Should we change the national anthem?

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Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Lazar » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:22 am UTC

For no particular reason, I've been thinking recently about proposals to change the US national anthem. Among the proposed replacements, the clear leader – and the one I'm considering here – is "America the Beautiful". Some have suggested "This Land Is Your Land" – a good song, but probably too folksy for this purpose, and conservatives would never go for it. Then there's "God Bless America", which is too trite and blustery.

So of the two main contenders, I do think "The Star-Spangled Banner" is more rousing, which is a good quality in national anthems. However, there are several problems with it:

– The range: it's notoriously hard for nonprofessionals to hit the high notes. This seems like an especially salient point for the United States, because the democratic ideal is at the root of our national identity – shouldn't we have an anthem that regular people can sing?

– The subject matter. I'm not opposed to some battle references, but I think it's fair to say that the song is pretty bellicose. Regardless, what really strikes me is that it commemorates a battle from what is, at most, the fourth most important war in the American public imagination. Is it that one where we won our independence, or where we fought to end slavery, or where we defeated the Nazis? No, it's that other one. (You could also argue that it's a bit anti-British, which doesn't fit so well with the fraternal feeling among Anglosphere countries today.)

– The provenance. Should our national anthem really be set to a bawdy drinking song? One which comes from the very country which, in the lyrics, we're bragging about having defeated?

– The correspondence between music and lyrics. (Is there a term for that?) I've seen the point raised that the most bombastic imagery – the rockets and bombs – occurs during the least bombastic part of the song, although you could argue that it makes sense in a John Woo-style "violence set to prettty music" sort of way. But there are two particular notes that bug me: the first is "broad", which despite being a proper word with a nice full vowel, falls on a tiny little sixteenth note: "…whose brud stripes and bright stars…" The other one is the "the" in "the bombs", which has always felt a little over-elongated to me, like that SNL skit about DAAA Bears. "DAAA bombs."

– The tempo. This isn't so much a problem with the song itself, but with how it's inevitably sung. It seems like almost every professional singer who does the national anthem tries to do it soulfully and languidly – which sounds terrible, because it's a martial song and it needs to be peppy. If you're so dead set on having a slow national anthem, why don't you pick a song that actually sounds good when sung slow?

– Does anyone ever use "spangle" outside of the context of this song? When was the last time you spangled something, I ask?

– What really gets to me the most: the third stanza. You know that part about "the hireling and slave"? He's referring to the British use of mercenaries, and of local slaves who were promised their freedom if they fought for the crown. And what do these slaves get? The very poetic "gloom of the grave". Yes, this song is saying that we need to kill slaves who are fighting for their freedom. Just let that sink in. (For context, Key was also a slaveowner, and actively opposed the abolitionist movement as a US Attorney.)

Now you can argue that it's only the first stanza that gets sung, and you can also point out that other countries have problematic parts in their anthems too. Notably, Germany has the now-unsung "Deutschland über alles" stanza in its anthem – but to be fair, that started out as an appeal for German unification and was only later repurposed as a call for conquest. Key's third stanza is arguably worse, because the malicious meaning was there from the start. It also makes the song manifestly hypocritical when it brags about our being "the land of the free". I suppose you could improve the situation by legally defining only the first stanza as the national anthem, which is already how it is in practice. But the rest of the song would still sort of… be there, in a sense.

Now turning to "America the Beautiful": it's more singable, It's more poetic, it's more laudable in its subject matter, and all four stanzas are pretty unobjectionable. It doesn't reinforce any ideas about our being warmongers; there's no bravado or anti-British sentiment. Especially in the later stanzas, it seems to be an exhortation to service and civic-mindedness. The two possible issues I see:

– I'd say it's prettier, but again, not as rousing. Will it sound good being played at a medal ceremony?

– The use of God in the lyrics. But despite being nonreligious and an ardent secularist, I feel somewhat magnanimous here: the God of this song could just as well be a mythological character or a philosphical concept. Maybe we can make a trade, restoring "E pluribus unum" to its rightful place as national motto.

