Tupac is from East Harlem. Led Zeppelin is from London. The Weekend is from is from Canada. The Decemberists are from Portland, Oregon.
All four songs are performed by non-native Californian artists. Every song offers an outsider’s impression and/or experience with California.
Tupac seems to relish in the party life that California offers—it is the only California he sees. Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” feels hopeful—they were aware that the girl they were searching for probably did not exist but they hoped that their dream would come true: “standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,/ Telling myself it’s not as hard, hard as it seems.” However, “California” shows a love-sick girl with only her lover on her mind. The Weekend’s “California” is resentful because of the distance between her and her love—California is not only where he is but that “sweet” hope where dreams “have” to come true. Unlike the other three, “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” is a dark take on the party scene in Los Angeles: “how I abhor this place/ its sweet and bitter taste/ has left me wretched, retching on all fours/ Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”
Tupac shows the fun California “that knows how to party.” Led Zeppelin exposes that the dream of California is not what the myths promise it to be, no matter how hard we wish for it to be true. For The Weekend, California is the place to be because of the promise of her love. However, “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” shows the dark and dirty things of California, “the smell of burnt cocaine,” yet they surrendered to the power and draw of California because of the claim “Los Angeles, I’m yours.”
My favorite song from this group is Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” because it still holds the hope that lives inside dreams even though reality is close enough to taste. I also love how calming the music is for the song.