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 • 9 844

  • Vox
    Vox  6 months ago +863

    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 Month 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 2 months ago

      I really thought it was terrible

    • Jack Daniels
      Jack Daniels 2 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 3 months ago

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

    • Toryu-Mau
      Toryu-Mau 4 months ago

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

  • Andrei Emmanuel Toledo

    Philippines can relate
    Lupang Hinirang is Very high

  • Darren Williams
    Darren Williams Day ago

    They had really good facts, but I still feel this is one of the greatest national anthems written.

  • El Señor W
    El Señor W 2 days ago +1

    The best anthem is the USSR anthem

  • LUCKY_striker123
    LUCKY_striker123 2 days ago


  • TheRealEmeraldSword /TES

    I personally believe we should replace the national anthem with Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • KudosK
    KudosK 3 days ago

    God don’t bless America,
    America should bless God
    Americans are so inverted.

  • KudosK
    KudosK 3 days ago +1

    10k Americans disliked this video.


  • KudosK
    KudosK 3 days ago +1

    Welcome to America, were all special!

  • The Pip
    The Pip 3 days ago

    I live in Canada, and the worst thing about our national anthem is that its kinda boring. Also I keep accidentally switching to singing it in french when I don't mean to, since I've probably heard both versions just as often. I love newfoundland's anthem "ode to newfoundland". It makes newfoundland sound like a terrible place to live, which it is. Here are some of the lyrics:
    When spreads thy cloak of shimm'ring white
    At Winter's stern command
    Thro' shortened day and starlit night
    We love thee frozen land
    We love thee, we love thee,
    We love thee frozen land.
    When blinding storm gusts fret thy shore
    And wild waves lash thy strand
    Thro' spindrift swirl and tempest roar
    We love thee wind-swept land
    We love thee, we love thee,
    We love thee wind-swept land.
    Are all Newfoundlanders crazy?

  • Lumine
    Lumine 4 days ago

    Error 404 Comment not found

  • Trillo 333
    Trillo 333 4 days ago

    I didn't cry once
    ... until the coach at the end

  • River Rose
    River Rose 4 days ago

    national anthem.
    Lift every voice and sing....

  • Ragnar Danneskjöld
    Ragnar Danneskjöld 5 days ago

    The Star Spangled Banner is the best anthem ever composed, not just musically, but because it tells the story, in a single song, of how the Americans defeated the British Empire-not through force of arms, but with an idea: live free or die.

    • Rishi Behal
      Rishi Behal Day ago

      Nah the best Musically is the French one

  • MD88Pilot
    MD88Pilot 5 days ago

    Youre not a true American if you dont know the lyrics to the anthem.

  • Maximum Melody
    Maximum Melody 6 days ago

    The star spangled banner is an incredibly difficult song to sing even for experienced singers so people who have a hard time singing it shouldn’t beat themselves up to much.

  • Dillon Johns
    Dillon Johns 6 days ago

    Way to rip off Adam Neely's video. Weak stuff.

  • Tim Mackie
    Tim Mackie 7 days ago +1

    There is no song that will ever replace the national ant...

    "Hey, I can be the answer..."

  • Funky Monkey
    Funky Monkey 7 days ago

    Psh it’s not the composers fault for making a song the artist can’t sing....

  • MylesMCL
    MylesMCL 7 days ago

    Wow it has difficult musical techniques?

  • Juano Yapur
    Juano Yapur 8 days ago

    That anthem is unsingeable unless you got afroamericans living there so

  • Ligma Nose
    Ligma Nose 8 days ago

    The song, minus the lyrics is actually British. The musician is called John Stafford Smith and he composed the song around the 1770's called 'To Anacreon in heaven' which is a British drinking song that played in a London Gentlemen's Club (don't know why it can't be identified).
    To Anacreon in heaven was popular in the USA, and such it became the official recognised USA anthem around the 1930's.
    Not saying there's plagiarism since other countries copy other anthems and add their own lyrics. This was in a time where copyright and the internet didn't exist but yeah, it's interesting.

  • Ayda
    Ayda 8 days ago

    The Canadian national anthem's easy. So easy in fact, at my school we sing it everyday in the mornings. Plus when you have French first period then my teacher makes you sing it in French, she even has the lyrics hung up in her classroom.