So what do you think? Should ATB replace TSSB as our anthem? (Myself, I'm leaning toward yes.) Or do you think a stronger case can be made for some other song?
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Cradarc » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:52 am UTC

I think it's fine as it is now. The song's purpose is mainly to arouse a "strong and powerful" feeling in the people who hear it.

Range -- Frankly, I don't even know all the lyrics by heart, and I suspect I'm not alone on this. Hitting the right notes is even less of a concern.

The other points you made -- I think you're being awfully nitpicky. Should we also change our national bird to the turkey since bald eagles are scavengers? Heck, if you really want to be Basically Decent (why does XKCD auto-correct PC?), we should sing something about taking land from the Native Americans, since most of America was added after we fought off the British.

Basically, you're overanalyzing things. The national anthem serves as a symbol of our nation. When played on diplomatic visits it should make our nation seem powerful/majestic and unique. Songs like "America the Beautiful" are too soulful and tender sounding. Songs like "God Bless America" are way too stereo-typically American to be taken seriously.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby natraj » Sun Jan 04, 2015 7:23 am UTC

Lazar wrote:– What really gets to me the most: the third stanza. You know that part about "the hireling and slave"? He's referring to the British use of mercenaries, and of local slaves who were promised their freedom if they fought for the crown. And what do these slaves get? The very poetic "gloom of the grave". Yes, this song is saying that we need to kill slaves who are fighting for their freedom. Just let that sink in. (For context, Key was also a slaveowner, and actively opposed the abolitionist movement as a US Attorney.)


francis scott key owned my family. i would say i have mixed feelings about the national anthem for this reason but actually i don't, i think the national anthem is terrible independently of this.

but, independently of my other feelings on it i also don't feel particularly inspired to patriotism and woo freedom america yay considering my family was his slaves while this was being written.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Angua » Sun Jan 04, 2015 8:44 am UTC

Do Americans not have to sing their national anthem in school? That surprises me.

I must say, I did always find it odd that you have an anthem that's so hard to sing.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Sun Jan 04, 2015 10:00 am UTC

In order to figure out what our national anthem should be, maybe a definition.
Wikipedia wrote:A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people

This seems to suggest that America The Beautiful might not fit. It doesn't seem to be specific to any particular historical event. Maybe a bit of a fantasy.

In general, I agree with you, though. Star-spangled Banner is quite antiquated. Is slow bad? Helps with the regality (if that's important). I dislike that it's origins (in melody) are British, but that can be negated by knowing that our founders were British and that immigrants are important to our country.

That the song has bad content in it only means it's true to America. We have a shameful past, too. I guess it doesn't need to totally reflect that truth, but it feels like PCification. Maybe a new song that more explicitly includes the gore and shame of our history, along with the good and wonderful.

I think one possible reason there's never been any traction in changing the anthem is that there isn't a better alternative being considered. Let's not try to push a song that isn't really appropriate. Let's make and push one that is appropriate, then it might replace this dinosaur.

natraj wrote:francis scott key owned my family
You specifically know this person did? It must be difficult to know this while living in the country that allowed it.

Angua wrote:Do Americans not have to sing their national anthem in school? That surprises me.
I recall having to do the Pledge of Allegience (not a song), but I don't recall anything about the anthem. In sports you take off your hat and place it over your heart. That might have been similar in school.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Angua » Sun Jan 04, 2015 10:27 am UTC

We didn't have to sing it every day. But it probably got sung in assembly at least once a month or so to make sure everyone knew the words and stuff.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:50 am UTC

Probably the sports thing if in assembly, then. Hopefully a current student will supply an answer. Half my life has not been in school. (You probably weren't asking me anyways.)

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby ahammel » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:13 pm UTC

How did a bawdy drinking song come to have a high note that normal humans can't hit anyway?
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby natraj » Sun Jan 04, 2015 6:04 pm UTC

azule wrote:
natraj wrote:francis scott key owned my family
You specifically know this person did? It must be difficult to know this while living in the country that allowed it.


er... i don't really understand your question how can you think this is true?

a) slavery was pretty well documented, there are plenty of records about slave ownership but

b) do people really have no conception of how recently slavery actually was? this was not ancient history. this was not the distant past. is this question serious? do you have no idea how recent slavery was? this is not my far distant ancestors. my grandfather's grandparents were slaves. it is not difficult to know because i had conversations with my grandfather and he had conversations with his grandparents.

are you trolling or just seriously out of touch with american history.

because we're not actually that far removed from all this stuff, really.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Zamfir » Sun Jan 04, 2015 7:03 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:How did a bawdy drinking song come to have a high note that normal humans can't hit anyway?

