Why the US national anthem is terrible - and perfect

  • Published on Jul 4, 2018
  • Vox's Estelle Caswell and Joss Fong debate "The Star Spangled Banner"
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    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.
    Further reading:
    Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America's National Anthem www.amazon.com/Star-Spangled-Banner-Unlikely-Americas-National/dp/1421415186
    Star Spangled Music: starspangledmusic.org/
    Slate: Proudly Hailed www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2014/07/the_star_spangled_banner_four_reasons_it_shouldn_t_be_the_national_anthem.html
    Emily Cope: medium.com/@emilybcope/music-to-what-extent-does-the-star-spangled-banner-illustrate-how-melody-and-rhythm-influence-the-aff2c78853ed
    Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out www.vox.com
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Comments • 6 345

  • Vox
    Vox  14 days ago +395

    If you want to learn more about the anthem, check out this site: starspangledmusic.org/blog/ They're obsessed with the Star Spangled Banner and have tons of interesting facts and videos. This book by Marc Ferris is also really interesting www.amazon.com/Star-Spangled-Banner-Unlikely-Americas-National/dp/1421415186/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  • britshell
    britshell 50 minutes ago

    Merica! more notes equal better!

  • Wolf Master
    Wolf Master 6 hours ago


  • lawrence wei
    lawrence wei 6 hours ago

    How are you supposed to dig that?

  • Marina Marcucci
    Marina Marcucci 6 hours ago

    It was once a drinking song. Plus we don't sing like they did when it was the 1800's

  • lil mo
    lil mo 6 hours ago

    The national anthem just summarizes the american spirit in general its the best

  • Carson Schoen
    Carson Schoen 7 hours ago

    Stop making everything good and everything I love into something at best meaningless and at worst tragic. You guys are Awful humans, please stop stop stop

  • Jaksida
    Jaksida 7 hours ago

    Hey great work on taking Adam Neely’s video!

  • steven bob
    steven bob 8 hours ago

    To be honest it took me maybe 15 to 30 minutes to learn the national anthem

  • SHOWer-oke
    SHOWer-oke 8 hours ago

    Best renditions are Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Boyz II Men, Destiny's Child, José Feliciano & Mariah Carey. All amazing 👍

  • Swangmich
    Swangmich 9 hours ago

    No, the Russian National Anthem is the best

  • FastestCores
    FastestCores 9 hours ago

    No wonder no one remembers it.

  • MeenMan 777
    MeenMan 777 10 hours ago

    You stole this from Adam neely

  • Nicole Maxim
    Nicole Maxim 11 hours ago

    I dont think anything's wrong with the national anthem, i can sing it fine. It seems like you guys are trying to make it seem hard, really.

  • Calico Taylor
    Calico Taylor 12 hours ago

    They make it sound like hearing the national anthem is a rare occurrence but it’S LITERALLY PLAYED EVERY MORNING AT MY SCHOOL AND STUDENTS CAN VOLUNTEER TO SING IT AND IT HURTS SO MUCH TO LISTEN TO SOMEONE CHANGE THE KEY DURING “and the rockets red glare”

    • RZU 147
      RZU 147 7 hours ago

      Calico Taylor
      Every morning at you school?
      Welcom to the national socialist states of America I guess.

  • A fabulous Aquamarine trashcan

    Oof, we had to sing this song for choir :,)

  • HailEternal RedOcean
    HailEternal RedOcean 14 hours ago +1

    I had to learn the US National anthem when I was about 11 years old and did not find it that difficult? Neither the range or remembering the words. Looking back it may have been easier for me since it was for choir, which may be why i still don't find it hard. But are there really that many Americans who have this much trouble with it?
    BTW I'm Canadian, had to learn the Star Spangled Banner (with the accompanying sign language) for a movie they filmed at my elementary school

    HEYBITCHWHOWYOUDOIN 14 hours ago +1

    *Mariah Carey did it*

  • Sara/Sam Dixon
    Sara/Sam Dixon 15 hours ago

    I’ve never had trouble singing it before?

  • Thomas Stewart
    Thomas Stewart 16 hours ago

    "Oh it's hard so lets lower the standards for everyone!" sounds like Vox

  • MarliRose 88
    MarliRose 88 16 hours ago

    We had to sing the national anthem all though elementary school😂
    R.I.P my voice.

  • Mr. Prius
    Mr. Prius 16 hours ago

    0:26 this is why we need communism

  • NuclearPotato
    NuclearPotato 16 hours ago

    Replace it with the team America song

  • Bluemon
    Bluemon 18 hours ago



  • Vincent Grueter
    Vincent Grueter 19 hours ago

    Leave it up to vox to put something in every video about slavery or how white people did something wrong.

  • aeather
    aeather 19 hours ago

    I think "This Land Is Your Land" would be an excellent national anthem. And it doesn't have the disturbing slavery undertones the other verses of our anthem has.

