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"
    Subscribe to our channel! goo.gl/0bsAjO
    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.
    Check out the entire Vox Earworm playlist here: bit.ly/2QCwhMH
    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 • 10 009

  • Vox
    Vox  7 months ago +901

    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=

    • HTHTV3
      HTHTV3 2 months ago +1

      @2:22 Most do not believe that *that mic* wasn't on when the late great #WhitneyHouston sung it... is there any proof? The studio where she supposedly pre-recorded it? #Receipts?
      Many may aim to revoke accolades she honestly earned.

    • JESUS Loves cats
      JESUS Loves cats 3 months ago

      I really thought it was terrible

    • Jack Daniels
      Jack Daniels 3 months 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 4 months ago

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

    • Toryu-Mau
      Toryu-Mau 5 months ago

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

    JACKIE J 2 hours ago

    The best version of the star spangled banner is the Jimi Hendrix version

  • pulakification
    pulakification 10 hours ago

    Germany national anthem is good .. I heard it in formula 1.

  • nyc anna
    nyc anna 22 hours ago

    most singers should be able to sing 12 notes. singers like brendon urie can sing in all 4 vocal ranges. its not that hard.

  • Free Spirit
    Free Spirit Day ago


  • GamingMint
    GamingMint Day ago

    *Stop VOX*

  • Jan D
    Jan D 2 days ago

    The US should just make "This land is your land, this land is my land" their anthem.
    Also, imagine your current president trying to sing the anthem. He doesn't even know the words, lol.

  • Julia Shab
    Julia Shab 2 days ago

    All rise for the national anthem . . .
    *Is this the real life, is this just fantasy*

  • Marsbar Marsbar
    Marsbar Marsbar 2 days ago

    I saw this video under up next and I thought ok what does this jackass have to say and then I saw the and perfect and I was like oh😂

  • Julia Burch
    Julia Burch 2 days ago

    Yall have obviously never listened to the podcast punch up the jam with miel and Demi. Demi made a PERFECT new anthem while talking about the old one, and y'all should really check the podcast out

  • B 12
    B 12 2 days ago

    Sad you can’t remember the lyrics to the star spangled banner, but can to mo bamba.

  • B 12
    B 12 2 days ago

    It’s not the songs fault you can’t sing.

  • lordfullofyogurt
    lordfullofyogurt 3 days ago

    Watch Adam Neely.

  • Loel Azarcon
    Loel Azarcon 3 days ago

    Well how rude

  • Kendrick Hernandez
    Kendrick Hernandez 3 days ago

    I’ve sang this song since I was born...so I know the words by heart. Ive never met anyone who could not memorize this song or learn the words.
    And yes I watched the whole video. Can’t say I agree...but eh.

  • Will 1
    Will 1 3 days ago

    I get chills when I sing the greatest song ever made dedicated to the greatest country in the world tf you talking about replacing it shame on you

  • Shiro Kobayashi
    Shiro Kobayashi 3 days ago

    I actually love the US anthem. It's my third fave out of the 12 anthems ive heard 💙💙 love from phil 💙

  • Edzilla Notlastname
    Edzilla Notlastname 3 days ago

    i haven't sung the athem in years

  • Gam Jam
    Gam Jam 3 days ago

    Doesn't it have racist lyrics too?

  • underestimated kid
    underestimated kid 4 days ago

    I like Indian national Anthem because it's short and easy to sing
    I don't know which language it is

  • nata
    nata 4 days ago

    Indonesia Raya spans 12 notes and yes, I can't sing lowest and the highest note.

  • IGitzDiz
    IGitzDiz 4 days ago


  • Internet Explorer
    Internet Explorer 5 days ago

    The extra notes are meant to show off

  • Alex Leigh
    Alex Leigh 5 days ago

    i liked the jose felliciono

  • Neon Light
    Neon Light 5 days ago +1

    America needs something like USSR. That anthem has a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. Also America copied the song "To Anacreon in heaven".... made in the UK.