Drinking song of a snobbish amateur musicians club. Not a common pub song. Difficult to sing was a point in its favour.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Jan 04, 2015 7:26 pm UTC

natraj wrote:
azule wrote:
natraj wrote:francis scott key owned my family
You specifically know this person did? It must be difficult to know this while living in the country that allowed it.


er... i don't really understand your question how can you think this is true?

a) slavery was pretty well documented, there are plenty of records about slave ownership but

b) do people really have no conception of how recently slavery actually was? this was not ancient history. this was not the distant past. is this question serious? do you have no idea how recent slavery was? this is not my far distant ancestors. my grandfather's grandparents were slaves. it is not difficult to know because i had conversations with my grandfather and he had conversations with his grandparents.

are you trolling or just seriously out of touch with american history.

because we're not actually that far removed from all this stuff, really.

I thought the "It's difficult to know" was meant in the "It's difficult to lose a loved one" sense, not in the "It would be hard to figure that out" sense.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Sun Jan 04, 2015 7:38 pm UTC

^Yes, exactly. Thanks!

natraj wrote:
azule wrote:
natraj wrote:francis scott key owned my family
You specifically know this person did? It must be difficult to know this while living in the country that allowed it.


er... i don't really understand your question how can you think this is true?

a) slavery was pretty well documented, there are plenty of records about slave ownership but

b) do people really have no conception of how recently slavery actually was? this was not ancient history. this was not the distant past. is this question serious? do you have no idea how recent slavery was? this is not my far distant ancestors. my grandfather's grandparents were slaves. it is not difficult to know because i had conversations with my grandfather and he had conversations with his grandparents.

are you trolling or just seriously out of touch with american history.

because we're not actually that far removed from all this stuff, really.
I'm not trolling. It was you that came in with this offtopic.

I don't know all of my ancestors. I'm part Cherokee and part Mexican. I haven't heard about things that far back as grandparents of grandparents. Some of my ancestors might have been slaves or indentured servants or POW for all I know, which I don't. It's nice that you do know.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby doogly » Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:16 am UTC

In high school I did congress, which was a part of speech and debate. Unlike the total losers who did debate, instead of getting topics from the tournament directors, we wrote bills. Changing the national anthem to We are the Champions was one of my proudest proposed bits of legislature, right up there with auctioning off New Jersey.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:45 am UTC

I agree that a rock song should be our national anthem. Rock and roll is very American.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Ormurinn » Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:22 pm UTC

I wouldn't want it changed if I were an American. Part of the point of patriotic traditions is to evoke an atmosphere of tradition and timelessness - connecting you with your ancestors and/or compatriots.

Singing a national anthem is effectively a ritual in which you commune with the spirit of your nation (in a metaphorical sense) by singing the same words sung in the past, at events of national significance. Incumbency is a powerful mark in favour here.

Of course, this also means that changing the national anthem is good if you want to get a clean break from the past or to make a political statement e.g replacing "God Save the Tsar" with "The Internationale" in post-revolutionary Russia.

In other words - a change in anthem should be accompanied by a real overturning of the current orthodoxy in order for the benefits of changing the anthem to outweigh the costs of losing a tradition.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Angua » Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:27 pm UTC

Part of the problem is that most of them can't sing it ;)

I certainly can't.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Ormurinn » Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:41 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Part of the problem is that most of them can't sing it ;)

I certainly can't.


