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 • 6 250

  • Vox
    Vox  13 days ago +387

    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=

    • James B
      James B Day ago

      Gianpaulo Francisco RIP OFFF OF ANOTHER VIDEO

    • Amanda Lee
      Amanda Lee 3 days ago

      Vox i

    • CubeOfBeef I inquired upon thou
      CubeOfBeef I inquired upon thou 3 days ago

      Credit Adam neely

    • Lady Slaton
      Lady Slaton 5 days ago

      Life Every Voice and Sing is the National Anthem For African Americans

    • Kevin Stevens
      Kevin Stevens 6 days ago

      Let’s disambiguate this passage: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave”. No refuge is simple enough, there is no safe haven, no place to hide from the bombing of Fort McHenry. Next: “The hireling and slave”, which are the domestic workers and the enslaved. The song does not encourage slavery but simply states the condition of current law at the time.
      Try the fifth Stanza written in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes: When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile,
      If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
      Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
      The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
      By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
      We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
      And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
      While the land of the free is the home of the brave.
      The phrase: “By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,” is also reflected in the 14th Amendment adopted in 1868 that gave birthright to newly freed slaves.
      If you think racist you only see racist. 19 States in the 1860 census had no slaves at all. According to the 1860 census only 8% of families in States that allowed slavery owned slaves. You should stop espousing ill will on people that had nothing to do with slavery. You should instead recognize those who died to give freedoms to the 13% of people who were denied their freedom by enslavement. You might try thinking in terms that 87% of Americans did not own slaves and that in 1860 slavery was predominantly endorsed by the “fire eaters” who were the sitting majority of the 1860 Democratic Party.

  • chucku00
    chucku00 Hour ago

    As much as I love and respect Cab Calloway I thought he was singing "That's amore" at 5:36 !

  • Orangelo
    Orangelo 6 hours ago

    4:58 WOMP WOMP

  • Sigurd aka Gusrid
    Sigurd aka Gusrid 7 hours ago

    Adam Neely was so nice about this you should be so grateful!

  • C. Dawson Pelfrey
    C. Dawson Pelfrey 8 hours ago

    New anthem, please. It's the song of the people, it should be easy and sung by all.

  • Matthew_Cash
    Matthew_Cash 8 hours ago

    This video just sucks.

  • Ike Anduha
    Ike Anduha 8 hours ago

    USSR national anthem is the perfect anthem

  • friedcash
    friedcash 9 hours ago

    adam neely

  • GoldDropper Fortnite
    GoldDropper Fortnite 10 hours ago

    At least James tried

  • Jok395
    Jok395 10 hours ago

    Honestly, the Battle Hymn of the Republic would be kinda badass.

  • Hector Garza
    Hector Garza 10 hours ago

    America the beautiful should be the national anthem

  • Fire Shock Gamer
    Fire Shock Gamer 10 hours ago +1

    It takes skill in this country not pity
    Get talent and learn from your mistake's

  • AWholeNewLOW !
    AWholeNewLOW ! 11 hours ago

    Copied from Adam Neely

  • Советский Коко

    Russian anthem

  • omer laval
    omer laval 11 hours ago

    It don't even slap tho

  • Danger MC
    Danger MC 11 hours ago

    lol wtf never knew this song was so difficult. I learned it when I was little and haven't forgotten a word and am still able to sing it (to at least a decent degree).

  • Elizabeth McCormick
    Elizabeth McCormick 12 hours ago

    This is why a lawyer should never be a poet!

  • funstuff81girl
    funstuff81girl 13 hours ago

    Lift every voice and sing is the black anthem, guys.

  • Mclovin
    Mclovin 13 hours ago

    I feel like any person who plays sports in America (especially football) knows the song by heart because they play it so much!

  • Cancer Guy Channel
    Cancer Guy Channel 14 hours ago

    So we got to change the national anthem because some snowflakes can’t sing it?

    CHOPPERGIRL's AIRWAR 16 hours ago

    Not your nation. Name one single law you drafted or made. Name one you can change, right now.
    You're living under someone else's rules, under someone else's flag, trying to sing someone else's song. It's not your nation.

  • Austin Massey
    Austin Massey 19 hours ago

    I've never had an issue singing our national anthem. It's not actually an issue for those who... Idk... Can remember the lyrics to a song?

  • Artemis Jones
    Artemis Jones 19 hours ago

    I just like how they make the one woman who's for the anthem look dumb and stupid and like she doesn't know what she's talking about while the black hair lady is intelligent and smart then they try to say Francis was a slave holder. Now they actually might be right but he lived in Boston which was a northern state were there was no slavery then they say that one line was about slavery when it was talking about British refugees when you look at the context but they conveniently only show the one line. Plus the anthem isn't going to change. Its like those who want us to use the metric system. Just because the world uses something doesn't mean we have to.

