to both praise and criticize, but it will always hold that glimmer of hope as the Great Experiment.

Finding artists and performers who want to sing about small towns, or big cities, or even the country as a whole is not difficult. These songs about America and the American Dream are as diverse and unique as the United States itself. Whether you listen to country, rap, or orchestral works, there will always be something to say about America.

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