Flobots' 2017 album No Enemies
has been described as a collection of protest songs, and emcee Jonny 5 credits the late Dr. Vincent Harding with inspiring the tone. While many of the songs on the album directly address tough social issues in America, Jonny points out that there's also a message of hope that needs to be heard. He talked to Songfacts
about the song "American Dreams."
"We wanted to acknowledge how beautiful the dream is, of this country, and at the same time sort of dig in to the stories of the tension between the dream and the reality that's been present throughout the country's history. We didn't want to do just a cynical song about America. That's been done plenty of times. But of course we didn't want to ignore reality, either. The song is sort of trying to take the listener through a balance of the two. There's a little bit of a sense of wonder and fascination, and a little bit of a sense of tragedy. I think above all, there's a yearning for something.
A mentor of ours, Vincent Harding, would always quote Langston Hughes: 'America never was America to me, and yet I swear this oath: America will be.' In a lot of ways, I think that poem sort of informed the song, even though none of the lyrics are present."