  • Duchesse de Berne
    Duchesse de Berne 9 days ago

    The Swiss national anthem is quite nice. It's lika a mixture of a nature song with Jesus inside. People want to get rid of it for quite a while now ;)

  • Nicola Coppola
    Nicola Coppola 9 days ago

    Maybe in the past it was just played instrumentally more then sung....

  • Nicola Coppola
    Nicola Coppola 9 days ago

    Amazing, it should be swapped.... Or rewritten....

  • Emily Walker
    Emily Walker 10 days ago

    Your “music theory expert” wasn’t even singing the right notes-you’ve gotta be kidding me. It may be hard, but it’s not THAT hard. Seriously pathetic.

  • Phuc Huu Bich
    Phuc Huu Bich 10 days ago

    *_Bring Hail, Columbia! back_*

  • TheEnglishQuail
    TheEnglishQuail 11 days ago

    jesus christ vox is stupid

  • LB music
    LB music 11 days ago

    Brazil's anthem is good

  • TheLogicJunkie
    TheLogicJunkie 12 days ago

    If you don't take the time to study the lyrics and understand what they're saying beforehand, you won't understand what's really going on in the song, and so you probably won't be able to remember the words when it's time to sing the whole thing.
    If you do make this effort beforehand, what you discover about the song is that it's asking each of us, as we're listening to it, wherever and whenever we are in our current times, if the America of that time when the song was written still exists in our time and, if it still exists, does it still exist as THE one and only land and home for the one and only free and the one and only brave, as it did way back when the song was first written. Or, has America since fallen and been replaced with something else that is no longer a stronghold of freedom and bravery?
    That's what the song is doing -- it's asking something of the listener of the future. And so it's more than just a song, it's a message in a bottle for inhabitants of the future. It's a time capsule in verse and melody -- a time machine song.

  • Joan Brunet Verdaguer
    Joan Brunet Verdaguer 12 days ago +1

    should learn from Spain

  • Fosygirl
    Fosygirl 13 days ago

    It says nobody can sing it with a normal esophagus but an esophagus is used to digest food so it should of said trachea.

  • Carrie Frederick
    Carrie Frederick 13 days ago

    1) Francis Scott Key wrote a poem which would later be composed to be the national anthem, so don’t blame him.
    2) our anthem is amazing
    3) the notes in this case are guidelines, meant to start in your comfortable range. Unless it is sung by a chorus or the performer really wants to, you don’t have to hit a high F.

  • Bacon soldier
    Bacon soldier 14 days ago

    The USSR anthem.

  • Xx[Beat It]xX
    Xx[Beat It]xX 14 days ago +1


  • Random Person
    Random Person 14 days ago

    Sounds like communist propaganda but ok

  • Bob Tav
    Bob Tav 14 days ago +1

    It's a special song and it just takes a special kind of person to sing it !!

  • Saintsberry
    Saintsberry 15 days ago

    I sang the nation anthem at my graduation

  • Dee Streb
    Dee Streb 15 days ago

    Francis scott key's grandson was killed by his girlfriend's husband. dan sickles, the husband, got off on the first case of temporary insanity in the us. brigadier general dan sickles then lost a leg in the civil war, gave it to a museum, and visited it every day for the rest of his life. weird didn't start recently.

  • ACIDesignsUY
    ACIDesignsUY 15 days ago

    If you play side by side in a stadium the USA Anthem against let say France, or England, or Uruguay, or South Africa, or Argentina or Scotland in a sport event with a 50/50 attendance, US crow will always be come short. Go and watch those anthems in stadiums before, I link some examples
    FRANCE: tvclip.biz/video/k9J6rFWTfVA/video.html
    SCOTLAND: tvclip.biz/video/daQCPz-pNGg/video.html
    ENGLAND: tvclip.biz/video/EY7F5j0PTIM/video.html
    ARGENTINA: tvclip.biz/video/Afp89oE4K6U/video.html
    SOUTH AFRICA: tvclip.biz/video/TdG7pEgzV5Q/video.html
    URUGUAY: tvclip.biz/video/mBr7W1sBTVA/video.html

  • Divyajeet Singh
    Divyajeet Singh 16 days ago

    USSR ANTHEM👌👌👌🤘🤘🤘

  • Dustin Youngren
    Dustin Youngren 16 days ago

    The reason it’s out there is because when we finally get near the middle or end of the song when somebody says free. It’s a roller coaster of building up and that’s when the emotional part comes.

