Haley’s Poetic Playlist: “Morning in America”


Hi readers! I am so excited to be back and blogging, and I hope everyone enjoyed their summer! By the end of the year, I aim to introduce you to plenty of amazing songs that you’ll all soon enough be adding to your own playlists!

Today’s post is on a song that I came to love over the summer; not just because of its juxtaposition of upbeat music and its rather dense, blunt lyrics (which I will address later), but because it is so raw and real. I believe this song could likely stand on its own as a poem.

The song this week is “Morning in America” by Jon Bellion. Bellion is a singer/songwriter, who wrote the chorus of Rihanna’s single “Monster,” as well as provided the vocals for Zedd’s “Beautiful Now.” This song is off his debut album, The Human Condition, which was released this past June.

“Morning in America”

[Verse 1]
“1600, 1600—1600 on the SATs
Said they gettin’, said they gettin’
Said they gettin’ me an SUV
Just a couple miles from the lights of the city
Pour a little liquor in my Starbucks Venti
Just 11, just 11 when they said I had the ADD”

Opening the song with the repetition of the highest score that one can obtain on the SAT serves a handful of purposes: One, it communicates the obsession that many students and parents have in modern schooling that they must be the very best; the second purpose is to establish a theme for the song of striving for unattainable perfection; and thirdly, it foreshadows both the pre-chorus, which talks about the great expectation of society, and it validates the singer’s supposed ADD — this is a score a any student would have a difficult time obtaining, let alone someone who claims to have struggled in school, such as Bellion had when he was in school.

“Said they gettin’ me an SUV” is a massive reward for something so unattainable, that it showcases the intense pressure parents often shove on their children by bribing them with ridiculous presents. Now, we aren’t sure whether or not he gets this car, because he goes on to talk about how he’s driving out of the city (in the new SUV?), drinking alcohol out of his Starbucks cup. Probably a continuation of the obsession theme — people obsessed with getting high scores, people obsessed with Starbucks — as well as a reference to the idea that everyone has a substance they’re addicted to (coffee, liquor, and later he mentions drugs).

Bellion claims to be only 11 when “they said [he] had the ADD.” I like how it’s referenced as if this is common. Almost as if he’s saying, “yeah, I got the ADD too,” which is an appropriate assessment of modern American culture. Doesn’t everyone have ADD these days?

“I’ve been trying to keep up with all of these great expectations So I keep on faking”

You have to love this reference to the Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations.  

[Chorus 1]
“We’re secretly out of control, nobody knows it
But my mom’s got a problem with oxy’s and she’s angry
Cause my dad’s office door’s always closed
But I stopped knocking
Yeah, we’re secretly out of control and everyone knows
Oh, it’s morning in America x4″

Bellion starts by claiming it’s a secret that everyone is out of control, hiding behind the perfect scores on the SAT and the happy faces (fueled by Starbucks and ADD medication). He supports this claim by stating no one is aware of his mom’s addiction to “oxy’s” (slang for Oxycontin, a prescription narcotic). Apparently, the addiction to this medication has statistically increased throughout the years, with a reported two million Americans heavily dependent on this drug in 2014. Bellion uses this reference to highlight the ever-growing dependency on medication in the US. A side effect of the addiction is anger — something he claims his mother has a lot of towards his father.

There really isn’t a problematic area this song doesn’t touch on — increased divorce rates in America are astounding. Bellion’s mom is angry at his dad because he’s always shut in his office, which could be a metaphor for many things. It could be highlighting the type A, workaholic, business man, who is distant from his family and obsessed with making money (again, another obsession). This would support the family’s ability to reward their son with an expensive SUV for his grades. Bellion “stops knocking,” most likely because he doesn’t get any attention from his father. This is supported with the first verse, where instead of supporting his son, he bribes him instead.


Bellion comes back and contradicts his original statement at the end of this verse, when he claims that everyone is aware of the problems that everyone has. I love this contrast. It emphasizes the idea that everyone likes to appear that they are fine and successful and perfect, when in reality everyone has their own issues.

“Morning in America” could possibly be a reference to a slogan from president Reagan’s campaign. It could also just explain that the everyday chaos has now become common. The idea that America is this “land of the free” and a place where anyone can be successful and happy is not 100% accurate.

