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 • 8 694

  • Vox
    Vox  3 months ago +701

    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 29 days ago

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

    • General Amsel
      General Amsel Month 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 Month ago

      Cut fergie some slack

    • Bakura 2400
      Bakura 2400 Month ago

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

    • Bakura 2400
      Bakura 2400 Month ago

      _KendallRd0 They have ruined nothing the National Anthem is perfect.

  • gamekiller999
    gamekiller999 5 hours ago

    How about the anthem of our motherland

    FORTHELOLS 5 hours ago

    It's not the songs fault if the person can't sing 1 octave higher 😂😂😂 1 octave higher isn't that hard right 😂

    BESTMUSIC OFTIME 5 hours ago

    No, this is america

    GATO PATO 11 hours ago

    American exceptionalism summed up. "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard" - JFK.
    That's why it gives you a frog in you throat

  • jbreezy101
    jbreezy101 13 hours ago

    I personally like America the Beautiful for the anthem.

  • TeaTime
    TeaTime 18 hours ago

    “We need a new anthem”
    Sis, do you know who write that and why?? Iconic moment👏🏻👏🏻

  • Strange Stephen
    Strange Stephen 19 hours ago

    At least it's not this:
    Verse 1:
    Let's go children of the fatherland,
    The day of glory has arrived!
    Against us tyranny's
    Bloody flag is raised! (repeat)
    In the countryside, do you hear
    The roaring of these fierce soldiers?
    They come right to our arms
    To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! Marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    Grab your weapons, citizens!
    Form your battalions!
    Let us march! Let us march!
    May impure blood
    Water our fields!
    Verse 2:
    Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
    De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
    Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
    Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
    Français ! pour nous, ah ! quel outrage !
    Quels transports il doit exciter !
    C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
    De rendre à l'antique esclavage !
    Verse 2:
    This horde of slaves, traitors, plotting kings,
    What do they want?
    For whom these vile shackles,
    These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
    Frenchmen, for us, oh! what an insult!
    What emotions that must excite!
    It is us that they dare to consider
    Returning to ancient slavery!
    Verse 3:
    Quoi ! ces cohortes étrangères
    Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
    Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
    Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
    Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
    Nos fronts sous le joug se ploiraient !
    De vils despotes deviendraient
    Les maîtres de nos destinées !
    Verse 3:
    What! These foreign troops
    Would make laws in our home!
    What! These mercenary phalanxes
    Would bring down our proud warriors! (repeat)
    Good Lord! By chained hands
    Our brows would bend beneath the yoke!
    Vile despots would become
    The masters of our fate!
    Verse 4:
    Tremblez, tyrans ! et vous, perfides,
    L'opprobre de tous les partis,
    Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
    Vont enfin recevoir leur prix ! (bis)
    Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
    S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
    La France en produit de nouveaux,
    Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !
    Verse 4:
    Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
    The disgrace of all groups,
    Tremble! Your parricidal plans
    Will finally pay the price! (repeat)
    Everyone is a soldier to fight you,
    If they fall, our young heros,
    France will make more,
    Ready to battle you!
    Verse 5:
    Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
    Portez ou retenez vos coups !
    Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
    A regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
    Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
    Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
    Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
    Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
    Verse 5:
    Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
    Bear or hold back your blows!
    Spare these sad victims,
    Regretfully arming against us. (repeat)
    But not these bloodthirsty despots,
    But not these accomplices of Bouillé,
    All of these animals who, without pity,
    Tear their mother's breast to pieces!
    Verse 6:
    Amour sacré de la patrie,
    Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
    Liberté, Liberté chérie,
    Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
    Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
    Accoure à tes mâles accents !
    Que tes ennemis expirants
    Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
    Verse 6:
    Sacred love of France,
    Lead, support our avenging arms!
    Liberty, beloved Liberty,
    Fight with your defenders! (repeat)
    Under our flags, let victory
    Hasten to your manly tones!
    May your dying enemies
    See your triumph and our glory!
    Verse 7:
    Nous entrerons dans la carrière
    Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus ;
    Nous y trouverons leur poussière
    Et la trace de leurs vertus. (bis)
    Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
    Que de partager leur cercueil,
    Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
    De les venger ou de les suivre !
    Verse 7:
    We will enter the pit
    When our elders are no longer there;
    There, we will find their dust
    And the traces of their virtues. (repeat)
    Much less eager to outlive them
    Than to share their casket,
    We will have the sublime pride
    Of avenging them or following them!

