The best song about all 50 US states
Quick, what's your state song? Exactly. There's a reason nobody can name their state's official song, and that reason is they all pretty much suck. And since the advent of electric guitars and autotune, there've been a lot of state-friendly tracks laid down that're more cutting edge than, say, "Hail Minnesota!" or "The State of Maine Song".
But what are they, you ask (other than the obvious "Sweet Home Alabama" and "New York, New York")? Well, we decided to find out, identifying the best song about every single US state (or, at least about a city, landmark, or something in every single state). In the end, there were a ton, but we narrowed it down to these 50 -- perfect for putting a cool twist on your next road-trip rendition of "The License Plate Game".
"Sweet Home Alabama", Lynyrd Skynyrd
Interestingly enough, this song is by a group from Jacksonville, FL. But since everyone outside of Alabama associates it with Forrest Gump dancing around his house with Jen-nay, that little detail gets pushed aside.
Fun fact: There are days in Alaska that are shorter than some of the longer jam-bandy versions of this song.
"By the Time I Get to Arizona", Public Enemy
Sure, Arizona got its Super Bowl yanked for not enacting a Martin Luther King Day holiday, but having Chuck D say he wants to urinate on your state is the real insult.
"Mary Queen of Arkansas", Bruce Springsteen
So, Bruce, you got Mary pregnant; but she still has THE place to party, and now she’s the freakin' Queen of Arkansas? Starting to think she might not be real.
"California Love", 2Pac
Though it confusingly refers to California as the “Sunshine State”, that nickname error is easily overlooked thanks not only to shoutouts to random places like Rosecrans and Sacramento, but to a video that was its generation's version of Thunderdome.
"Rocky Mountain High", John Denver
We’d like to think this song was the rallying cry for Colorado’s legalization movement, but even if it wasn’t, that John Denver was pretty prophetic.
"Connecticut's for F*****g", Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse
According to this song, there's really not much to do in this state but have sex. Which might explain why the Maury show is taped there.
"Delaware", Perry Como
In addition to answering the burning question of "What did Delaware?" (A BRAND NEW JERSEY!!), Perry also asks us where has Ore Gone?, what did Missis sip?, How did Wiscon sin?, and why did Cali Phone ya? Oh yes, it's a clever one.
"B*tch I'm From Dade County", DJ Khaled
In case you thought this song might be about Dade County, MO, Rick Ross, Pitbull, Trick Daddy, Trina, and pretty much every other rapper who's made the 305 famous this century chime in to acknowledge almost all 34 Miami-Dade municipalities.
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia", Charlie Daniels Band
One has to wonder if the Devil was going around looking for souls to steal by way of winning a fiddlin' contest, why he went to the deep South instead of, say, Winnipeg. You know, 'cause Southerners are better at fiddlin', right?
"Theme From Hawaii Five-0", Royal Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Hard to say an instrumental song is actually ABOUT a state, but when the track's so good it's used for both the original series AND the remake, AND it's pretty much all that goes through your head any time you land at HNL, it's a clear winner.
This song makes no mention of what makes Idaho at all better than Texas, Florida, Carolina, DC, or any of the other states it rips on, just that it's where the band wants to go because, well, they're "not afraid of you". Better than talking about potatoes, we suppose.
"Sweet Home Chicago", The Blues Brothers
While there might well be over 100,000 songs about Chicago, do any of them scream "Windy City" like Blues and Elwood's rendition of this blues classic? The short answer: no.
"Small Town", John Mellencamp
Sure, Johnny Cougar Mellencamp -- or whatever iteration of his name you wanna use -- is Bloomington's favorite son, but "I was born in a college town" just wouldn't have resonated with middle America like this one does.
"Iowa Stubborn", The Music Man
Only in a musical can a song spend two-and-a-half minutes explaining why everyone in Iowa is cold, mean, rude, and uncaring, and then at the end tell Harold Hill, "You ought to give Iowa a try!" Musical logic, what can you do?
"Seven Nation Army", The White Stripes
Wonder what the over/under was on the number of Brazilians chanting this song at the World Cup this summer who could: A) name it, and B) tell you the last verse is about working the fields in Kansas?
"Blue Moon of Kentucky", Patsy Cline
Elvis probably made this song about asking the moon to keep shining over a lost love famous, but Patsy Cline -- as she did with most songs -- sang it best.
"The House of the Rising Sun", The Animals
Not exactly an uplifting song about the vices that can ruin a person in New Orleans, but dark and catchy enough to score remakes by both Muse and Five Finger Death Punch.
"Portland, Maine", Tim McGraw
It probably says something about Maine that the best song involving the state was released this September, and includes the lyrics "Portland, Maine, I don't know where that is". Guess it still beats the theme from Murder, She Wrote.
"Good Morning Baltimore", Hairspray
Nobody, not even Edgar Allen Poe, Barry Levinson, and Cal Ripken combined in some kind of crazy genetic splice could possibly write a song as complimentary and upbeat about Baltimore. Come on, we've all seen The Wire.
"Rock and Roll Band", Boston
This track off Boston's debut album chronicles the tale of their rise to rock n' roll fame as "just another band out of Boston", dancing in the streets of Hyannis and praying for a break in Rhode Island.
"Detroit Rock City", KISS
Except for maybe that Eminem Super Bowl commercial from a few years back, there's not a song that gets the adrenaline pumping for the Motor City better than this KISS classic.
"Say Shh", Atmosphere
A rap song that brags about clean air and tap water, ample parking, and parks free of stems and syringes might the most groundbreaking, novel hip-hop track of the last decade.
Before he was getting high and forgetting to do, like, everything, Afroman grew up in Mississippi and composed this six-minute tribute to every city in the state. Wait till you see what he found to rhyme with "Biloxi".
