Written by Lottie Glazer. 2 March 2016.
The song “It’s America” is one of Rodney Atkins’ most well known hits, reaching #1 on the Hot Country Chart in 2009. The track is supposed to be an anthem expressing what America is and what makes it so great. The song follows themes that Atkins became known for, themes reflecting his life and the country lifestyle such as a focus on patriotism, family values, and religion. In a time during which the United States was struggling through hardships, the song is a reminder of the small things in America that make it prosper.
The introduction to the song tells the stereotypical story of a little kids in their yard selling lemonade. Atkins explains, “What a picture-perfect postcard this would make of America.” The image of children selling lemonade perhaps highlights the innocence of childhood ventures, which greatly contrasts the financial climate of the time.The chorus goes on to tell more of what people, specifically those fond of country music, might think of when they think of America. He mentions prom, his idol Bruce Springsteen—who, to many country artists, serves as ultimate the voice of American patriotism—a chevy, cities and farms, and so on. Atkins even quotes the pledge of allegiance, “one nation under God,” finishing off the chorus with a special emphasis on “It’s America.”
In the next verse, Rodney talks about some of the hardships some Americans have endured and can relate to. He talks about a small community being hit by a large tornado. He then goes on to say how grateful he is to see a town come together to help each other in a time of crisis. The year this song came out, there was a record breaking 1,700 recorded tornadoes in the United States, which caused billions in damages. In the song, Atkins sings, “People came from miles around just to help their neighbors out.” In the song, people work together to help rebuild their community, a reality that likely occurred throughout the country at the time.
In the second to last verse of the song, Atkins sings, “Now we might not always get it all right, there’s no place else I’d rather build my life,” saying to his fans that while everything might not always be perfect, America is still the best place in the world. The song was published two weeks before President Obama was elected and while George W. Bush was still serving as President. At the time of publication, the United States was enduring extremely tough financial times, people were out of work, the mortgage industry was crashing, and families—”everyday Americans” whom the song targets—were struggling to make ends meet. Rodney is quoted as saying that the song “has become kind of an anthem for folks struggling,” later adding, “I have seen people at shows pumping their fists and singing along with tears in their eyes and realized how real the lyrics are for some people.” Though Atkins published the song during a Republican presidency, much of his fans’ reactions took place during a Democratic presidency, one deemed particularly unpopular with country music audiences. Thus, the fans’ reactions to the song are not necessarily representative of wha t Atkins would have anticipated at the time of publishing the song. Though he briefly acknowledges that everything might not be ideal, his song as a whole glosses over the troubling day to day of many Americans, rather focusing on the stereotypical highlights of an idealized American life, an approach not necessarily surprising considering he published during a Republican presidency. .
In the final verse he reiterates why people find America so great. America is about living the American dream: the freedom, the community, and the patriotism. This verse specifically pays respect to fallen military veterans. In a thesis paper about patriotic themes in country music, Claire Carville clearly summarizes the meaning of the song as a celebration of America. The author states the song “celebrates small moments that are part of American life including helping out one’s community, popular music, high school, and summer time.” Through the song, Atkins shows his true love for his country and the people in it.
Atkins has worked to make himself relatable. When asked what songs he is drawn to, Atkins responded saying, “They’re songs about real life..I think the stuff I sing about is for regular folks out there… It’s about celebrating the simple things in life,” almost exactly describing what “It’s America” is all about. In a later interview with the Augusta Chronicle, he talks about how the song hit him when he first heard it, labeling it as “one of those pick-you-up and make-you-pump-your-fists-and-sing-along kind of songs,” reminiscent of a Springsteen hit. Atkins has become known for trying to reach out and celebrate the ordinary people in everyday circumstances. While on the radio, Atkins voiced that he wants to create songs that people would want to share with their own families, that are inspiring, that make people go “yeah that’s what I feel.”
The content and structure of the song make it easy to listen to. The lyrics contribute to the relatability that Atkins strives for in his albums; however, the structure of the song plays a large part in its popularity as well. In the opening, the sound of the guitar is ever present and even more clear with Rodney playing it in the music video. The song starts out slowly, telling the story of kids selling lemonade. As the first chorus approaches, the song begins to build. Each time the chorus plays, the tempo speeds up. The other time the song builds is at the end of each verse, at which point he always ends with the word “America.” The two exceptions are the verses where he talks about “Now we might not always get it all right” and the final verse. However, in the final verse, he does raise his voice to sing the lyrics “It’s a big flag flyin’ in a summer wind” before slowing down again to pay respects to fallen soldiers in the next line. Overall each time Atkins uses the word “America,” he makes sure to enunciate, making sure the audience understands that what he has just said is what America is.
While America may not always be perfect, Rodney Atkins’ song “It’s America” shows that we still have a lot to be proud of. Through the roughest of times, we come together as a community in order to prosper. Like Atkins says, we must take the time and appreciate the simple things in life like a good country music song.
Carville, Claire. “From “courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” to “if You’re Reading This” Patriotic Themes in Country Music between 2000-2010.” Thesis. Louisiana State University, 2011. Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Collection. 14 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
“Ramblin Rhodes: Patriotic Single Is a Fist-pumper.” The Augusta Chronicle. N.p., 4 Dec. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Sculley, Alan. “60 SECONDS with Rodney Atkins.” Colorado Springs Independent: 30. Jan 2009. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
Zimmerman, Lee. “Rodney Atkins is Red-Blooded, White-Bread, and Blue-Collar.”Broward – Palm Beach New Times. Mar 25 2010. ProQuest. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.