The ten best 4th of July songs

Declare your independence this July 4th with these righteous anthems

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Illustration: woojpn


Let’s be real: Most of us don’t spend July 4th discussing how proud we are to be American or reading copies of the Declaration of Independence poolside. Instead we show our allegiance to Old Glory by firing up the BBQ, throwing back some beers and turning up the stereo. In whatever way you choose to celebrate the anniversary of this country ('tis of thee), we've put together ten freedom and independence-related tunes—plus ten bonus tracks—that will add sparks to any type of Fourth of July bash. America, fuck yeah!

RECOMMENDED: See all of our Fourth of July events in New York

1

“Independent Women Part 1” by Destiny’s Child

Who doesn’t love a girl who buys her own diamonds and her own rings—and doesn’t need a cuddle sesh after a hookup? This Destiny’s Child anthem for all the “women who independent” got so cozy in the No. 1 spot, it rested there for 11 weeks. Let’s hear it for “All the honeys who makin’ money / All the mamas who profit dollas.”

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2

“Born Free” by M.I.A.

British hip-hop star M.I.A. grew up in Sri Lanka, where her father joined the Tamil independence movement, so it’s not surprising that she went on to make her own defiant statements. But in this 2010 politically infused chart topper, the musician pushed freedom boundaries a little too far, when her “Born Free” video was removed from YouTube for excessive violence (a 12-year-old gets shot in the head). “I’ll push my luck today,” declares M.I.A.—and push her luck she did.

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3

“Freedom of ’76” by Ween

For those of us not from Philly, the boys of Ween made us do a little detective work to understand this ’94 summer tribute to the special cheese-steak–eating city, where on July 4, 1776, the United States adopted that oh-so-important declaration. Ween shows its Pennsylvanian allegiance by singing about famous Philly symbols: South Street, Fairmount Park, Woolworth’s and Boyz II Men (who also have roots in the City of Brotherly Love). Use that little nugget of information at this week’s Fourth of July BBQ.

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4
Kelly Clarkson

“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson

American Idol Kelly Clarkson transformed the typical bitter breakup song into a “screw you, your loss” female-empowerment anthem that earned her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. What better way to celebrate our country’s birthday shindig with a shout-out for female independence.

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5

“Freedom! ’90” by George Michael

Finally ditching the highlighter-colored shorts and going solo after his stint in the musical duo Wham!, George Michael released “Freedom ’90!,” an ultra-upbeat breathy ode to his newfound identity. Cutting the cord with high-school bud Andrew Ridgeley proved tricky when Michael’s version of “Freedom” had to be appended in order to avoid confusion with Wham!’s 1984 hit “Freedom.” While paying your allegianceto the flag, be sure to crank up “Freedom! ’90” not the ’84 tune—unless you’re prepared to throw on some neons.

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6

“I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross

You can read “I’m coming out” whichever way you want in this dancey disco classic in which Motown mama Diana Ross sings about not being afraid to show her true colors: “I’ve got to show the world / All that I want to be / And all my abilities.” So like Diana, show your red, white and blue this Fourth, whatever shades they may be.

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7
Bob Marley

“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

As he neared the end of his career after battling with cancer, the reggae icon left fans with this last single before his death in 1981. “Redemption Song” sums up what Bob Marley fought for: “Won't you help me sing / These songs of freedom / ’cause they all I ever had / Redemption songs.”

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8

“Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young

In celebration of a country built on free speech, Young had no shame about savagely attacking the politics of the ’80s as he peppered government-centric lyrics with talk of rampant consumerism: “We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand / We got department stores and toilet paper / Got Styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer.” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Young’s command to “keep on rockin’ in the free world” established this ballad as a go-to freedom track.

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9

“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

This seemingly never-ending Southern-rock ballad quickly became a Lynyrd Skynyrd staple when crowds would erupt in bouts of anger if the band swerved from playing the 14-minute half-guitar, half-vocal mélange. “Free Bird” became an iconic freedom cry about a man who needs some breathing room from his lady, thanks to guitarist Allen Collins’s wife, who asked her soon-to-be-husband, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

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10

“Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine

Appropriately placed last on our list, this ’94 Americana criticism is known for being Rage Against the Machine’s classic show-closer due to vocalist Zach de la Rocha’s metal infused animalistic growls of “FREEEEEDOM!” Never ones to disguise their disgust with corporate America, RATM echoes the complaints our forefathers had against England: “We will not bow down to injustice / We will not bow down to exploitation, I’m gon’ stand.”

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Listen to Time Out's best 4th of July songs playlist on Spotify

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