  • The Little Narwal
    The Little Narwal 21 hour ago

    I started clapping.

  • Happy Brave Cat
    Happy Brave Cat 22 hours ago

    Is it sad that I’m a choir kid and I’m watching this I’m laughing at how people think that’s hard

  • Ethan Williams
    Ethan Williams 22 hours ago

    We don’t need a new national anthem. You guys seriously don’t realize what our national anthem is for. This isn’t a good video. You guys complain because you can’t sing it but that doesn’t mean we need a new one. That’s so selfish and disrespectful. The meaning of our national anthem just flies right over your head. Smh

  • Petty Pancakes
    Petty Pancakes Day ago

    Despacito is nominated.

  • Please No
    Please No Day ago +1

    Why vox is terrible.

  • Hossam
    Hossam Day ago

    I'm not American and I've never even been to America but I know the US national anthem, I memorized it all and can say it anytime without forgetting any part of it.

  • ossi_
    ossi_ Day ago

    Yeah, but the Russian national anthem spans like 3 octaves, but it’s easily the best national anthem.

  • fcuking Sg Invain

    I think twinkle twinkle little star is the best anthem of all time... HAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • fcuking Sg Invain

    9:01... Is an act of a gentleman... Things u'll hardly see in 3rd world countries hahhahhahaa

  • TheMysteriousLady channel

    *Brendon Urie has joined the chat*

  • Brandon C.
    Brandon C. Day ago


  • Severus SNIPE
    Severus SNIPE Day ago

    I have no idea what's going on

  • Julia H
    Julia H Day ago

    america the beautiful is pretty neat

  • Sydney Tabor
    Sydney Tabor Day ago

    It wouldn't be America if our national anthem was easy.

  • Ella Loi
    Ella Loi Day ago

    The Australian Anthem is the best, to look at it. The Anthem is easy to memorise and easy to sing.

  • Happy_Hannah 77
    Happy_Hannah 77 Day ago

    I’m glad I live in Canada

  • Eviyon Griffin
    Eviyon Griffin 2 days ago


  • Tomasz Klaszczyk
    Tomasz Klaszczyk 2 days ago

    Kazakstan is the greatest coauntry in the world! And all the other countries are run by little girls!

  • That Guy Gaming
    That Guy Gaming 2 days ago

    It is pretty terrible... but for other reasons....

  • Lele Taufon
    Lele Taufon 2 days ago

    fergie did the best version😂

  • Yay Joshua
    Yay Joshua 2 days ago

    Do the women sound the same to yoy

  • LittlePotato
    LittlePotato 2 days ago +1

    *What I think of this?*
    *_OH CANADAA~_*

  • A.M
    A.M 2 days ago

    The usa anthem was copied by a British song

  • Anggin Puspa
    Anggin Puspa 3 days ago

    DO THE RUSSIAN ONE!! its a lot harder

  • Charlie Craiger
    Charlie Craiger 3 days ago

    You can’t get ride of a country national anthem if it’s hard then only the best can sing it

  • LM10 Jr.
    LM10 Jr. 3 days ago

    Just stop trying to ruin beautiful things Vox!

  • Tyler Jenkins
    Tyler Jenkins 3 days ago

    You idiots, there is nothing wrong with the National Anthem

  • Luke
    Luke 3 days ago

    I’m British, and think we need a new anthem, because (especially when we play France) God Save the Queen is sooo slooow. Our problem is the alternatives have been taken by Scotland, England and Wales. The only solution to getting rid of a verse about “smashing Scots” and quelling rebellions is to write an entirely new anthem. And replace one over 200 years old.

  • Mátyás Karl
    Mátyás Karl 3 days ago

    Dear vox, I would to see a video about the dambow rithm. Why is it so earworm?