  • Dragon Gaming
    Dragon Gaming 16 days ago

    We just miss you nippy😢

  • lime _fist
    lime _fist 16 days ago +1

    What's up with you people and changing tradition?

  • Raphael Maciejewski
    Raphael Maciejewski 16 days ago

    Eh Adam neely did it better

  • Phantom
    Phantom 16 days ago

    My vocal range is 4 octaves so I'm fine

  • Proud Confederate
    Proud Confederate 17 days ago +1

    Shut up VOX

  • ChannelX24
    ChannelX24 17 days ago +1

    Just another leftist organision trying to tear down the traditions of the US.

  • xx mercedes swiftie xx

    the star spangled banner is trash. the American national anthem should be 'America the beautiful'

  • Ethan Cruz
    Ethan Cruz 17 days ago

    Who every was born in 1991 on january 27 ya'll lucky you were born that year

  • Tenzin Kalsang
    Tenzin Kalsang 18 days ago

    That's why NFL players sit during the anthem

  • Zhi Qi Yeoh
    Zhi Qi Yeoh 18 days ago +1

    At least it's original. Or does not happen to clash with an Indonesian pop song.

    • jakmanxyom
      jakmanxyom 15 days ago

      1. The Star Spangled Banner's melody was based on a drinking song - "To Anacreon in Heaven".
      2. It was a sultanate's anthem long before the concept of Indonesia was even borne...because there wasn't one before - the sultan had to improvise it on the spot based on what he heard in his exile to Seychelles. (Stupid, I know.)

  • JimNS
    JimNS 18 days ago

    Murica.. Over the top and only accessible by the few.. Says so much. #FailedNation #FuckAmerica

  • RaDD C
    RaDD C 18 days ago

    Because it don't slap

  • John Mcdonagh
    John Mcdonagh 18 days ago

    Mine is in Irish try saying that

  • My Sandwich Is A Fried Boot

    Old white people: we need to fix the National anthem!!!1!1!1

  • Gabe Garvin
    Gabe Garvin 19 days ago +1

    Just because you suck at singing the song doesn’t mean it’s bad. I have no range in singing yet I can sing the song just fine.

  • Javen
    Javen 19 days ago

    Im not american but i can sing it better than my own country's national anthem

  • Samantha Ellwood
    Samantha Ellwood 19 days ago

    Oh Canada is great. Please move to Canada. Please.

  • downbntout
    downbntout 19 days ago

    I say we keep it. Guy hears nonstop bombing all night, he's in jail in this fort so he can't leave, and he knows as soon as the English take possession he's a goner. Soon as it's light he looks out and-- yes! The impossible has prevailed! He writes the song at a frenzied speed, hands jittery with joy! I see our flag in a good breeze looking as proud as a horse's head, and I think "gallantly streaming" is about right

    ZGIDKOOF 19 days ago +1

    Maybe Brendon Urie can sing the next

  • Juan Marco
    Juan Marco 19 days ago

    Lol im a Filipino living in the Philippines and never set foot in America and the Star Spangled Banned give me goosebumps and somtimes I cry. I even got angry hearing fergie's version. Dont get me wrong I love Lupang Hinirang the Philippine National Antherm and I also have difficilty singing it but anyhow I sing it with all of my heart because it is already part of our history

  • Jr Animator
    Jr Animator 19 days ago

    the soviet anthem can be sung by anyone, but is still the best one i've heard.

  • Brianna Terese
    Brianna Terese 20 days ago

    Treacherous. Yes. 😂

  • Dave
    Dave 20 days ago

    Thanks for explaining! Always felt the US national anthem was difficult to sing but nice to see the theory behind how it straddles so many notes.

  • ohmygodohmygodohmygod

    A national anthem is for a nation, not some people that can sing good

  • Kuya RJ
    Kuya RJ 21 day ago

    Us anthem should change the tone or improve the tone

  • Southern Trucker Hicc
    Southern Trucker Hicc 22 days ago

    Why the US “””””””””national anthem”””””””””””” is terrible

  • Gazpacho 40000
    Gazpacho 40000 23 days ago

    Game five of the world series with for some reason America vs... America?

