American Life

Album: American Life (2003)
Charted: 2 37


  • Madonna is an American success story who is skilled at manipulating the media and making good business decisions. She has taken many risks in her music and her image, and while many have proven very successful, this song wasn't a commercial success. The song is a criticism of the American way of life as being selfish and materialistic, and how while Madonna has achieved the typical American Dream, she's not sure this is what she wants.
  • The song didn't get much radio play in the US, but did get a lot of attention for Madonna's rap about drinking soy lattes, doing pilates, and driving a Mini Cooper, which was often played in news stories without much context, sometimes making Madonna seem like a hypocrite.
  • The video shows Madonna in military garb as images of war are juxtaposed against a fashion show. Before it aired in the US, Madonna had the video re-cut to eliminate the war footage in deference to the war in Iraq. Madonna released this statement to explain her decision: "I am not Anti-Bush. I am not pro-Iraq. I am pro Peace. I have written a song and created a video which expresses my feelings about our culture and values and the illusions of what many people believe is the American dream - the perfect life. As an artist, I hope that this provokes thought and dialogue. I don't expect everyone to agree with my point of view. I am grateful to have the freedom to express these feelings and that's how I honor my country."
  • Madonna wrote this with Mirwais Ahmadzai, a dance music producer who worked with Madonna on her albums Music, American Life and Confessions On A Dance Floor.
  • Madonna (from Q magazine): "Different things inspire me to write. I could be having a guitar lesson and something will just come to me. Or Mirwais will send me over music - rough stuff that doesn't have an arrangement basic chord progressions. 'American Life' came about itself like that. The music has to jar my brain in terms of lyrics. Sometimes I write free verse. I have a journal and I note down ideas I get from newspapers and books."

Comments: 5

  • Leo from Westminster 1, MdI do agree with Teresa from Tennessee and Olivia from New York. American Life was Maddy's second Freakout because she decried people who had attitudes, materialism and war. She was screaming with rage because Miss Ciccone bared her Soul on American Life. This song was even better during Reinvention because all Madonna wants to do is Rock Out! Do I think Madonna is satisfied? Heck No, she ain't! I guess Madonna channeled her inner Bessie Smith in American Life
    -the 21st Century Equivalent of Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do. Yet despite her rage at Society, Madonna still loves America because she Cries in Tears "American Life...You Are Not Just a Dream!" For Madonna, America is still a place where Dreams Can Come True. In this strange Ciccone Art Piece, Madonna is a Fighter and a great American. She Loves Her Land-that's the Midwest Heartland Truth! The Lady Rocks!
  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnAmerican Life never got the respect it deserved, the song and the album. Madge is a risk-taker, plain and simple.
  • Liv from New York, NyEven though this album has been viewed as a failure by many, I think It's one of her best efforts. Regardless of the fact that I am a huge supporter of all of Madonna's work, I really do think this was a phenomenal and brave album. People are so quick to judge just based on the negativity that surrounded this project, but if you take the time to listen to each track, and actually listen to what she is saying, I think It's rather groundbreaking. I do get that some people were reluctant to give It a chance though, It's not typical Madonna music that you want to shake your ass to. She covered so many heavy topics, I think she's learned to do that in a less intimidating way. Listening to "Hard Candy", she still discusses some really important things, It's just not so blatantly obvious as It is on this album.
  • Rene from Grasse, FranceMadonna wrote this in order to try and justify the guilt she has for taking advantage of all that is special and exceptional in America. She made her fotune and them came over here to Europe and try to BS us which was not working in the US. In the song she pretends the US is a bad place in order to attempt to justify her existance.
  • Sum Sum from New Delhiits considered one of her riskiest song. The original video was aired in MTV just once or twice and then it was banned.The single was filmed in the run up to the second Iraq War, and its content was deemed "unpatriotic" by early reports. The video was shot on a ramp, models cat-walking wearing US-army apparel and Iraqi outfits carrying weapons. This was quickly picked up in the media, which gave the impression that the album was anti-American in content. This was controversial amongst Madonna fans since she is known to never back down. With the pull out of this video - it seems that she was forced to do something she is known to not do: give in.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Psychedelic Lyrics

Psychedelic LyricsMusic Quiz

Whoa man! Do you know which band came up with these cosmic lyrics?

Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire

Verdine White of Earth, Wind & FireSongwriter Interviews

The longtime bassist of Earth, Wind & Fire discusses how his band came to do a holiday album, and offers insight into some of the greatest dance/soul tunes of all-time.

Steely Dan

Steely DanFact or Fiction

Did they really trade their guitarist to The Doobie Brothers? Are they named after something naughty? And what's up with the band name?

Soul Train Stories with Stephen McMillian

Soul Train Stories with Stephen McMillianSong Writing

A Soul Train dancer takes us through a day on the show, and explains what you had to do to get camera time.


QueenFact or Fiction

Scaramouch, a hoople and a superhero soundtrack - see if you can spot the real Queen stories.

Jon Anderson of Yes

Jon Anderson of YesSongwriter Interviews

From the lake in "Roundabout" to Sister Bluebird in "Starship Trooper," Jon Anderson talks about how nature and spirituality play into his lyrics for Yes.