Seems like the solution would be a minor change in the melody of that specific meter, not a wholesale replacement of the anthem.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:01 pm UTC

But, traditionally, you can't change the key. Not musical, nor Francis Scott.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby leady » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:05 pm UTC

I'm British and I find all of the war references inspiring even though they are nominally against me :) Of couse in the UK 9 in 10 people have zero knowledge of that colonial skirmish during the massive ongoing war against the natural enemies of the Brits

If you want back into the fold you can have the horrible blandness of "god save the queen" again - which of course as with all anthems comes with its own amusing references to crushing the scots under heel.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Ormurinn » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:27 pm UTC

azule wrote:But, traditionally, you can't change the key. Not musical, nor Francis Scott.


If theres only one high note people have trouble with it should be possible to slightly change the melody to something more singable without changing the key.

As for the author of the music, and this is a tangent:
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Theres a hangup I don't really understand in America about historical 'injustices' (judged by modern moral standards) that doesn't seem to occur anywhere else. For instance, no-one argues that positive portrayals of the Roman Empire shouldn't be allowed because of their slave-based economy - their latifundias and salt mines every bit as bad as the prebellum U.S's. No-one protests at there being a bust of Cicero in their college's law department because he owned slaves.Lots of people have serious problems with any positive affect being attached to anything related to the U.S confederacy or U.S Slavery though
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leady wrote:I'm British and I find all of the war references inspiring even though they are nominally against me :) Of couse in the UK 9 in 10 people have zero knowledge of that colonial skirmish during the massive ongoing war against the natural enemies of the Brits

If you want back into the fold you can have the horrible blandness of "god save the queen" again - which of course as with all anthems comes with its own amusing references to crushing the scots under heel.


I really like God save the Queen as a U.K anthem. Rousing, easy to sing, simple to learn, and sounds good.

I'd like to see "Rose of England" adopted as the official English national anthem, because it sounds better than either "Land of Hope and Glory" or "Jerusalem" and theres no real national history behind any of them.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Whizbang » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:40 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Do Americans not have to sing their national anthem in school? That surprises me.


I think we sang it a few times in my school days, but it was few and far between, and everyone just kind of mumbled through the song while the band played off-key and the main singer fumbled the words.

I kind of thought that was part of the tradition of the song...

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby doogly » Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:59 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:Theres a hangup I don't really understand in America about historical 'injustices' (judged by modern moral standards)

yeeesh this cop out is one of my least favorites.

look we can also judge them pretty harshly using purely contemporaneous moral standards if we acknowledge that slaves were, shock, people.

and we get a bit more miffed about the confederacy than cato because we are still living with the effects of one system, whereas the other has long been trampled by the glorious hordes. would that sherman had the stones of goth! i can but dream.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby leady » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:47 pm UTC

I think the view is that "living with the effects" part is the bit that probably causes vastly more harm than benefit - but definitely a different topic :)

Rule Britannia is naturally the best non-national anthem in the world, a good version of that almost makes me want to start a few jingoistic wars

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby thefargo » Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:57 pm UTC

My biggest problem with the national anthem is how the first verse ends. We are in the middle of the night being attacked. It is so chaotic that the only way to know whether we have lost or not is to wait for an explosion bright enough to see whether or not our flag has fallen. As long as it stands, we are okay. So we end the first verse with "... does that star spangled banner yet wave?" Have we lost it all? WE DON'T KNOW BECAUSE WE NEVER SING THE OTHER VERSES!

So we are always left with no resolution, which makes it weird for an anthem.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Derek » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:43 pm UTC

thefargo wrote:My biggest problem with the national anthem is how the first verse ends. We are in the middle of the night being attacked. It is so chaotic that the only way to know whether we have lost or not is to wait for an explosion bright enough to see whether or not our flag has fallen. As long as it stands, we are okay. So we end the first verse with "... does that star spangled banner yet wave?" Have we lost it all? WE DON'T KNOW BECAUSE WE NEVER SING THE OTHER VERSES!

So we are always left with no resolution, which makes it weird for an anthem.

The song is taking place at dawn after the battle is over. It's not saying that the rockets and bombs make the flag visible. The flag cannot be seen at all during the night, but the continuing bombardment proves the flag is still there because it means the fort (Fort McHenry) has not surrendered. The song is asking, on the morning after the battle, if the flag is still waving (meaning the fort has held out), or if it's been brought down (meaning the fort has surrendered or been captured).

