Three years into the Trump era, it's long since time to expand the idea of what a classic American song looks like. Projects like Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer visual album and Beyoncé's "Homecoming" Coachella performance have been focusing national attention onto undercelebrated segments of Americana, while artists like Lizzo and Lil Nas X have been elbowing out room for their less-conventional aesthetics and underrepresented identities in the mainstream. Meanwhile, in the policy sphere, artists like Meek Mill, Jay-Z, and Chance the Rapper have been raising awareness about perceived flaws in the justice system and other local issues. But they're all a part of a long tradition of musicians, from James Brown to OutKast, who spoke powerfully to the issues of their day while also creating music to keep people energized through uncertain times.
Classically patriotic songs are too stiff for the most part, and would put a damper on the party vibe even if they weren't controversial. But we've compiled a playlist of songs that are patriotic in their own way, from today's most exciting activist-musicians plus a few of their forebears. In the playlist, artists pay homage to their communities, honor historic activist figures, create their own anthems, and celebrate their unlikely triumphs in society—all while reminding listeners to dance and vibe out. We hope you take them up on it for your celebrations this weekend.
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