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
    Some songs don't just stick in your head, they change the music world forever. Join Estelle Caswell on a musical journey to discover the stories behind your favorite songs.
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Comments • 9 251

  • Vox
    Vox  4 months ago +782

    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=

    • Mr.Moisture Loves cats
      Mr.Moisture Loves cats 9 days ago

      I really thought it was terrible

    • Jack Daniels
      Jack Daniels 10 days ago

      thanx .. for your advice...
      although I am a saudi man I love to listen to the US National Anthem.

    • I love noodles
      I love noodles Month ago

      This is an insult and un American.
      How dare you!!!!

    • Toryu-Mau
      Toryu-Mau 2 months ago

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

    • General Amsel
      General Amsel 2 months 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.

  • Simone Let the cat out of the bag

    Choir teacher makes this our audition song for all of our ensembles...... y’know, makes the people who really deserve it get it... ew

  • Austyn Kersey
    Austyn Kersey 19 hours ago

    Should have mentions Roseanne's performance.

  • Cedric Winters
    Cedric Winters 22 hours ago

    I feel like over 9000 people disliked this video without actually watching this.

    EXO UNIVERSE Day ago

    I can’t relate because I am Asian, but still I watch this. 😂

  • Ryan Lo 246 (HQ2)

    The hardest would be the Austrian National Anthem, so many notes

  • Stephen Malacaria

    I agree, "The Star Spangled Banner" is a pretty bad song. The national anthem should be God Bless America.

  • AlanaFieldsTV
    AlanaFieldsTV Day ago

    Fergie... that was a fail that won't be forgotten.

  • Chanel K
    Chanel K Day ago

    Why did I think this was talking about the Canadian anthem until I saw the replies of the “why can West Virginia be our national anthem?”

    Before you ask, this video started when I was in the kitchen getting biscuits and milk without my iPad

  • xoxo xoxo
    xoxo xoxo Day ago

    how comes the music expert can't even sing in tune

  • its mary
    its mary 2 days ago


  • Alex Black
    Alex Black 2 days ago

    If we had an anthem like the French, people would protest the lyrics

  • Chuck Wieser
    Chuck Wieser 2 days ago

    And most importantly, this song does not rejoice in the death of slaves owned by the British. It glorifies the sacrifice of hired workers and slaves that died trying to keep the American flag up while the British killed them for wanting to honor their country.
    Thanks for lying to us and trying to continually destroy America.

  • Downward Spiral
    Downward Spiral 2 days ago +3

    I think that if the creator of the American anthem found-out through time travel that the most popular version of the American anthem ever produced was sung by a black women, he would have an aneurysm. Atleast, he hope we would.

  • Tony F
    Tony F 2 days ago

    The secret is to have soulful black person sing it

  • Eric Claeyborn
    Eric Claeyborn 3 days ago

    The national anthem for the U.S.A. should be America the Beautiful. It just might repair some American hearts. The Star Spangled Banner is really worthless... and the tune is from a beer drinking song (that's what I heard).

  • airi
    airi 3 days ago

    I know the whole american anthem because i watched THAT episode of victorious too much.
    im european.

  • Maskless Is This
    Maskless Is This 3 days ago +1

    Gross song

  • Paul Harts
    Paul Harts 3 days ago

    May I suggest welcome to the black parade?

  • roballen2/offical
    roballen2/offical 3 days ago +1

    "America the Beautiful" should be the National Anthem.

  • Skippy Bean
    Skippy Bean 3 days ago

    "It's descriptive and phrased weirdly"
    It was a freaking poem, what do you expect

  • Skippy Bean
    Skippy Bean 3 days ago

    Ummm. I can sing it. I don't scream

  • MiniWaterWolf YT
    MiniWaterWolf YT 3 days ago +1

    Yes it is you doo doo.

  • Andreus Triant
    Andreus Triant 3 days ago

    Just more of vox’s anti American propaganda, trying to kill what is left of America’s pride

  • Ryan Anderson
    Ryan Anderson 3 days ago

    When you’ll do anything to slam America

  • Dukhanstmichmal
    Dukhanstmichmal 3 days ago

    Lets be honest here. The US anthem is one of the most crap anthems in the world. Not only doesnt it sound pleasant or have any real structure to it - its also not even iconic apart from the first 3 seconds.
    If you listen to the anthems of Russia, France, Germany, Italy or the UK in comparison, the US one just seems cheap and not really thought through.

  • Some nerd 157
    Some nerd 157 4 days ago

    The national anthem should be Africa

  • black and silver diamond

    Millinials have respect for nothing.

  • Helen Gilbert
    Helen Gilbert 4 days ago

    I don't wanna be ~that guy~ but for a vocal student hearing that people think the national anthem is hard??? Go listen to the Girl in 14G, or... any aria ever. Then come back and tell me an octave and a half is too big.

