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California has a lot to offer: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, wine, fantastic beaches, and breathtaking sunsets. The Golden State is the third-largest state in the U.S. and the most populous one. While you can always browse the internet to learn more about a state, doing so from the area’s music grants a more interesting perspective.
In this article, we’ll offer a collection of 13 songs about California that will make you want to start packing your bags.
13 Songs About California
California has been featured in many songs. Here’s a list of the most popular ones:
1. “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin
“Made up my mind, make a new start,
Goin’ to California with an achin’ in my heart,
Someone told me there’s a girl out there,
With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.”
In this song, the narrator is moving to California to look for a new, better life. He was disappointed in a woman before and wants to find his soulmate in California. For him, California is a fresh start and a new chance to find what he’s looking for.
2. “California Dreaming” by The Mamas & the Papas
“All the leaves are brown,
And the sky is gray,
I’ve been for a walk,
On a winter’s day,
I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.”
The narrator is in an area where the winters are cold and gloomy, and he doesn’t enjoy them. Instead, he wishes he were in California, where it’s warm and sunny. This song comes with a fascinating history. The author, John Phillips, dreamt about it while in New York. After waking up, he immediately woke his wife Michelle to help him create the song.
3. “When You Get to California” by Hoodoo Gurus
“You’ll know when you get to California,
Darling Clementine, it’s a state of mind.
You’ll know when you get to California,
Freedom’s in the air. It’s waiting there.”
The narrator talks to a woman named Clementine and reveals what makes California so special. He describes it as a “state of mind,” meaning people feel and think differently when they’re there. For the author, California implies freedom, and he tells the woman she’ll feel it when she arrives.
4. “The Golden State” by City and Colour
“Haven’t we heard enough about the Golden State?
I guess if you like sandy beaches and blue ocean water,
There’s something about it, to which I cannot relate,
I need to see the leaves change and the snowflakes falling.”
The narrator sends a clear message about how he feels regarding California. He mentions the beaches and ocean many people love but explains that they’re not for him. Instead, he prefers living in a place where seasons change.
The rest of the song has a somewhat resentful tone: the narrator states fortune and fame can’t save anyone when a fire or earthquake hits California. Unfortunately, the state often experiences natural disasters like these, which is another reason the narrator doesn’t love it.
5. “Hotel California” by The Eagles
“Welcome to the Hotel California,
Such a lovely place, such a lovely face,
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California,
What a nice surprise,
Bring your alibis.”
It’s impossible to list songs about California and not mention this one. Hotel California has numerous interpretations, but the song’s authors explained that it’s about excess in American culture, Hollywood stars, and some girls they knew. It portrays the darker side of the American dream and how some people will do anything for high life, fame, and money.
The song talks about California life, but it’s intended as a metaphor for the entire world.
6. “In Your Atmosphere” by John Mayer
“I don’t think I’m going to L.A. anymore,
I don’t know what it’s like to land and
Not race to your door.”
This song depicts how hard it can be to return to some places after a breakup. The narrator has just broken up with a girl and talks about how he needs to steer clear of L.A. because he doesn’t want to evoke memories.
He feels it would be too painful to return to places he used to visit with his other half, which is why he wants to stay out of L.A.
7. “Land of Competition” by Bad Religion
“Hey, see, there’s a girl who sits and watches the world from their blue screen,
Also a boy who truly wants to destroy his hometown scene,
They both want to travel to the land of competition,
Southern California will destroy them.”
The song paints a picture of Hollywood and how it can affect people. Many come to Hollywood looking for fame and money. Unfortunately, some lose their identity on the way and buy into the fake image that surrounds Hollywood. People falsely represent themselves and spend money they don’t have to look like the stars they admire, and this song is about how foolish that is.
8. “California” by Phantom Planet
“Pedal to the floor,
Thinking of the roar,
Gotta get us to the show,
California here we come,
Right back where we started from.”
In this song, the narrator is driving down route 101 back to California for a show. They are rushing down the road to catch the show on time. The narrator can’t wait to be in California, whether because of the show or because he enjoys being there.
This track is the theme song for “The O.C.,” a popular show thanks to which it became a major hit.
9. “California Love” by Tupac
“But give me that bomb beat from Dre,
Let me serenade the streets of L.A.,
From Oakland to Sactown,
The Bay area and back down.”
Tupac released this song after he was released from prison in 1995. A sort of comeback track, California Love was an instant hit, and it’s still popular today. The song earned Tupac two posthumous Grammy awards.
In the track, the narrator is happy to be back on the California streets and talks about how the west side (of the U.S.) is the best part.
10. “Pacific Coast Party” by Smash Mouth
“Get your ticket, pack your bags,
Come and join the celebration,
Pacific coast party.”
We can’t talk about California songs without adding at least one party hit to the list. This song has a classic rhythm and portrays parties in California. There are no hidden meanings or messages you need to pay attention to. If you’re going out tonight and want to get into the mood, this is the song to add to your playlist.
11. “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
“It’s the edge of the world and all of Western civilization,
The Sun may rise in the East, at least it’s settled in a final location,
It’s understood that Hollywood sells Californication.
Pay your surgeon very well to break the spell of aging,
Celebrity skin, is this your chin, or is that the war you’re waging?”
This is another song that reflects on how Hollywood has become a synonym for superficial, plastic, and fake. It describes what Hollywood has turned into, and since the band was formed there, the members are pretty familiar with that kind of life.
The song features numerous references to pop culture and has various interpretations.
12. “We Don’t Need Another Song About California” by My Chemical Romance
Where the city lights are hopeless for you
We don’t care or need another song about California.”
This song depicts California as a double-edged sword. On one side, there is glamour and fame, and on the other, there are thousands of unaccomplished dreams, fake promises, etc. The narrator emphasizes people shouldn’t fake their lives just to fit into the Hollywood state of mind.
The title is especially notable, as it’s a way of criticizing songs that represent California in a positive light.
13. “La Land” by Bruce Vine
“Fresh out of school,
Now you working and focus on fashion,
Pretty girl, and you let go,
Got time but you got goals,
Hey baby, waste your time with me in California.”
This song was released in 2019, and it features a combination of hip hop and R&B. It has a recognizable laid-back vibe that instantly puts you in a good mood. The narrator meets a girl at a house party, and they talk about her life. The song covers several California “trademarks,” such as Coachella, the Hamptons, and 1 OAK.
Final Thoughts on 13 Songs About California
California is a land of many opportunities, but it’s also a place where many dreams shatter. We hope this collection of 13 songs about California helped you understand both sides and that you’ve enjoyed learning more about them. We are positive some of them will become your favorites, regardless of whether or not you like California.
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