  • February Crane
    February Crane 20 hours ago

    Without even watching I knew it was going to be an Adam Neely repeat

  • neves768
    neves768 21 hour ago

    This ending was so beautiful :')

  • Zammy Wang
    Zammy Wang 22 hours ago

    adam neely

  • Shoe Shine Boy
    Shoe Shine Boy 23 hours ago

    You forgot the greatest anthem of all.... the Soviet National Anthem.

  • ChampiX
    ChampiX 23 hours ago

    French anthem is a war anthem about taking arms to slaughter the invading enemy. We’ve often discussed changing it to something less gruesome for sports events, but it’s not going anywhere either due to the importance of the country’s violent past.

  • Ferry Ansony
    Ferry Ansony 23 hours ago

    Worst anthem on earth

  • Shane O'Leary
    Shane O'Leary Day ago

    Does anyone know how many octaves "Amhrán na bhfiann" goes up cause the "faoi lámhach na bpilear" part goes pretty high. (I think k that's how you spell it?)

  • Twahir Abubakar
    Twahir Abubakar Day ago

    Kiwi anthem only has 1 note, beat that!!!

  • Sand Theb
    Sand Theb Day ago

    Roseanne Barr still did the best version.

  • Badri Shankar
    Badri Shankar Day ago


  • Alec Petsche
    Alec Petsche Day ago

    No mention of Jimi? I’m disappointed vox.

  • Jackson Begley
    Jackson Begley Day ago

    It honestly doesn't matter that Whitney Houstons performance was prerecorded, because we're still listening to Whitney Houston give a performance. A performance in the recording booth is just as valid as live ones, because when musicians are recording parts in the recording studio, they're doing it live there.

  • Thành Công Nguyễn

    Gucci Gang should be our new national anthem

  • ビーンボーイ

    The national anthem is perfect you commies

  • White Blogger Black Specs

    God, Fergie sounded like nails raking across a chalkboard. Whitney Houston, on the other hand...Jesus. gives ya chills

  • Alex Yearwood
    Alex Yearwood Day ago

    Thank you plagiarism

  • Andrew B
    Andrew B Day ago

    No. We do not need a new National Anthem. This is what makes us America!!!!

  • Asha O'Hearn-Harvey

    Go Canada!

  • feels like flying

    If you feel good about your country the anthem is always good to sing (in America’s case- if you can sing) it doesn’t have to be so challenging that you can enjoy it only in events where people actually can sing. Let everyone sing, let everyone enjoy every time, anytime.

  • Nav Dhillon
    Nav Dhillon Day ago

    'Jose can you see...there is blood in my pee'
    This is how I heard US national anthem for the longest time.

  • Ray Yanma
    Ray Yanma Day ago

    If I had to change the U.S. anthem, I would change it to America the Beautiful or God Bless America

  • Skyler Minutelli

    Fun fact I live right down the road from Fort McHenry and they have a haunted house there every year!

  • Rilian Lunsford
    Rilian Lunsford Day ago

    i have sung it. it is easy. stupid video.

  • The NerdyGeek77
    The NerdyGeek77 Day ago

    commie bastards

  • Dusangamesbp
    Dusangamesbp Day ago

    Marvin GAYE genius

  • Invictus Prima
    Invictus Prima Day ago

    It was written in the eighteenth century dialect of English do you really expect it to make perfect since today

  • David Landeros
    David Landeros Day ago

    Soviet Russia Is The Best.

  • Aryan. J 27
    Aryan. J 27 Day ago

    The fall of American democracy began on the day when Donald Trump became president-elect.

  • first name last name

    ugh the ENTIRE section where u were interviewing telesco made me cringe. MATCH THE PIANO WITH HER VOICE PLEASE

  • Jeff Kim
    Jeff Kim Day ago

    **triggered Americans**

  • Trish like fish
    Trish like fish Day ago +1

    Fergie take notes

  • Jolgeable
    Jolgeable Day ago

    Many american singers make songs sound overdramatic.

  • Antonio Rodriguez
    Antonio Rodriguez Day ago +1

    Look up Arturo Sandoval play the national anthem because it’s amazing

  • Antonio Rodriguez
    Antonio Rodriguez Day ago +1

    On the interval that’s a tenth there’s usually a rest there to get a breath in so you can start again on the and the rockets red glare it’s not like you’ll sing right through a rest not hating but just noticed this.

  • Antonio Rodriguez
    Antonio Rodriguez Day ago +1

    .I think our national anthem is fine and shouldn’t be changed because it’s a symbol of the pride we take in our flag and our country its different from other nations anthem but I think that’s just what makes us unique.

  • Taiel G
    Taiel G Day ago

    americans are so russian! so full of themselves, basically a real life matrioshka

  • chucku00
    chucku00 Day ago

    As much as I love and respect Cab Calloway I thought he was singing "That's amore" at 5:36 !