    • Erdyanto Dwi Nugroho Zheng
      Erdyanto Dwi Nugroho Zheng 2 days ago +1

      +Will 1 Yeah, the lyrics was made by Francis Scott Key, but the tones were not made him, he was taken the Anacreontic Song (To Anacreon in Heaven) that actually from British song into this. He made to be higher notes than the original version (I mean the Anacreontic Song). So that's why, nobody can sing this anthem and just the trained singers can sing this. To me, I can sing this because I am trained singer when I was in school choir...........

    • Will 1
      Will 1 3 days ago

      Neon Light wait wut the American anthem is naturally made by Francis Scott key

  • Joel Dick
    Joel Dick 6 days ago

    I always loved the lyrics of Hail, Columbia:
    Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band,
    Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
    Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
    And when the storm of war was gone
    Enjoy'd the peace your valor won.
    Let independence be our boast,
    Ever mindful what it cost;

  • gareter saudi arabia السعودية العظمى

    Islamic anthem then Allah make amirca garet agien

  • Lil Sergeant
    Lil Sergeant 6 days ago

    It was poem it wasn’t written with being the national anthem in mind

  • Artemis420
    Artemis420 7 days ago

    O say can you see by the dawn's early light
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
    O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
    O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
    On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep
    Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes
    What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep
    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
    Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam
    In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
    'Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
    A home and a country should leave us no more!
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    (For everyone else trying to sing it while watching this)

    • Gam Jam
      Gam Jam 3 days ago

      Artemis420 that's not the full song thou

  • Kalani W
    Kalani W 7 days ago

    How about the Australian National anthem?

  • I'm Happily In Pain
    I'm Happily In Pain 7 days ago

    I like the anthem

  • Sandwich Vendor
    Sandwich Vendor 7 days ago

    if this was released in the 70s and not so popular hipsters would be calling it the most genius song ever.

  • Brian Kehinde
    Brian Kehinde 9 days ago

    "Free" is on a note most people can't reach. How appropriate.

  • alejandro ojeda
    alejandro ojeda 9 days ago

    Our national anthem is so easy to sing, everyone can do it, and I mean it even you can, right now,... I'm from Spain.

  • Bill Branning
    Bill Branning 9 days ago

    When I was young, everyone sang it at various events.

  • FlopDudeGaming
    FlopDudeGaming 9 days ago

    Communist spy. Go back to Russia. Jk

  • Paz y Amor
    Paz y Amor 10 days ago

    Wait absolutely loved felicianos version ❤️

  • Frella Forever
    Frella Forever 10 days ago

    Guess I have an unnatural voice, I have a 14 note range. From B3 to G5.

  • Kevin
    Kevin 11 days ago +1

    S O V I E T A N T H E M

  • melanie
    melanie 11 days ago

    LA MARSEILLAISE !!! 🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷

  • MrMeowington
    MrMeowington 12 days ago

    woah dude,
    even our national anthem is better lmao 😂

  • ALDC Llama Cat
    ALDC Llama Cat 12 days ago

    I think it's better that it's hard because it makes it more impressive when people sing it because not everyone can do it.

  • Captain Boom
    Captain Boom 12 days ago

    Chill all of you are just trash at singing

  • wesmatron
    wesmatron 12 days ago

    It originated as a bawdy drinking song in England

  • Dinosuar Lover
    Dinosuar Lover 13 days ago

    i can sing it ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • Viktor Nikiforov
    Viktor Nikiforov 13 days ago

    Dude...it's not that hard when you can sing. But I sing it chorally, and I have to hit a high b flat at the end, since that's the first soprano part. I could never sing it all in my chest voice.