While the song technically leaves the question, "Does [that flag] yet wave?", open, it is strongly implied, and verified by historical facts, that it does. The song is thus celebrating the successful defense of the fort.

It also metaphorically poses the question of whether (when asked at a future date) the country still exists. As the flag waving over Fort McHenry shows that the fort has resisted the British attack, the US flag represents the independence and ideals of the US.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:26 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:For no particular reason, I've been thinking recently about proposals to change the US national anthem. Among the proposed replacements, the clear leader – and the one I'm considering here – is "America the Beautiful". Some have suggested "This Land Is Your Land" – a good song, but probably too folksy for this purpose, and conservatives would never go for it. Then there's "God Bless America", which is too trite and blustery.


It's okay. I neither feel strongly about the song itself in terms of loving or hating it. But, we've had it a while, and thus, it's at least pretty well known. So, changing it would feel a little odd for solely traditional reasons. Sort of like our flag. It's overly complicated, and hell, it's even been changed before, we didn't get to exactly this version for a while, but changing it now would result in confusion and oddities for relatively little actual gain.

So of the two main contenders, I do think "The Star-Spangled Banner" is more rousing, which is a good quality in national anthems. However, there are several problems with it:

– The range: it's notoriously hard for nonprofessionals to hit the high notes. This seems like an especially salient point for the United States, because the democratic ideal is at the root of our national identity – shouldn't we have an anthem that regular people can sing?


I am fairly confident that people are ok with mumbling along and then getting back to the game or whatever. I've heard rumor that this song even has multiple verses. Whatever. 'murrica don't care.

– The subject matter. I'm not opposed to some battle references, but I think it's fair to say that the song is pretty bellicose. Regardless, what really strikes me is that it commemorates a battle from what is, at most, the fourth most important war in the American public imagination. Is it that one where we won our independence, or where we fought to end slavery, or where we defeated the Nazis? No, it's that other one. (You could also argue that it's a bit anti-British, which doesn't fit so well with the fraternal feeling among Anglosphere countries today.)


Really, what's more American than blowing other folks's stuff up and having a war?

– The provenance. Should our national anthem really be set to a bawdy drinking song? One which comes from the very country which, in the lyrics, we're bragging about having defeated?


Oh right, getting drunk. That probably is more American.

– The correspondence between music and lyrics. (Is there a term for that?) I've seen the point raised that the most bombastic imagery – the rockets and bombs – occurs during the least bombastic part of the song, although you could argue that it makes sense in a John Woo-style "violence set to prettty music" sort of way. But there are two particular notes that bug me: the first is "broad", which despite being a proper word with a nice full vowel, falls on a tiny little sixteenth note: "…whose brud stripes and bright stars…" The other one is the "the" in "the bombs", which has always felt a little over-elongated to me, like that SNL skit about DAAA Bears. "DAAA bombs."


I have it on good authority that this part of the lyrics goes "MMMMmmmMMMMMMmmmmm"

– The tempo. This isn't so much a problem with the song itself, but with how it's inevitably sung. It seems like almost every professional singer who does the national anthem tries to do it soulfully and languidly – which sounds terrible, because it's a martial song and it needs to be peppy. If you're so dead set on having a slow national anthem, why don't you pick a song that actually sounds good when sung slow?


Everybody's gotta get creative and put their own mark on a rendition of something classic. Sometimes you get Monroe's(Probably unrelated to the comic writer) "Happy Birthday". Usually...no. Just the nature of things. No matter what you do, the anthem is supposed to be a classic of sorts. And it's gonna get sung alot. Someone's just always gonna mangle it. I wouldn't stress about that.

– Does anyone ever use "spangle" outside of the context of this song? When was the last time you spangled something, I ask?


Basically never. It's an old timey word that people know mostly solely due to this song. I guess we could replace it with something more modern. I understand that butts are a popular lyrical topic now. So, maybe something about that.