  • Luke Losinski
    Luke Losinski 4 days ago

    This is fairly simple on a instrument to play

  • Bob Fischer
    Bob Fischer 4 days ago

    Wait. Seriously? I realize this is about the vocal challenge of the song, but, really? You're not going to mention the greatest rendition of the song ever, even though it was instrumental? Harrrummpff.
    *shakes fist* "you kids get off my lawn!" *goes to load up the Hendrix version from Woodstock*

  • Enda Reddan
    Enda Reddan 4 days ago

    The Irish national anthem

  • Patrick Nilan
    Patrick Nilan 4 days ago

    No the star spangled banner is PERFECT, ABSOLUTELY AMAZINGLY PERFECT! The ONLY, let me say ONLY EVIDENCE of this anyone needs to give a skeptic is playing Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl! BOOM, micdrop!

  • James Scott
    James Scott 5 days ago

    It’s not about slaves 🙄

  • Palamedes
    Palamedes 5 days ago

    good news everyone 2:55

  • Q400fan
    Q400fan 5 days ago

    Title is a lil misleading

  • Will Stehlik
    Will Stehlik 5 days ago

    I’m sorry but Lady Gaga?

  • PewEE
    PewEE 5 days ago

    Klay:why did she do that
    Lady:old song son
    Klay:it 2018 not 1765
    Lady:right 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀

  • Jakeliciousdragon
    Jakeliciousdragon 5 days ago +4

    Francis Scott Key wrote the words of the Star Spangled Banner and chose the tune so... we can't really complain. It's not that hard, people just don't try and they think too much. Plus it's worded weirdly because it is written back in the old days. We should not change it. I can sing it right and have the words memorized. You guys are just big sore baby losers.

  • Heisted
    Heisted 5 days ago

    Russia has a way better one anyways. Tbh it’s the best one. And yes I know Its so incredibly biased because I am from Russia and Russian is my first language.

  • Puggy WoofWoof
    Puggy WoofWoof 5 days ago

    petition to change the national anthem to national anthem by lana del rey

  • The Joe Show
    The Joe Show 5 days ago

    Rock cover anyone?

  • the sinnoh trainer
    the sinnoh trainer 6 days ago

    It's actually not that hard to sing when you've heard it so many times

  • Anouchka
    Anouchka 6 days ago

    I’m Canadian and I know the whole star spangled banner better than my American friends.

  • The Grey Jedi
    The Grey Jedi 6 days ago

    Our choir sang this for a Houston rockets game we put it in 4-part (soprano,alto,tenor,bass) it sounded amazing

  • DSLR Video Shooter
    DSLR Video Shooter 6 days ago

    It is a great song. Also I heard Canada is accepting new people.

  • Logan Lucky
    Logan Lucky 6 days ago

    What nobody is talking about is the historical context. It was originally a poem and it is about the strength of America to persevere. Some of the wording isn’t great because it was a poem written by a soldier who whiteness the first hope of America actually being able to work.

  • Jasmine VanRegenmortel

    I vote that Marilyn Manson’s “We’re from America” should be the new national anthem, should we choose to change it.

  • Ash Westbrook
    Ash Westbrook 6 days ago

    Um... what are notes, and what's from with 13 or whatever we have?

  • The Best Galaxy
    The Best Galaxy 6 days ago


  • US Air Force Nerd
    US Air Force Nerd 7 days ago


  • Deric Cheah
    Deric Cheah 7 days ago

    Malaysia anthem is da best.

  • Jimsy
    Jimsy 7 days ago

    Lyrics about Congreve's rockets set to the tune of an English drinking song... what a choice for a national anthem...

  • Prod. by MiB
    Prod. by MiB 7 days ago

    That's why you sing it in monotone.

  • memes are my life
    memes are my life 7 days ago

    See this is why I play an instrument I’ll be fine.

  • PieSauruS
    PieSauruS 7 days ago

    “How can we be edgy and political”

  • sofiaa johnn
    sofiaa johnn 7 days ago

    i rlly dont think it's respectful of ppl to make "covers" of the national anthem, it's composed in a specific way,, just let it be

  • Penelope Hunt
    Penelope Hunt 7 days ago

    It's a kak cuntry, kak anthem . Totally useless place

  • Thieving Peppers
    Thieving Peppers 7 days ago

    I had to sing this everyday in school

  • Anson Hu
    Anson Hu 7 days ago

    7:31 the reason why they booed is because American don’t like change, they really don’t like it. And when Jose feliciano sang the anthem in a different way, some people took it personally because they don’t like change they really don’t like it (Americans). I’m sorry if this is offensive but this is true for most places.

  • The Turts
    The Turts 8 days ago

    the national anthem don't even slap

  • Nathaniel Eli
    Nathaniel Eli 8 days ago

    “America, The Beautiful” COULD be a good alternative for the national anthem.
    Edit: I was rewatching this and Matt Farnsworth says that “oo” is a vowel. Huh😂

  • Nicole & Ethan Miller

    Love your videos, could you please site significant video quotations in your extended description? "Further reading" is great, but we're all on youtube watching videos... thanks!