  • Paul Calixte
    Paul Calixte 23 days ago

    Vox, your videos are superb...usually. How you go through this without mentioning To Anacreon in Heaven even once is beyond me.

  • yaboi Swift
    yaboi Swift 24 days ago


  • Miss CoCCo
    Miss CoCCo 24 days ago

    Wow the us national anthem is not so good

  • GFM Productions
    GFM Productions 24 days ago

    There’s so many notes, the octaves, and this and that andjsjsiskme

    Listen the National Anthem is beautiful if you can’t sing that doesn’t make it bad listen to the lyrics, the sense of joy every time the song is played...but again you guys are a bunch of communist. I’m surprised you guys didn’t use USSR Anthem at all in this video. But hey whatever stay a salty liberal.

  • CHEZ lord 3000
    CHEZ lord 3000 24 days ago

    Why Vox is terrible, and no where near perfect

  • steven189111
    steven189111 24 days ago

    10K Dislikes. That says it ALL!

  • Phinx
    Phinx 24 days ago +1

    Who doesn’t know “What so proudly we hailed”?

    • downbntout
      downbntout 19 days ago

      at the twilight's last gleaming

  • gio
    gio 25 days ago

    Brazil anthem maybe be long but it's easy to sing

  • Phantom Bread
    Phantom Bread 25 days ago

    Here's why Vox is terrible

  • Robert Coe
    Robert Coe 25 days ago

    Also, the National Anthem’s melody is an English drinking song. So that’s why it’s so complicated. It was used as a sobriety test

  • Kelly Lincoln
    Kelly Lincoln 26 days ago

    It’s drinking song written for four independent voice.

  • fargeeks
    fargeeks 26 days ago

    Oh no I think it's terrible
    I like canadas anthem better

  • Larisaツ
    Larisaツ 26 days ago +2

    I just feel sooooo bad for the blind guy at 6:57😢
    I mean I know his song ended on the billboard but still

  • Sadie Schaeffer
    Sadie Schaeffer 26 days ago

    Wow that's crazy! I had never thought about the music theory behind this song before. It's crazy that the song that became our country's anthem had such a poorly written melody that breaks pretty much every single rule of counterpoint. Idk, it would be interesting to learn why this song was chosen and by whom

  • jean G
    jean G 27 days ago

    Whitney is queen

  • Bill Gates
    Bill Gates 29 days ago

    I’m from Canada, and I memorized our anthem in grade 1.

  • william lekstakaj
    william lekstakaj 29 days ago


  • sandalero
    sandalero 29 days ago

    interesting for everybody. theory wise or information wise (its probably not a word) musicians cringe at every second. i am really sorry. i want to say this in the most polite way possible and mean no disrespect whatsoever

  • SlenderTwin
    SlenderTwin 29 days ago

    Ok just because its hard doesn’t mean its bad. I’ve met plenty of High Schoolers that can sing this better than some pros. Kinda says you should just work for it.

  • Raptor D.O
    Raptor D.O Month ago

    Just be glad you have this instead of the Original.

  • Kylie Ann
    Kylie Ann Month ago +1

    its a mess of a song but.... its perfect for the US

  • TTL.
    TTL. Month ago

    Too religious? At least they sound better than all those white women and they know they words. Maybe you need religion.

  • Abma 020716
    Abma 020716 Month ago

    Dixie land

  • T ROLL
    T ROLL Month ago

    Original content or what Adam Neely?

  • opsimathics
    opsimathics Month ago

    what's the point of a national anthem if you need to hire a professional singer to interpret it
    is what I'm asking

  • Shadow Of Light
    Shadow Of Light Month ago

    How about we just bomb America?


  • PugBorg
    PugBorg Month ago

    Do you ever just have the Australian anthem to flex on these American anthem nibbas?

  • Frank Donado
    Frank Donado Month ago

    It's a war song, but it's also a song about surviving. So, whether you want it replaced depends on how you see war, IMO. I personally agree with all the people that say God Bless America should be our national anthem, but unfortunately the world is how it is, and it would just be too controversial, due to the religious nature of the lyrics.

  • Kugelspecht Einhorn

    One and a half octaves is NOTHING.