Behind the scenes of “American Dream” by Switchfoot is a longing to be different. The point is that everyone is society is fighting to have the same image. This image is a purposeless life filled with “success”. Success that does not include anything but work and money. The value of our success is measured by how much money we make in a certain amount of time. We allow every person we ever come in contract with to shape our opinion of what to live for. The title “American Dream” is well chosen because each American is striving to this implausible dream. The bottom line is there is more to life than money and success.
Having everything is what society equates with success.”When success is equated with excess, The ambition for excess wrecks us.” When one person has an excess of anything then someone else does not have enough of it.
This excess is being compared with everything materialistic but most specifically money. These lines are conveying the central point of the song which is the American Dream. The American Dream is defined as having financial security and prosperity. This is the basis of the judgmental society we have today.
People always strive for more. Then when they achieve that essence of more its turns out to be not enough. “As the top of the mind becomes the bottom line, When success is equated with excess.” People of this society are always worried about the “bottom line”. The bottom line is defined as the final total of an account, a balance sheet, or any other financial document. The final total, the number of zeros at the bottom of that paycheck is what we define and compare our standard or living to be.
In the next four lines, lines 5-8, it is conveyed that the final goal is unreachable. Time wastes away and we cannot get it back. “Maybe honey, put your money where your mouths been running, If your time ain’t been nothing for money.” We as Americans in the society we have built worship money. Everything we work towards is just to make more money. That is the entire purpose of our human lives. The value of our time and whether or not we have been productive is how much money we make in that time.
America was industrialized early but instead of just industrializing products we have also resorted to industrializing our people. In lines 9 and 10, “I want out of this machine, It doesn’t feel like freedom.” We lost our uniqueness and became like a “machine”. Everyone was the same and strives towards the same goal. Our lives are like mirrors as every life you look at reflects your own.
To live for only the materialistic point of life hardly makes life worth living.Lines 11-14, illustrate this. “This ain’t my American Dream, I want to live and die for bigger things, I’m tired of fighting for just me.” You cannot take it with you when you go, so why waste your entire life working towards something that does not matter. What is purpose in life? It is not just the materialistic aspect. There must be more to life than that. Life needs to have more depth than just working towards money. Living for something also includes having the courage to die for it. And according to our society this thing is success which is “equated with excess” which is translated to money. Is money really worth dying for?
Fighting for something that does not need protecting is a useless cause. In line 16, “When we’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus.” The Beamer and the Lexus need no protection. They are impervious to the ways and misjudgment of society. The need to fight for them is unreasonable. They are in no need of protection and also in another perspective they are not a necessary part of life.
Lines 17-18 go along with lines 9 and 10. “As the heart and soul breath in the company goals, Where success is equated with excess.” This line is conveying the fact that each one of our lives seems to look exactly the same. Our entire beings and characters is measured by how much time and money we invest in our work or company.
Americans are measured by their materialistic possessions before their character. This is demonstrated in lines 19-22. “And talk has always been the cheapest thing.” Society judges us by how much we have. The more we have the higher we are ranked in society. “Is it true would you do what I want you to, If I show up with the right amount of bling.” We as Americans can be bribed and bought. It the price is high enough and we gain status there is very little Americans will not do.
Our actions seems to be controlled by the societies opinion of how much is enough. As in lines 23-27. “Like a puppet on a monetary string, Maybe we’ve been caught singing, Red, white, blue, and green.” We are so concerned with the amount of money we have that we worship it to some extent. To have all we need is not enough. We are not satisfied with life and liberty. We have to have the pursuit of happiness as well and this is characterized as the American Dream.
Throughout the song the points that stand out the most are “When success is equated with excess.” and “This ain’t my American Dream.” These lines are repeated a total of 4 times each. Switchfoot wants the listener to know that there is more to life than money and how much time it took to make it. Life is more than the materialistic aspect. Life is more than what you look like and how big your bank account is. Life is unique for every individual, you must choose whether you will conform to the pattern of this world or dare to be different and live your own dream.