[Verse 2]
“At the locker, at the locker
At the locker selling time release
Where’s the party? Where’s the party?
Where’s the party? There’s a house empty
Didn’t learn a lesson, didn’t use protection
Doesn’t wanna keep the baby
Throwing up in the alley, in the alley
Older brother looking for me”

Here we get a continuation of the repetition, communicated through the desperation of drug-addled teenagers trying to find ways to get through the day. We are presented with this imagery of a drug deal happening at the lockers, selling “time release.” I love this term, as it references the medical field’s term for drugs such as Adderall, Morphine, Oxycodone, and whatever else kids do these days. These drugs have most definitely made themselves known within the school system.

Again we get the desperate search for a party, which is likely a place these kids can enjoy their (apparently) miserable lives, and try to forget about this chaos altogether. If there is an empty house, there will be a party.

And what happens at these parties? Drinking and drugs have already been addressed, but now sex is touched upon. Bellion didn’t previously learn his lesson from having unprotected sex, as it never ended in impregnation, but now this has backfired.

The last three lines of the verse bear a lot of meaning. This girl knows she’s too young to care for the child, so perhaps she is throwing up from morning sickness. Perhaps she took pills to kill the baby or had an abortion and is sick at the thought of killing something and doesn’t have the heart to do it. Maybe Bellion is throwing up in a back alley so that this girl cannot see how scared he is at the thought of becoming a father. Maybe he wanted to keep the baby but doesn’t have a say because it is her body. Whichever way, there’s plenty of possibilities. We can assume Bellion is not supposed to be out this late and his brother is trying to find him.


[Chorus 2]
We’re secretly out of control, nobody knows it
But my mom’s got a problem with oxy’s and she’s angry
Cause my dad’s office door’s always closed
But I stopped knocking
Cause there’s some things I don’t wanna know
We’re secretly out of control, nobody says it
When the class president overdosed, we all pretended
It was rare, it was shocking and all the town was talking
Yeah, we’re secretly out of control and everyone knows
Oh, it’s morning in American x2
And everyone knows
Oh, it’s morning in America x2″

* I’ve underlined the new additions to this version of the chorus


Again we are faced with the angry, addicted mother, and the aloof father. But now there’s an extra line here that says Bellion stops knocking, “because there are some things [he] doesn’t want to know.” This opens the possibility that perhaps his dad is drinking, doing drugs, or cheating on his wife. Bellion already knows his dad is up to something, but is too scared to validate his suspicions — which is why he just finds it easier to stay away. I think this is a really good introduction to the second half of this chorus, where he talks about everyone’s apathy towards meddling in each others’ lives. They all know they’re out of control, but “nobody says it,” because then it becomes real; because then you actually have to address the problem. It is easier for people to operate under the front of normalcy.

This “normalcy” is reiterated with the immediate introduction of the class president who probably got a 1600 on his SAT, and obviously was doing the work to stay on top, but was undermined by the insidiousness of the drug epidemic that has been sweeping through the teenage population. Bellion basically says that everyone knew the class president had a drug problem, but no one stepped in to help, resulting in his unexpected overdose. When it did finally happen, everyone just pretended that they had no idea about his addiction. Again, it is easier to deal with one’s own problems and keep to one’s self than it is to step in and help others, which goes to show the selfishness Bellion believes many Americans have. It has somewhat become survival of the fittest.

“We’re secretly out of control, nobody knows me
And my friends all addicted to porn, can’t keep a girlfriend
Cause the great expectations got all us imitating
Yeah, we’re secretly out of control and everyone knows”

This first line reiterates what I’ve been saying, how no one takes the time to learn about each other because they are so consumed with their own problems. We learn of another addiction here, when porn is introduced, which has been said to have some of the same effects as drugs on the mind. No one can keep a genuine, healthy relationship with one another because they have these “great expectations” constantly looming and feel as though they will never live up to them, so everyone pretends to be someone they aren’t.

[Chorus 2]

Essentially, this song is looking to undermine the often blind perception that America is free from problems and injustices. The casual tone of the entire song — about a world of chaos from what seems to be the viewpoint of a teenage male in high school — showcases the everyday issues that many American have to deal with.

After all, it’s just another morning in America.

— Haley Renison, Asst. Managing Editor

One thought on “Haley’s Poetic Playlist: “Morning in America”

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