  • Orangelo
    Orangelo 2 days ago

    4:58 WOMP WOMP

  • Sigurd aka Gusrid
    Sigurd aka Gusrid 2 days ago

    Adam Neely was so nice about this you should be so grateful!

  • C. Dawson Pelfrey
    C. Dawson Pelfrey 2 days ago

    New anthem, please. It's the song of the people, it should be easy and sung by all.

  • Matthew_Cash
    Matthew_Cash 2 days ago

    This video just sucks.

  • Ike Anduha
    Ike Anduha 2 days ago

    USSR national anthem is the perfect anthem

  • friedcash
    friedcash 2 days ago

    adam neely

  • GoldDropper Fortnite

    At least James tried

  • Jok395
    Jok395 2 days ago

    Honestly, the Battle Hymn of the Republic would be kinda badass.

  • Hector Garza
    Hector Garza 2 days ago

    America the beautiful should be the national anthem

  • Fire Shock Gamer
    Fire Shock Gamer 2 days ago +1

    It takes skill in this country not pity
    Get talent and learn from your mistake's

  • AWholeNewLOW !
    AWholeNewLOW ! 2 days ago

    Copied from Adam Neely

  • Советский Коко

    Russian anthem

  • omer laval
    omer laval 2 days ago

    It don't even slap tho

  • Danger MC
    Danger MC 2 days ago

    lol wtf never knew this song was so difficult. I learned it when I was little and haven't forgotten a word and am still able to sing it (to at least a decent degree).

  • Elizabeth McCormick
    Elizabeth McCormick 2 days ago

    This is why a lawyer should never be a poet!

  • funstuff81girl
    funstuff81girl 2 days ago

    Lift every voice and sing is the black anthem, guys.

  • Mclovin
    Mclovin 2 days ago

    I feel like any person who plays sports in America (especially football) knows the song by heart because they play it so much!

  • Cancer Guy Channel
    Cancer Guy Channel 2 days ago

    So we got to change the national anthem because some snowflakes can’t sing it?


    Not your nation. Name one single law you drafted or made. Name one you can change, right now.
    You're living under someone else's rules, under someone else's flag, trying to sing someone else's song. It's not your nation.

  • Austin Massey
    Austin Massey 2 days ago

    I've never had an issue singing our national anthem. It's not actually an issue for those who... Idk... Can remember the lyrics to a song?

  • Artemis Jones
    Artemis Jones 2 days ago

    I just like how they make the one woman who's for the anthem look dumb and stupid and like she doesn't know what she's talking about while the black hair lady is intelligent and smart then they try to say Francis was a slave holder. Now they actually might be right but he lived in Boston which was a northern state were there was no slavery then they say that one line was about slavery when it was talking about British refugees when you look at the context but they conveniently only show the one line. Plus the anthem isn't going to change. Its like those who want us to use the metric system. Just because the world uses something doesn't mean we have to.

  • Endless Cover
    Endless Cover 2 days ago

    the only ones who can really really sing the national anthem are basically Whitney Hudson beyonce Jennifer Hudson Demi Lovato and Kelly Clarkson

  • Bryan Salvador
    Bryan Salvador 2 days ago

    Yo im not american but this is so interesting. 🤩

  • Guru da Ciência
    Guru da Ciência 2 days ago


  • nauj1445
    nauj1445 2 days ago

    Stolen video

  • Andika Hetris
    Andika Hetris 2 days ago

    I'm not even american but I think your anthem is very very good, it doesn't sound too patriotic but rather sounds very hopeful..

  • erikbarrett85
    erikbarrett85 2 days ago

    A.N. :/

  • Vex
    Vex 2 days ago

    NO, Russia’s national anthem is 👌😫💯🅱️💸

  • Iskender Altan-Bonnet

    The problem is that American anthem is not iconic, our national anthem is the most famous. Plus, on a gagné le coup du monde.

  • habojspade
    habojspade 2 days ago

    I understand that you skipped Hendrix because he doesn't sing it, but his is the greatest version ever recorded, hands down.

  • Ciro Giles
    Ciro Giles 2 days ago

    Why all examples of people singing the US anthem are in sports events? Don't you have any other place to show patriotism?

  • ZolarBlx
    ZolarBlx 3 days ago

    try changing the lyrics? plz dont criticize me

    LALA LAND 3 days ago

    how about you don't rip off adam neely

  • Zangster
    Zangster 3 days ago

    Y’all normies don’t have a vocal range of at least 2 octaves? Or know any metric modulation? Or how to subdivide?

    Good. Neither do I.

  • saverlater123
    saverlater123 3 days ago

    4:58 the comment about Francis Scott Key being a slave holder was actually unnecessary under this video’s context. Nice try causing drama about the national anthem.

  • Chloe Lim
    Chloe Lim 3 days ago

    In Singapore we sing our national anthem everyday

  • Snifey
    Snifey 3 days ago

    here a bright idea just change that national anthem into that song saying let freedom rings