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 • 7 989

  • Vox
    Vox  2 months ago +622

    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=

    • Toryu-Mau
      Toryu-Mau Day ago

      ... So... Git Good? >):^?

    • General Amsel
      General Amsel 8 days ago

      +Sheratim because simply always complaining how something is racist doesn't do anything, we don't even sing the third verse so why complain about it? Its like complaining about how oh since some of the founding father had slaves that means even though the literally committed high treason against the British crown and proceeded to fight against the strongest army and navy in a the known world, nah since some of them had slaves that just throws that all to the side and doesn't matter.

    • Pure Donut
      Pure Donut 16 days ago

      Cut fergie some slack

    • Bakura 2400
      Bakura 2400 20 days ago

      Mrpoker1963 Gaming Ha that's a great joke. You should be a comedian.

    • Bakura 2400
      Bakura 2400 20 days ago

      _KendallRd0 They have ruined nothing the National Anthem is perfect.

  • bamb00
    bamb00 12 hours ago

    singers should have at least 2 octave ranges like come on lol

  • shala esparrago
    shala esparrago 12 hours ago

    When Jose Feliciano sang the anthem it was so great.

  • charli lemelin
    charli lemelin 12 hours ago

    Our Oh Canada is great we learned it in primary school and its words are so easy to remember we can all sing it at hockey games.

  • KaptajnKaffe
    KaptajnKaffe 13 hours ago

    It's Awesome, get over it!

  • Raymond Tung
    Raymond Tung 13 hours ago

    Let me tell you
    The Malaysia National Anthem is so boring !

  • Raymond Tung
    Raymond Tung 13 hours ago

    Good thing I have a wide vocal range. From B1 to C8

  • Raymond Tung
    Raymond Tung 13 hours ago

    I thought this song is easy 😂

  • Yourj Benig
    Yourj Benig 14 hours ago

    The 1968 one gave me goosebumps. It's like a protest, a boycott movement regarding the war at the time.

  • Vandana Choudhary
    Vandana Choudhary 14 hours ago

    Why India 🇮🇳 national anthem considered as best by UNESCO

  • wassup048
    wassup048 15 hours ago

    Well the original song was a drinking song. So yeah.

  • Shakur Wright
    Shakur Wright 15 hours ago

    Y’all petty as hell for saying the microphone wasn’t on! Whitney still song the hell out of that nothing was changed to her voice at all! It was just her voice and a instrumental! If it was pre recorded it was basically LIVE!

  • Steve Gatting
    Steve Gatting 17 hours ago

    My anthem is better

    Plays:Bavarian Anthem.

  • Lenaya Sampson
    Lenaya Sampson 20 hours ago


  • Selah River
    Selah River 21 hour ago

    Eh. It's not that hard lol.

  • Nathan Domnelly
    Nathan Domnelly 21 hour ago

    Its not that big a deal

  • Thor of the Discount Variety

    For one, musicians learn some extremely complicated music, so those that forget it mid-performance aren't giving their full effort. Secondly, the anthem is written peotically and not brashly which embodies self-expression within the song itself. And thirdly... are those people who you had to try and sing the anthem just completely ignorant to it? I've known the lyrics since I was a child.

  • zenox 010
    zenox 010 23 hours ago

    I don't know with the national anthem in other countries but in Indonesia, we can't make and/or sing a new tune or make a new arrangement on our national anthem

  • arae case
    arae case 23 hours ago

    We don't need a new national anthem just because people are having trouble singing it.

  • Pokecrafter64
    Pokecrafter64 23 hours ago

    Idk what people are talking about, it isn't that hard to sing.

  • Rin
    Rin Day ago

    Me, a band nerd: *sweats profusely*

  • The Black Knight

    Yeah and vox spreads anti american propaganda and doesn't support american values, what a coincidence

  • No channel Musician

    I’ve never been so proud to live in Portland. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how I didn’t know about this before.

  • Someofficer
    Someofficer Day ago

    Hail Columbia

  • juhuu13579
    juhuu13579 Day ago

    You stole this from Adam Neely. At least acknowledge his video if you won’t credit him.