  • Mike of Angels 777
    Mike of Angels 777 4 days ago

    Sad dudes older than ME dont even know the words

  • SkyY
    SkyY 4 days ago

    german anthem the best

  • Alfred Schlichtcock
    Alfred Schlichtcock 4 days ago

    This is my personal observation not a statistically accurate one. I think most people have a hate-love relationship with their national anthem. Whatever country they may come from.

    AMANDA J MORSE 4 days ago

    Blame Canada should be our national anthem. 😂

    For those who don't get it. I'm kidding.

  • LiL' Can
    LiL' Can 4 days ago

    America is the best country in the world
    Change my mind.

    (I'm being serious, I want to have an actual conversation here)

  • Audrey Hollenbaugh
    Audrey Hollenbaugh 4 days ago

    I can sing it easily and it sounds good 😂 idek man

  • Random person
    Random person 4 days ago

    I have this for hw thanks....

  • Кэтишкэт
    Кэтишкэт 5 days ago

    La Marseillaise is the best.

  • Maarttiin
    Maarttiin 5 days ago

    Argentina's national anthem is really hard to sing. It has very low notes. I remember I always had trouble singing it since a being a child at school.

  • Charlotte Lengams
    Charlotte Lengams 5 days ago

    Am I the only one who thinks the Star spangled banner is easy to sing?

  • Mighty Mouse
    Mighty Mouse 5 days ago

    We're not changing it.

  • Rose Colleto
    Rose Colleto 5 days ago

    But it's not hard to sing lol

  • I N V I C T U S 11
    I N V I C T U S 11 5 days ago +1

    It might not be easy but it's beautiful.. don't you dare try..!

  • Cinnamon Muffin
    Cinnamon Muffin 6 days ago

    We need the Leslie Nielsen version of the National Anthem as our new anthem!

  • Jamie Watts
    Jamie Watts 6 days ago

    Mate, just replace it with God Save the Queen/King.

  • Narnia Dici
    Narnia Dici 6 days ago +1

    As a French person, let me tell you:
    Our anthem is honestly not bad, but never search the translation. They're, um,... They're peculiar.

  • Scott Anderson
    Scott Anderson 6 days ago

    I’m not American but I love the anthem, it stands for freedom and patriotism 🇺🇸

  • Cisco Castello
    Cisco Castello 6 days ago

    I have the perfect replacement for the Star Spangled Banner: God Save the Queen

  • Mittz The Trash Lord

    I never had an issue with singing the anthem except for remembering the right words and verses.

  • Irene Lee
    Irene Lee 6 days ago

    I think I'm the only American that actually remembers how to sing it and can sing it ;-;

  • Benster7703 Arthur
    Benster7703 Arthur 7 days ago +2

    Freedom isn't simple, if you want an easy to sing national anthem, go to some commi country.

  • Sebastiansrandomstuff10 weird stuff

    When i sing glare my voice fails

  • IdioticProgramming
    IdioticProgramming 7 days ago

    Howd you manage to find so many liberals that dont even know their own anthem?
    Im Canadian, and even I know The Star Spangled Banner better than these cucks

  • Zach W
    Zach W 8 days ago

    Hey ya by outkast for national anthem

  • mxferro
    mxferro 8 days ago

    Give me something to REALLY sing about ..then we'll talk ...until then let this awful oligarchy disguised as a lousy REPUBLIC have that annoying tune.
    P.S. ..any time it is "jazzing " up the song is so incredibly annoying as to cause me to turn it off.
    Just don't...sing it. Done

  • El Presidente
    El Presidente 8 days ago

    Prussens glorya > USA Anthem

  • Dmitry Litovka
    Dmitry Litovka 8 days ago

    Does anyone remember when Igor Stravinsky proposed an improved and and easier to sing "Star-Spangled Banner"? *Seriously,* listen to it: it sounds so... natural. Then his suggestion was appallingly rejected. Stravinsky's "Star-Spangled Banner" has a much more comfortable vocal range, since the original song that the "Star-Spangled Banner" was based off of was written and designed for singers.

  • MLBlue30
    MLBlue30 8 days ago

    If it was set to Guiles theme, then we'd have something.

  • Spartan 300
    Spartan 300 8 days ago

    Anyone who thinks we should change the anthem is a dirty, collectivizing...


