Thursday, July 5, 2018

Vox debates 'The Star Spangled Banner'

July 4th was yesterday, but I'm not done with patriotic music; as I wrote yesterday, I would write about the national anthem today.  To that end, here is Vox explaining Why the US national anthem is terrible — and perfect.

Vox's Estelle Caswell and Joss Fong debate "The Star Spangled Banner"...

When Francis Scott Key attached his poem about the War of 1812 to a popular British song called "To Anacreon in Heaven," he kicked off over 200 years of painfully bad singing by patriotic Americans. The Star Spangled Banner became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931, but it had been used by the Army and Navy for decades before that and was popular from the start. One big problem? The melody wasn't exactly written for the masses, but for trained soloists.

Commentators pointed out early on that it was exceedingly difficult for most people to sing, suggesting that "America the Beautiful" might be a better alternative. Critics have noted that the music requires a uniquely wide vocal range, it's full of tricky intervals, and the lyrics are confusing and uninspiring.

But if you look at the national anthem as a sport, where we get to watch performers at the top of their game tackle the gauntlet that is the Star Spangled Banner, you may come to appreciate it. In this video, we debate whether the difficulty of the Star Spangled Banner is a feature or a bug for a national anthem.
I'm not a big fan of "The Star Spangled Banner" for the reasons mentioned in the video, but I'm not so worked up over it that I am going to agitate for "America the Beautiful" to replace it.  Besides, it can be sung beautifully.  Listen to this rendition by the vocalists of The Cadets.

Happy Fourth of July from The Cadets!

In case that looks familiar, it's because I added it to last year's Drink to a drum corps 4th of July from The Cadets.  I couldn't avoid drum corps entirely on this holiday!

I also can't escape Tipsy Bartender.  Here is the drink I wrote that I had picked out yesterday, Jello Shot American Flag.

Now I'm done with the holiday!  Stay tuned for another post about the Retail Apocalypse tomorrow.


  1. "...the lyrics are confusing and uninspiring."

    America the Beautiful is a great song, but EVERY nation on earth can lay claim to numerous examples of beautiful places.

    Using such a statement as "We're Beautiful" as our national standard is a rather vapid, narcissistic statement when you think about it.

    Yes, The Star Spangled Banner is a difficult song to sing, but what is confusing about a song that describes a band of Americans withstanding a withering attack and not surrendering?

    How is a song that praises a group who never gave up on their principles even at the risk of death be uninspiring?

    With all our bumps and warts, we are the land of the free, because of the brave.

    1. That was well-argued based on the text I shared, but the real answer to your (hopefully not rhetorical) question is in the video. Did you watch it?