  • monoceros1222
    monoceros1222 8 days ago

    Lyrics are great because because there are only 3 sentences: The first sentence questions whether the flag still waves in the particular battle; the second sentence demonstrates the strength of America; and the third again, and appropriately, calls to the future , questioning whether we have managed to remain the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  • pilotdrums
    pilotdrums 8 days ago

    you're supposed to sing it in your octave range not 3 above it

  • One piece and sonic fan

    i wonder what skylar grey would sound like

  • Tomlin Suttles
    Tomlin Suttles 8 days ago

    You guys are insulting us Americans

  • Maggie Jones
    Maggie Jones 8 days ago

    America, The Beautiful but with "And Sisterhood" (Cue Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones) and we have ourselves a lovely anthem.

  • Hurley Sim
    Hurley Sim 8 days ago

    Hey Vox, does this mean Bel Canto repertoire is also terrible?

  • Jacob :D
    Jacob :D 9 days ago

    Y’all think this is bad but the Panem anthem is only high notes.

  • Donna Ortega
    Donna Ortega 9 days ago

    I feel very offended.

  • jonathan abraham
    jonathan abraham 9 days ago

    I'm not American but the Dixie chicks did the perfect rendition of your anthem

  • Nico Enerlan
    Nico Enerlan 9 days ago

    When they showed Fergie I was dead 😂😂😵

    MAHNEHMISRED 9 days ago


  • Bence Pál
    Bence Pál 9 days ago

    This video/idea was stolen from Adam Neely check out the original!

  • Lauren Zefania
    Lauren Zefania 9 days ago

    I'm from Indonesia. Hey you guys had to hear our national anthem. The range is 9 and a half full notes, sounds so good.

  • BrokenSocialScene23
    BrokenSocialScene23 9 days ago

    You guys should talk about why the anthem won't change. Its difficulty makes it so emotional. It's one of the few anthems that will reduce you to tears. I'm not even American.

  • Russian Bias
    Russian Bias 9 days ago

    French National Anthem English Translation: Our hands are raised please dont shoot, the white flag flies high. The Rifles hit the ground, Mighty Maginot has been out flanked.

  • Matsya Manuel
    Matsya Manuel 9 days ago

    Jimi Hendrix is laughing in his tomb.

  • Maybe Me
    Maybe Me 9 days ago

    'O Canada
    Our home and native land,
    True patriot love, in all of us command
    With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
    True North strong and free
    From far and wide,
    'O Canada, we stand on guard for the
    God keep our land glorious and free
    'O Canada we stand on guard for thee
    'O Canada we stand on guard for thee

  • emily
    emily 9 days ago

    2:38 y'all don't sing your anthem every morning at school?

  • molly sandweiss
    molly sandweiss 10 days ago +1

    France’s anthem talks about the “blood of the impure” so.....

  • chang bin Yu
    chang bin Yu 10 days ago

    so thats why soviet national anthem always win my comrade

  • lagooned
    lagooned 10 days ago

    this was structured really weird

  • Senior Avocado
    Senior Avocado 10 days ago

    The Philippine song is easy

  • Charles Seigfried Clark Stephen

    (Find Wintey Houston singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Comment’s “What if we told you that that mike was not on.” - Vox July 4, 2018)

  • Victor Walker
    Victor Walker 10 days ago

    Happy Feelings!

    THE JRO 10 days ago

    @vox MORE EARWORM!!!!!! Please!

  • What's Good World
    What's Good World 10 days ago

    Nothings wrong with the anthem. Don’t be mad because you can’t sing it

  • Azure Wing
    Azure Wing 10 days ago +1

    5 million guys and girls!

  • Seablian
    Seablian 10 days ago

    We need to return to Hail Columbia

  • jax1492
    jax1492 10 days ago

    so unamerican

  • Blaze Granillo
    Blaze Granillo 11 days ago

    Because this dumb people doesnt know Guatemala's anthem, its so hard to sing it, im in a very important guatemalan chorus and even being a soprano its hard to hit the highest notes

  • Brandon Chan
    Brandon Chan 11 days ago +2

    what if my country has this song for national anthem , i have a heart attack on assembly , because we have to sing it on assembly,luckily i dont have to sing this before school assembly .

  • Bat Man
    Bat Man 11 days ago +1

    Should ave picked a different titles for this video. Should be why we ripped off a British Drinking Song for our national anthem!
    Do a search on Google videos for :
    To Anacreon in Heaven

  • Kaitlyn Proulx
    Kaitlyn Proulx 11 days ago

    Cause natural notes are hard to play... Accidentals are everywhere in music :/

  • Allison Olson
    Allison Olson 11 days ago +1

    Fergie should listen to Whitney Houston sing the Star Spangled Banner

  • Daniel Jackson
    Daniel Jackson 11 days ago

    christina’s NBA performances are simply majestic, note perfect, pitch, tone and timbre. Amazing. Beyoncé and Whitney too 😝

  • Erikazz_Gaming
    Erikazz_Gaming 12 days ago +1

    Soviet anthem will be the best forever cyka

  • Fellow Jack Nation
    Fellow Jack Nation 12 days ago +1

    I really don’t get the point you’re trying to make about why it’s bad....