  • Liams Crap-mail
    Liams Crap-mail 8 days ago

    Oh Canada, our home and native land.

  • jeanferdi
    jeanferdi 8 days ago

    Am I the only one who thinks the anthem is fine?

  • blasianFMA
    blasianFMA 8 days ago

    Some of the people in this video have no credibility....

  • ari drummer
    ari drummer 9 days ago

    Malea emma killed it

  • Julia & Fatima TV
    Julia & Fatima TV 9 days ago

    Let Filipino singers belt this anthem. lol

  • Ck Ma
    Ck Ma 9 days ago

    1:28 autotune

  • Vlad Vanguine
    Vlad Vanguine 9 days ago

    Whitney gave me chills

  • Nathanael Hahn
    Nathanael Hahn 9 days ago

    It's not that hard. Americans have just not been commonly taught to sing or memorize.
    And this video sideswiped the lyrics with no real explaination.

  • Worldwide Handsome
    Worldwide Handsome 9 days ago

    You say it’s hard, but the 4th and 5th grade chorus sings this every year

  • Crab Lore
    Crab Lore 9 days ago

    you see the trick is to enjoy the lyrics not go super into that kind of detail because once you do it just takes the fun away from it

  • TomatoIceCream 56
    TomatoIceCream 56 9 days ago

    Didn’t need this video to know this 😂

  • milz man
    milz man 10 days ago

    I mean I like the anthem

  • stuckinDetroit65
    stuckinDetroit65 10 days ago

    The line *No refuge could save the hireling, and slave* was referring to the Hessian mercenaries(hirelings), and the British regulars whom were all subjects(slaves) of the Crown. Nice try at revising history though!

  • Hi there white people I find your IGNORANCE CUTE


  • Advertisement
    Advertisement 10 days ago

    Seven Nation Army Glitch Mob remix should be the next and new United States national anthem

  • Flimsy Fox
    Flimsy Fox 10 days ago +1

    *Insert triggered American who didn’t watch the video here*

  • Griffin the dragon hybrid

    Make it dubstep

  • Alleged Combustion
    Alleged Combustion 10 days ago

    Wotchic you Commies

  • SolOtis
    SolOtis 11 days ago

    You ruined my life to tell me that Whitney wasn't live... omg

  • AustralianUrbex
    AustralianUrbex 11 days ago

    God DAMN the one at 8:30 is so good

  • Ethan Phillips
    Ethan Phillips 11 days ago

    I don’t know what your talking about

  • Banjo Billy
    Banjo Billy 11 days ago

    Terrible? Is that a joke?

  • Haimy Ngo
    Haimy Ngo 11 days ago

    Can someone explain to me the whole part where "it's 12 notes so we shouldn't have to sing that as our anthem" ? Like I'm confused why that's a problem. Not saying I'm a great singer but I can sing the anthem because my choir teacher makes us every year. If people had such problem with singing it, can't they just practice until they get? Like learn to widen your vocal range, have better vowel, etc?

  • Cindy Song
    Cindy Song 11 days ago

    I like America the Beautiful better.

  • The Person who doesn't know How to make a name

    The star spangled banner is not that hard to sing.

  • Ground Banshee
    Ground Banshee 12 days ago

    Only commies think the star spangled banner is bad. And death is a preferable alternative to communism.

  • Thomas Hester
    Thomas Hester 12 days ago

    America the Beautiful >
    Plus it wasn’t written by a racist slaveowner like the current anthem

  • BASStard Brock
    BASStard Brock 12 days ago

    Hendrix was the best at singing the national anthem

  • Joshryne Rose
    Joshryne Rose 12 days ago

    Lmao can’t relate bc we sing the canadian national anthem ever morning at school

  • Sweella
    Sweella 13 days ago

    How could people not have liked Jose Felicianos version its amazing

  • Lina
    Lina 13 days ago

    Wait. A *slave owner* wrote a song about how his country is the country of the free?!

  • awesome box lord
    awesome box lord 13 days ago

    4:45 i see the canadian flag there lmao

  • Uriah Heep
    Uriah Heep 13 days ago

    Repeal the 13th amendment.