– What really gets to me the most: the third stanza. You know that part about "the hireling and slave"? He's referring to the British use of mercenaries, and of local slaves who were promised their freedom if they fought for the crown. And what do these slaves get? The very poetic "gloom of the grave". Yes, this song is saying that we need to kill slaves who are fighting for their freedom. Just let that sink in. (For context, Key was also a slaveowner, and actively opposed the abolitionist movement as a US Attorney.)


The third standza comes four stanzas after everyone has stopped paying attention. And honestly, it ain't never getting sung.

So what do you think? Should ATB replace TSSB as our anthem? (Myself, I'm leaning toward yes.) Or do you think a stronger case can be made for some other song?


Let's go with no. In addition to my primary argument of it tossing out tradition(which would apply to basically any anthem, and cmon, other than tradition, what does an anthem really have going for it anyway?), I'm not overly fond of finding more ways to shove god into official government stuff.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby natraj » Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:31 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I thought the "It's difficult to know" was meant in the "It's difficult to lose a loved one" sense, not in the "It would be hard to figure that out" sense.


azule wrote:^Yes, exactly. Thanks!


aha, my apologies, i am not always good at comprehension. sorry!

i did not believe it was off-topic given that the point about slavery (and key being a slaveowner and anti-abolitionist) was made in the op as one of the arguments. i apologize for the assumption i made re: azule's comment.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:09 pm UTC

^Thanks. I didn't mean Key was offtopic, I meant his direct ownership of your ancestors, which then was a bit more about you. But why shouldn't it personal.

Ormurinn wrote:Theres a hangup I don't really understand in America about historical 'injustices' (judged by modern moral standards)
It's not even that. Look at songs made by accused or confirmed child molesters or domestic abusers. Their past stuff appears to be bullet proof while those from after the accusations are usually unheralded. Course, could just be that the quality is just shit now.

I guess we could replace it with something more modern. I understand that butts are a popular lyrical topic now. So, maybe something about that.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby ahammel » Tue Jan 06, 2015 3:27 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:The correspondence between music and lyrics. (Is there a term for that?)

I put the question to a music forum. They came up with "prosody".
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Mambrino » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:22 pm UTC

azule wrote:In order to figure out what our national anthem should be, maybe a definition.
Wikipedia wrote:A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people

This seems to suggest that America The Beautiful might not fit. It doesn't seem to be specific to any particular historical event. Maybe a bit of a fantasy.


This is slightly tangential, but I'd question that specific reason. Beautiful landscapes, majestic nature, etc. are quite prominent theme in national anthems, and idealized fantasies (related to the origins or the future of the nation) wouldn't be exactly unprecedented. America the Beautiful would fit the trope in that sense quite well.

However, while I don't think I should have say in the matter, but I agree with Tyndmyr about the long tradition of being the national anthem as very important feature that qualifies the song as the national anthem. A defining characteristic, even. (That's my opinion when some propose that we should change our national anthem.)
As the German anthem has already been mentioned, for example I don't think the East German anthem never truly caught on, one of the most popular things Putin did was to bring back the old Soviet anthem as the national anthem of Russia (the anthem that was in place in between was never very popular), and so on.

The anthem is such a major symbol that i think its change is usually accompanied by a major political and ideological change (South Africa comes to mind as an example of that).

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Eowiel » Tue Jan 06, 2015 10:06 pm UTC

I think a link to this comic is quite fitting here:

http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=2658

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby somehow » Wed Jan 07, 2015 12:16 am UTC

ahammel wrote:
Lazar wrote:The correspondence between music and lyrics. (Is there a term for that?)

I put the question to a music forum. They came up with "prosody".

I think "text-setting" is really a better answer. Prosody refers to the rhythm of words (as in poetic meter, iambs, etc.), and text-setting refers to the act of setting words to music and, in particular, the practice of doing so in a way that respects the inherent rhythm of the words themselves.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Wed Jan 07, 2015 12:43 am UTC

Mambrino wrote:The anthem is such a major symbol that i think its change is usually accompanied by a major political and ideological change (South Africa comes to mind as an example of that).
We had one of those changes. The Civil War, abolished slavery, segregation, and all kinds of discrimination.