"Kansas City", Wilbert Harrison
Kansas City is actually in Missouri. And apparently they've got some crazy little women there, who're probably even crazier after having relevant baseball in the city for the first time in 30 years.
"Meet Me in Montana", Dan Seals and Marie Osmond
Don't expect anything edgy or hardcore from someone named "Osmond". But this tale of lost lovers reminiscing about their time at the state's finest sites at least gets you a little teary-eyed; not to mention it doubles as a pretty good tourism jingle.
"Yoü and I", Lady GaGa
Admit it: the first time you heard this song you thought to yourself, "That's a good, catchy country song. I wonder who... OH GOD ITS LADY GAGA?? Nevermind". So, just try and pretend it's not from the same person who sang "Bad Romance".
"Folsom Prison Blues", Johnny Cash
Folsom prison is in California, you say? REALLY?? Tell that to Johnny Cash, who shot a man in Reno -- just to watch him die -- yet somehow ended up in a prison outside Sacramento.You wanna question The Man in Black's logic for state-line jurisdiction? 'Cuz we don't.
"New Hampshire", Sonic Youth
The lyrics to this song are incredibly useful if you're a lonely girl who happens to find herself at a bar in Portsmouth with a jukebox heavy on blues. Since, according to Sonic Youth, B.B. King turns New Hampshire boys on.
"New Mexico", Johnny Cash
This song about hitting miserable weather and awful conditions while riding through New Mexico will ring especially true the first time you're driving through the state in a downpour and find yourself on 100 miles of unpopulated highway lit only by the odd lightning bolt.
"Jersey Girl", Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen
When the two greatest raspy, kinda-mumbling rock stars in the history of the Garden State both do a version (and sometimes together), you've got a serious contender on your hands -- and a perfect stand-in for the official state song, since New Jersey is the only state without one.
"New York, New York", Frank Sinatra
Because YOU tell Sinatra that Jay-Z song was better.
"Raise Up", Petey Pablo
That sissy James Taylor won't tell you take your shirt off, twist it 'round yo head, and spin it like a helicopter.
"I Got a Gal I Love (In North and South Dakota)", Frank Sinatra
Given the horrendous male-to-female ratio in North Dakota right now, the guys working the oil rigs up there should be glad Frank is gone.
"Escape From Ohio", Electric Six
You ever wonder why you meet so many people from Ohio? The fact that the best song for Ohio is about getting out of Ohio should give you some idea.
"Choctaw Bingo", James McMurtry
Imagine if Johnny Cash wrote the theme song to Breaking Bad. Wind comes sweeping down the plain? More like meth comes blowing out my trailer.
"Portland Life", Cool Nutz (feat. G-ism)
Oh, so you thought Portland was all about hipsters, food trucks, and craft beer? Cool Nutz says "notsofast!", and shows you the streets of Portland can be rough even if you aren't a runaway heroin addict with horn-rimmed glasses.
"Streets of Philadelphia", Bruce Springsteen
Saying something is the darkest, saddest Springsteen song is kinda like saying something is the longest, creepiest book by Steven King. But the Academy agreed that this Boss song was boss, giving it an Oscar for Best Original Song from the movie Philadelphia.
"Road to Rhode Island", Brian and Stewie (Family Guy)
Not only might this be the best song about Rhode Island (there's not much competition), but possibly the best of the Brian & Stewie franchise of musical numbers. Why? "Like a masochist in Newport, we're Rhode Island Bound."
"South Carolina Low Country", Josh Turner
If "South Carolina Low Country" is the music that comes out of Josh Turner, can we call what comes out of Drake "Canadian high-pitched crap"? Settle down, just asking.
"Badlands", Bruce Springsteen
Bruce never says specifically which Badlands this song is about, but can you name another state with badlands? And since this tune's a helluva lot better than The Ballad of Sally Rose, let's just assume it is about The Mount Rushmore State. Also, is that really the state nickname?
"Tennessee", Arrested Development
You know those annoying hip-hop snobs who any time you bring up a Lil Wayne jam you heard at the strip club go on a rant about how rap now is terrible and not REAL hip-hop? Listen to this song, and you'll start agreeing with them.
"All My Ex's Live in Texas", George Strait
There're a lot of great songs about Texas, but George Strait rhymes an ex with pretty much every city in the state, which takes some serious creativity. That, and every guy who does nothing but quote movie lines will invoke this song any time you mention you're even flying through Dallas.
"Salt Lake City",The Beach Boys
Really wondering where the Beach Boys found anything that even closely resembled surfing, a beach, or girls in bikinis in Salt Lake City. But, hey, maybe they went on a good weekend.
"Moonlight in Vermont", Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday
Look at that list of people who've covered this song, and tell us there's a better one about Vermont.
"Virginia Moon", Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl and company take a break from their usual high-energy rock to produce this acoustic, almost Hawaiian-sounding track.
"Posse on Broadway", Sir Mix-a-Lot
Oh, you didn't know Mix-a-Lot had a hit BEFORE Baby Got Back? You know who did? The Seattle Symphony, who, probably because he gives a shout out to Seattle favorite Dick's Drive-In and other spots on Broadway near the symphony's home, recently did a live version of the track with him.
"Take Me Home, Country Roads", John Denver
Because there just aren't enough good songs about burning couches.
"In the Street" (Theme from That 70's Show), Cheap Trick
So what if Ashton Kutcher happens to be from Iowa? This song fronted the most popular show about America's Dairyland that didn't involve a guy named Fonz, and makes sure everyone knows that "We're all still rockin' in Wisconsin".
"Song of Wyoming", John Denver
It's almost like John Denver got last pick in the "States I get to write songs about" fantasy draft. "Oh MAN, you're giving me West Virginia AND Wyoming? Not cool, Bruce. Not cool."