  • michael frost
    michael frost Day ago

    Isn't the Portuguese national anthem like super groovy and stuff

  • Denizen
    Denizen Day ago

    Actually, the song is about how the flag never fell at Fort McHenry. It didn’t fall because Americans stood there and held it, despite every British ship in the harbor bombarding that exact position. When soldiers died, more replaced them. That’s why it talks about the flag still being there, because Americans lived their country so much they stood there and held it, and died so it would still stand.
    Source: usclip.net/video/YaxGNQE5ZLA/video.html

  • SuperT
    SuperT Day ago

    How is it hard

  • xItzNat
    xItzNat Day ago

    We’re doing this in choir and I do the high note 📝

  • Timothy Lee Wietzke

    Heil dir im Siegerkranz
    Herrscher des Vaterlands!
    Heil Kaiser, dir!

  • UnrealProductions

    Apparently a bunch of soyboy cucks who just got their citizenship now want to rewrite American history. Only Vox is full of anti-American libtards.

  • High admiral Sean

    The French national anthem is super violent

  • luke
    luke Day ago

    The UK national anthem is the best! No debate 'God save the Queen'

  • Meme
    Meme Day ago

    In Soviet Russia Anthem Sings You

  • Sonagi Something

    I used to be so proud of myself when I would practice the national anthem in my room when I was a little kid. I still am, years later. May god bless America!

  • Nothing Original

    Well it wouldn't be america

  • Harry Ward
    Harry Ward Day ago

    If you weren’t so rowdy you’d still have God Save The Queen.
    Brought it on yourselves

  • jacqueline f
    jacqueline f Day ago

    lmao i can sing this half whispering

  • Viktor
    Viktor Day ago

    i dont know, almost every anthem sounds so same to me without lyrics. USSR'S anthem is the best in my opinion, if you dont like the ideology, doesent matter the instrumental is so good.

  • TheColourYellow
    TheColourYellow Day ago

    Not a single mention of Hendrix? The most powerful? Most beautiful? The most world changing shocking display of protest art in history?

  • Aly Burr
    Aly Burr Day ago

    I used to think that America the beautiful was the national anthem

  • Aly Burr
    Aly Burr Day ago

    If I start at exactly the right point, and it's a good day for my voice, I can sing it fine

  • Austin Widmann
    Austin Widmann Day ago

    What this video doesn’t even address is how bad the phrasing comes across when you sing it. I sang the anthem at an MLB game and there’s a three second delay between what you sing and what echoes back to you. The way the phrases are constructed means you’re hearing the wrong note as you’re trying to hit the right one, which is one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever done as a musician.

  • KristinEffect 17

    Atleast philippine anthem is easier (=w=)b

  • Chrice Chiu
    Chrice Chiu Day ago

    Here are a few more songs that require freakishly wide vocal spans.
    Roshin Yuukai: 15 notes
    Death of a Bachelor: 18 notes
    Take on me: 20 notes
    Opera II: 36 notes

  • SgtSmudge
    SgtSmudge Day ago

    Welsh National Anthem is best. Fight me, and my army of sheep.

  • dapivimu
    dapivimu Day ago

    I’m sorry but the Mexican anthem is easily in the top 5, it’s beautiful and strong. The French one too and a few others

  • Lisa Pilcher
    Lisa Pilcher Day ago

    Vox! Because it’s spooky season and nearing Halloween next month, can you make a video about why creepy/scary music sounds so scary or why certain instruments are used to make this kind of music (ex. theremin, harpsichord). Thanks!!

  • Patrick Skovgaard

    Do you know how easy Jake Paul's Anthem is?
    It only has 3 notes in it and spans 9 semitones...


  • NeonPulse
    NeonPulse Day ago

    The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the only national anthems that I like. I dunno why, I just like the sound of it.

  • Prussian Monarchist

    La Marseillaise is terrible, it's just about surrendering, either the Star Spangled Banner or Hail Columbia, the only two songs I would settle for as our national anthem!