Too bad a new anthem wasn't forged in the time of Lincoln.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Derek » Wed Jan 07, 2015 1:06 am UTC

azule wrote:Too bad a new anthem wasn't forged in the time of Lincoln.

Battle Hymn of the Republic? Although it's less obviously a patriotic song, and is very, very religious.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Jan 07, 2015 1:30 am UTC

leady wrote:Rule Britannia is naturally the best non-national anthem in the world, a good version of that almost makes me want to start a few jingoistic wars
Jerusalem is clearly the best (apart from it a: referring to a part of the world not in the UK and b: being a long list of questions to which the answer is probably no).
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Derek » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:22 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Jerusalem is clearly the best (apart from it a: referring to a part of the world not in the UK and b: being a long list of questions to which the answer is probably no).

I particularly like this song because I only know if it from a Monty Python sketch.

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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Thesh » Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:56 am UTC

I think we should change the US national anthem to The Creature by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - easy to sing, and it really gets to the heart of what this Nation is about.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby azule » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:11 am UTC

You could try to have a little more respect. Remember, the goverment is unfortunately not the people, and the people (in the news) are often not the people.

Derek wrote:
azule wrote:Too bad a new anthem wasn't forged in the time of Lincoln.

Battle Hymn of the Republic? Although it's less obviously a patriotic song, and is very, very religious.
Thanks. I couldn't think of any. But I really meant that it would have been considered back then and at least still be a serious contender even now.
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby mathmannix » Fri Jan 23, 2015 7:16 pm UTC

I remember when I transferred to a different school in middle school that every morning the school would sing the Star-Spangled Banner, to a television recording, and I had no idea what the words were. I learned them quickly, though. That was the only school that I ever had to sing the song in... most schools taught the students to sing for patriotic assembly the two classics, "America the Beautiful" and "America" (aka "My Country Tis of Thee", to the tune of "God Save the King Queen.") I always thought either of those were suitable replacements for our national anthem (I like the idea of our national anthem having the same tune but different words from the anthem of the country we rebelled against) - until I served in the army. During and since that time, the Star-Spangled Banner's wartime lyrics have become much more poignant to me, and I don't think it should be changed. Our country was forged in war, and our great history of war (especially WWII, but also in leading the War on Terror) is when our country really shines as a great beacon of hope for the rest of the world to watch and follow.

I also really like Battle Hymn of the Republic, but as you said, that's much more religious, so it would never get adopted nowadays as the National Anthem. Another song from the Civil War era in Wikipedia's footnote box of National Symbols of the United States is "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again", but that one makes me think of ants. (or Antz.)
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Re: Should we change the national anthem?

Postby Adam H » Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:01 pm UTC

Lots of people agree that we should change the national anthem to America the Beautiful, but I am one of those that likes Star-Spangled Banner better.

The complaints are:
1. The range
2. The subject matter
3. The provenance (bawdy drinking song)
4. The correspondence between music and lyrics (Text-setting and Prosody)
5. The tempo.
6. "spangle"
7. the third stanza.

My responses:
1. It's hard to sing well. It's easy to belt out in a tone-deaf way, which is what everyone does with every song anyways. I love this aspect of the song; it's very original.
2. It honestly never registered that it wasn't about the revolutionary war. Anyways the intent of the song is unimportant; what is important is what the listener takes away from the song. And I like that it's historical.
3. Who cares what kind of song it originated from? It has become its own song now, and it clearly sounds like an anthem.
4. This is your best point. It's not a very well-written song. But hey, most songs aren't. That said, I disagree with your main assertion that the most violent lines are sung over the "pretty" part of the song. The rhythm of that part is the same as the rest of the melody, it's the typical interpretation that you have a problem with. Personally I would sing that part with as much gusto as the rest of the song, only fading down a bit for the "gave proof through the night that our flag was still there".
5. I hate when people sing it slowly.
6. If your national anthem isn't a little outdated, you picked one that's too recent.
7. The national anthem is now the first stanza of Star-Spangled Banner and nothing more. Short and sweet. And inoffensive.

Also, America the Beautiful is a steaming pile of meaningless sentimental bullshit.
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