  • ssplintergirl
    ssplintergirl 13 days ago

    It takes skill to be an american

  • Nela MSG
    Nela MSG 14 days ago

    José Feliciano is a master 👌🏻

  • YardBird Suite
    YardBird Suite 14 days ago

    what do all these singers have in common... there all drug addicts

  • Mike Hunt.
    Mike Hunt. 14 days ago

    It's an awesome anthem prove me wrong.
    *Watches video.
    Yeah you failed. 🇺🇸🦅

  • Austyn Guevara
    Austyn Guevara 14 days ago +2


  • Pablo Munoz-Snyder
    Pablo Munoz-Snyder 14 days ago

    They brought on a music theorist and didn't even talk about the textbook secondary dominants that exist in this song. They must think that we are too dumb to appreciate that.

  • Edu Melero Verdú
    Edu Melero Verdú 15 days ago +1

    Pretty disappointed you didn't include Rosseanne's rendition, but very enjoyable video overall, nonetheless.

  • Sunset Gao
    Sunset Gao 15 days ago

    You can sing something proudly without sounding good you know...

  • macdaddyalexis
    macdaddyalexis 16 days ago

    I was waiting for Mariah!!!

  • macdaddyalexis
    macdaddyalexis 16 days ago

    Only Mariah and Whitney sung it perfectly.

    • Maya S
      Maya S 16 days ago

      Lady Gaga's rendition in 2016 is the best imo.

  • Niggers Suck
    Niggers Suck 16 days ago

    Ok Vox, continue with your leftism hating America agenda.

  • Colonel Catnip
    Colonel Catnip 17 days ago

    This is like saying Freddie Mercury’s music was terrible because most people can’t sing his range...

  • Violet Rose
    Violet Rose 17 days ago

    So you didn’t talk about how it used to be a drinking or song or that fact that there a stanza of the original poem by scott key that celebrates the death of slaves? :(
    (If you don’t believe me you can look it up)

  • not a asshole
    not a asshole 17 days ago +2

    Our national anthem isn't the best and easiest to sing.
    But still very very beautiful

  • Christian Eesa
    Christian Eesa 17 days ago

    Sing it no matter how bad u sound
    It's of the people by the people for the people
    Proud to sing it and praise it

  • Morpheus Hill
    Morpheus Hill 18 days ago

    I don't know about you, but an anthem is not made to be sung in perfect pitch by every member of that nation. It is a representation of that nation, be it's morals, prowess, or resolve. Nothing sums America up more than the star spangled banner. People seem to truly forget the sacrifices that were made to make our unique nation. On that day men literally were dying to keep the flag flying by grouping together and holding the pole up while under bombardment from the British. Not for just the flag, but for the belief behind it. A free America, the star bangled banner tells that story. It shows how patriotic Americans are, and how passionate we are for our free states. Wanting to change it because it's difficult to sing is dumb, lastly, claiming our nation for our own was not easy, and holding that flag up on that day wasn't either. Maybe you can make the sacrifice as well and sing the song, regardless of it's difficulty

  • superrowen
    superrowen 18 days ago

    5:37 this guy's voice is in Jaden Smith - Icon

  • Buzz Offer
    Buzz Offer 18 days ago

    The notes are not that bad and is actually within the average range of a normal human voice, although the jumps are far apart, the notes are still reasonable, you guys just suck at singing

  • deja labeija
    deja labeija 18 days ago

    The trailblazers coach warmed my heart 💞

  • Kawaii Love
    Kawaii Love 18 days ago

    um... i can sing it without screaming... it’s not difficult....i mean...either i’m super wrong or i’m kinda talented...idk what it is.........

  • Kelvin Adithya
    Kelvin Adithya 18 days ago

    It's nice to see them to make rendition of that song. In Indonesia, people are so butthurt that if you make the rendition of the anthem, they will sue you

    DANIEL ERON 18 days ago

    Yeah, I’ve always thought that this anthem sucks , nice to see that I’m not the only one

  • kalvin john
    kalvin john 18 days ago

    The "last gleaming" is hard and also remembering

  • Iain
    Iain 18 days ago

    Our national anthem is perfect and it shall never change. Merica!