  • Virtuoso80
    Virtuoso80 Day ago

    3:40 That New York City vocal teacher just gave the worst definition of chest voice and head voice I've ever heard. He has no idea what dafuq he's talking about.

  • Gregory Handtson

    if someone cant play that high on a horn then that's just the person playing the horn that IS NOT the song itself. heck, this song is not difficult to play i myself had to play this and it's easy if you know what you're doing.

  • David Abiyo
    David Abiyo Day ago

    My music teacher can sing it. We live in Canada.

  • Tyler Jenkins
    Tyler Jenkins Day ago

    There is nothing wrong with the US national anthem

  • PianoLegend42
    PianoLegend42 2 days ago

    I don't think they see the real reason the National Anthem is bad. The lyrics are about the flag, not the country. Just listen to it.

  • Normy Haddad
    Normy Haddad 2 days ago

    It doesn't need to be hard, look at the russian anthem

  • Lukas Locklear
    Lukas Locklear 2 days ago

    I'm you don't know the meaning though and the history

  • TRB in Dallas
    TRB in Dallas 2 days ago

    Party in the USA is obviously the anthem we need

  • 08Yasmin03
    08Yasmin03 2 days ago +1

    the national anthem should be the baby shark song

  • BlakeDaDoc video games and stuff

    People dont know the natonal anthem. So they are obvously not going to know how to sing it

  • Abigail
    Abigail 2 days ago

    Glad I'm also Mexican, and I can hit those notes XD

  • Casey Bolton
    Casey Bolton 2 days ago

    in toronto we sing oh canada every morning

  • Michael King
    Michael King 2 days ago

    Makes a good case and then dives into sjw bullshit...

  • Michael King
    Michael King 2 days ago

    It's a British drinking song

  • Lucky_ramen
    Lucky_ramen 2 days ago

    I know it by heart. Is that strange?

  • jjjjjjjjjj11ify
    jjjjjjjjjj11ify 2 days ago

    The national anthem of my country says we are a fragile flower that worships its god and dies. Trust me, we have it way worse.

  • TomatoToes 12
    TomatoToes 12 2 days ago

    I can sing it fine 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Gabriel Cringemore
    Gabriel Cringemore 2 days ago

    Took an Adam Neely video and made it worse haha

  • Pinkamena Polska
    Pinkamena Polska 2 days ago

    Well I'm from Poland and we sing our anthem like... a lot becouse we have many national events (1 september, 11 november, 3 may...). I think It's good that we can sing our anthem becouse you can join everyone in something that's binding us together in that moment. I don't know it's something special that any "special moments" or "funny fails" can replace. Did you ever thought about a thousands of people singing together a song that represents all the things they and their ancestors did for their country and sometimes died for their country? It's something truly powerfull.

  • Mat S
    Mat S 2 days ago

    USA.... making everything unnecessarily complicated since 1776!

  • Cynthia Moraes
    Cynthia Moraes 2 days ago

    If you think that this is hard, try singing the Uruguay anthem...

  • chester panda
    chester panda 2 days ago

    Nice to see VOX is covering important issues... It’s a business, so whatever their audience eats up, and I guess we can’t listen to the Nat’l Anthem at the start of NFL games on TV anymore.

  • 0 Finger Death Punch

    alright, you absolutely forget to mention Jimi Hendrix.

  • Alexander Lele
    Alexander Lele 2 days ago

    the best anthem is the soviet anthem

  • Garrett Leong
    Garrett Leong 2 days ago

    The most powerful national anthem on the planet is Ukraines. But my favourite one is "O Flower of Scottland" which is also very beautiful in itw own right.

