If this is your first venture into the United States of Songs, here's the skinny: I'm counting down a weekly list of the best songs honoring each of the states in the union, and doing so alphabetically. The rules are firm but fair: the state must be mentioned in the title of the song, and the main focus of the song must be on the state. So "I Love LA" is out in favor of something that exalts all of California. But California's not our focus this week, it's Arizona. Unfortunately I couldn't find a YouTube vid that allows embedded playing, so you'll have to click through to their site in order to watch. Or you could
torrent buy it online legally. It's a good song; it's worth it.
The State: Arizona
The Song: "By the Time I get to Arizona" by Public Enemy
(there are bad words, so listen at work at your own risk)
I know, I know, "How come the FIRST two states got loving ballads and Arizona got the shaft with a song about racist hegemony?!" It's the result of a couple of different factors: first off, there aren't a lot of loving ballads to Arizona that I can track down. Loving odes to Yuma? Sure. Songs about Arizona that don't mention Arizona but aren't titled after it? Plenty. But songs with Arizona in the title that celebrate Arizona? I had a hard time finding any, and no Arizonans stepped up to help me out. Second, the tune is possibly more relevant now than it was 20 years ago when it was released.
(And if you're one of the people in Arizona mad that your state is known for governmental stupidity, I'm sorry. Genuinely. I lived in Missouri; I know what it's like to have laws on the books that make you think, "Oh, crap. The rest of the country is going to have a field day with this." So if you're pro-Baja Arizona or just wanting to go on record that not everyone in Arizona agrees with the state, I want you to know that you shouldn't take it personally.) Feel free to skip ahead to 0:42 to actually get to the music and skip the rant at the beginning.
If it's any consolation, we're fans of your canyons.
But politics aside, it's got a lazy, dirty-sounding beat that translates great to driving through red, sun-baked mountains or walking slowly down the mean streets of Phoenix or Tucson (in super slow motion, of course). When the bass drops on the interlude and the organ kicks up and you hear the screams of the crowd it's like you're reaching your own spiritual epiphany in the desert. Then the gospel chorus chimes in and you can almost hear the notes reverberating off the desert rocks in a golden red sunset.
It might be a controversial pick because of the politics, but Arizona's just kind of a lightning rod that way, lately, and I don't think you can deny that it's just a good song. A perfect match? Maybe not. But the Grand Canyon state is well represented.
Runner up: "Arizona" by Scorpions
Most laughable suggestion: "Arizona" by Kings of Leon
Think I'm way off base? Got a suggestion for next week's piece on Arkansas? Let me know in the comments!
Flickr photo Grand Canyon by DaSon'e used under a Creative Commons License.