  • ratchet
    ratchet 19 days ago

    My country's national anthem has very few lyrics yet takes forever to sing

  • Martin Nunez
    Martin Nunez 19 days ago


  • Donald J. Trump
    Donald J. Trump 20 days ago

    God Bless America

  • marinara724
    marinara724 21 day ago

    any american who doesn't know our anthem disappoints me

  • D. Cho
    D. Cho 21 day ago

    We Murica's national anthem is always the best... Perfect in any way 😂😂

  • Elijah Schmidt vlogs

    2:43 rip 1994 world series

  • James WhiteField
    James WhiteField 21 day ago

    Ah more leftist vox propaganda, gotta love it!!!

  • Skrixzy
    Skrixzy 21 day ago

    shut up go make a biased article

  • SantosZox
    SantosZox 21 day ago

    Do they really not know the words? Idk why they just fit naturally together in my heads I can't imagine not knowing the words. It tells a story very vivid imagery.

  • Josiah Warren
    Josiah Warren 22 days ago

    For the record Whitney did perform a 100% live version during her welcome home heros special!

  • Michael Amankwah-Baidu
    Michael Amankwah-Baidu 22 days ago +1

    *America wants to know your location*

  • European Guy
    European Guy 23 days ago

    In my opinion i think national anthems are supposed to bring the spark of hope in the people

  • James Boyle
    James Boyle 23 days ago

    Actual best national anthem is Kazakhstan’s from Borat

  • that one cuber
    that one cuber 23 days ago

    The best anthem is fhe soviet anthem

  • NotAYouTubeStar
    NotAYouTubeStar 23 days ago +1

    Brittish propaganda

  • Robert Latorre
    Robert Latorre 23 days ago

    7:40 nice name

  • Chad Ganshirt
    Chad Ganshirt 23 days ago +1

    We shouldn't change it.

  • Bork cream
    Bork cream 23 days ago

    Let’s use that song where we stole the tune of some other national anthem!
    *M Y C O U N T R Y T I S O F T H E E*

  • Nogger Fogger logger 69


  • MediumMemeMaster
    MediumMemeMaster 24 days ago

    Here’s why the anthem sucks; You hear it everyday in school and must listen to it every day. The lack of a choice makes it hated. No one cares about it. The country is great, anthem sucks

  • Michael Mangraviti
    Michael Mangraviti 24 days ago

    Replace the American National Anthem with the Soviet anthem then boom perfect.

  • Mithren
    Mithren 25 days ago +1

    This is pretty disrespectful. “The song is too hard to sing, it sucks” like, come on.

  • Mr Pete
    Mr Pete 25 days ago

    Vox needs to shut up

  • Dakota
    Dakota 25 days ago

    Who’s playing the national anthem at 0:55

  • Sofia's World
    Sofia's World 25 days ago

    Why the USclip channel Vox is terrible...

  • Avionic7779x
    Avionic7779x 25 days ago

    Just. Let. The. Armed. Forces. Sing. The. Anthem. Please

  • doggo
    doggo 25 days ago

    A good number of examples you gave of people singing don't sound like they could sing Hot Cross Buns.
    To be fair, I don't think that the difficulty of singing should mean much. It is worth noting that it was written as a poem and put to the tune of a British drinking song (weird combo lol). I do not, however, believe that the difficulty of the song should out way the meaning behind the words.

    RADIOSOAP -Aldy H 26 days ago

    *some normal person fails to sing the star spangled theme *
    Americans: cool
    *blind person plays it well
    Americans: kys

  • AnOstrichYoutubing
    AnOstrichYoutubing 26 days ago

    Lol! The crowd booed?! Triggered much?

    • Tim Mackie
      Tim Mackie 13 days ago +1

      And most of those people in attendance (at least the ones who are still alive now) are probably the same people who now complain about millennials being offended by everything...

  • MineFall MG - the stop motion maker

    Am I the only one who doesn't have a problem with it?

    • ratchet
      ratchet 19 days ago

      MineFall MG - the stop motion maker no, I'm not even from the USA