  • Zac Blac
    Zac Blac 2 days ago

    ‘Australia all in time rejoice, for we are young and free
    With gold and soil and wealth for toil, our home is gurt by sea’
    That’s a national anthem

  • JB The minecraft hunter

    Thank goodness our anthem in the Philippines

  • Chloe Jayde
    Chloe Jayde 2 days ago

    I like my australian Anthem

  • Aleya MC
    Aleya MC 2 days ago


  • omgitsharrypotato!
    omgitsharrypotato! 2 days ago

    Battle hymn of the republic is a better song but due to its heavy religious undertones i understand why its not the anthem

  • Jeffrey Applegate
    Jeffrey Applegate 2 days ago +5

    Shame on Vox for including the bit about Whitney Houston lipping to a pre recorded National Anthem. That remains unproven and needs to stop being repeated as though it is the official truth.
    It's been repeated for so long and buy some new people that everybody assumes that it must be true, but if you have proof of some sort that she actually lip synced to a pre recorded track at the Super Bowl, Please share it as I have yet to hear or see anything that this defamation.

    • Jeffrey Applegate
      Jeffrey Applegate Day ago

      The superbowl sound engineer never publucally commented ln the anthem and certainly didnt ssy it was prerecorded. Cite your sources if you have any!

    • willgtl
      willgtl Day ago

      When both the sound engineer and the pre-game activities coordinator say the mic was off and they played a pre-recorded version, I'll tend to believe them over Houston's publicist who basically said "We think it was live."
      Oh, and there's Houston's own spokesman who said "This is not a Milli Vanilli thing; she sang, but the microphone was turned off. It was a technical decision, partially based on the noise factor. This is standard procedure at these events."
      There's no shame in it being pre-recorded. She still sang it, just in a studio. And according to the pre-game activities coordinator, it was done in a single take.

  • eblu
    eblu 2 days ago

    But what are we going to replace it with

  • MfPotatoeater99
    MfPotatoeater99 2 days ago

    our national anthem is garbage compared to every other countries' anthems

  • Simple Carolina
    Simple Carolina 2 days ago

    Jesus if I am in 9th grade and can remember all the lyrics then adults can too, not saying I can sing it good but atleast I can remember it.

  • Norbert H
    Norbert H 2 days ago

    I feel like the lack of stepwise motion in favor of jumps suggests that the tune was meant to be played on instruments rather than sung (leaps like that are much more common in instrumental music, often larger too). Of course a national anthem without lyrics is a bit redundant (not to say that instrumental versions now are bad, but people know the lyrics even when they aren’t being sung). God Bless America would make a good anthem.

  • Mutant Enderman
    Mutant Enderman 3 days ago

    God d*mn it John Smith!

  • Esteban Maldonado
    Esteban Maldonado 3 days ago

    I do not feel comfortable when I hear a national anthem sung as a pop song.

  • Tc
    Tc 3 days ago

    I can sing the national anthem without dying. am I weird?

  • Maelat Habib
    Maelat Habib 3 days ago

    Who else here can sing all the notes? 🙋‍♀️

  • ronny raygunz
    ronny raygunz 3 days ago

    wah, it's too haarrd, wah, slaveowners, shaddap!

  • Mattispher
    Mattispher 3 days ago


  • Mattispher
    Mattispher 3 days ago


    HUNNID K BEATZ 3 days ago

    Our national anthem is AWESOME!! I don’t care what you say!! Nobody’s telling you you have to sing it! There’s nothing wrong with it! If you can’t play it on an instrument or sing it, learn it! Or don’t! Don’t blame the anthem for you lack of skill!

  • Kamilar135
    Kamilar135 3 days ago

    Wtf you must have never been in a choir to believe that 12 notes is a lot...

  • Sharon Titus
    Sharon Titus 3 days ago

    Yes because if something is difficult it’s not worth attempting.

  • CyprusHot
    CyprusHot 3 days ago

    Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are untouchable. Everyone else are tragic.

  • African MusicGenuis
    African MusicGenuis 3 days ago

    C'mon, I've known the words to that anthem since I was like ten, never having been to the US. The peeps in this video trying so hard are killing me man!

  • African MusicGenuis
    African MusicGenuis 3 days ago

    Whitney Houston, 'nuff said.

  • Ella Exterkamp
    Ella Exterkamp 3 days ago

    Its called mixing your voice to reach low and high notes. Anyone who takes music lessons should be able to reach all of the notes. Its mostly about range