  • Endless Cover
    Endless Cover 20 hours ago

    the only ones who can really really sing the national anthem are basically Whitney Hudson beyonce Jennifer Hudson Demi Lovato and Kelly Clarkson

  • Bryan Salvador
    Bryan Salvador 20 hours ago

    Yo im not american but this is so interesting. 🤩

  • Guru da Ciência
    Guru da Ciência 20 hours ago


  • nauj1445
    nauj1445 20 hours ago

    Stolen video

  • Andika Hetris
    Andika Hetris 23 hours ago

    I'm not even american but I think your anthem is very very good, it doesn't sound too patriotic but rather sounds very hopeful..

  • erikbarrett85
    erikbarrett85 23 hours ago

    A.N. :/

  • Vex
    Vex 23 hours ago

    NO, Russia’s national anthem is 👌😫💯🅱️💸

  • Iskender Altan-Bonnet

    The problem is that American anthem is not iconic, our national anthem is the most famous. Plus, on a gagné le coup du monde.

  • habojspade
    habojspade Day ago

    I understand that you skipped Hendrix because he doesn't sing it, but his is the greatest version ever recorded, hands down.

  • Ciro Giles
    Ciro Giles Day ago

    Why all examples of people singing the US anthem are in sports events? Don't you have any other place to show patriotism?

  • ZolarBlx
    ZolarBlx Day ago

    try changing the lyrics? plz dont criticize me

    LALA LAND Day ago

    how about you don't rip off adam neely

  • Zangster
    Zangster Day ago

    Y’all normies don’t have a vocal range of at least 2 octaves? Or know any metric modulation? Or how to subdivide?

    Good. Neither do I.

  • saverlater123
    saverlater123 Day ago

    4:58 the comment about Francis Scott Key being a slave holder was actually unnecessary under this video’s context. Nice try causing drama about the national anthem.

  • Chloe Lim
    Chloe Lim Day ago

    In Singapore we sing our national anthem everyday

  • Snifey
    Snifey Day ago

    here a bright idea just change that national anthem into that song saying let freedom rings

  • That Fact Guy
    That Fact Guy Day ago


  • Dylan Decker
    Dylan Decker Day ago

    Easy as your “ABC”, love America.

  • Dylan Decker
    Dylan Decker Day ago

    False, it easy to sing

  • Brittany Bonto
    Brittany Bonto Day ago

    lol we sing our national anthem every single day at school for our flag ceremony (i thought every other country does that)

  • Urfie
    Urfie Day ago

    Im not American but I can sing the anthem with ease. Is it really that hard?

  • James B
    James B Day ago

    Everyone report this video it's originally made by Adam Neely and vox ripped off his video minute by minute report this

  • hockyman555
    hockyman555 Day ago

    Why does it not surprise me that none the vox employees know the lyrics to the anthem?

  • Ricky
    Ricky Day ago

    These Adam Neely fans are ridiculous. Neither Vox nor Adam Neely are the first to analyze the anthem. They didn't 'steal' his video.
    Also - he literally made a video explaining that he doesn't think they 'stole' it. Jeez.

  • wig
    wig Day ago

    being a singer and having to sing this almost every year i know the notes by heart

  • Steven Liddicoat

    Adam Neely did it first.

  • Kitkat Moon
    Kitkat Moon Day ago

    Sohyang's version is amazing

  • Diallo Banks
    Diallo Banks Day ago

    This is just like Adam Neely's video. Which is better.

  • Sam Garnett
    Sam Garnett Day ago +1

    Americans are cringy af ( no offence tho)

    BL1TZKRI3G Day ago

    _do you get the joke? i'm canadian_

  • Commit
    Commit Day ago

    Yeah nice ripoff of Adam Neely's content, Vox... could've at least credited him or included him in the video if you were intending to plagiarize his content...

  • EarthClad
    EarthClad Day ago

    No, it's plain bad

  • Alperen Acik
    Alperen Acik 2 days ago

    Please Explain the Lumineers and why they’re so unreal

  • •Chia•
    •Chia• 2 days ago

    Doesn't matter how good or bad you sing it its still being sang

  • Eric Medina
    Eric Medina 2 days ago

    8:14 "Like these singers?" Wow, so much diversity. No Lady Gaga? Really?

  • amiel asparen
    amiel asparen 2 days ago

    do a video Philippine's national anthem

  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton 2 days ago

    You can't just change years of tradition just like that tho

  • Christian Castaneda
    Christian Castaneda 2 days ago

    the real anthem that is good is the russian one, energetic and happy sounding like.

    DJBATMANGOLD 2 days ago

    It's only hard to sing for people who either, can't read music notes, or don't know the song.

  • clarybell90
    clarybell90 2 days ago

    But.... Anyone can eventually be taught to have a range over an octave. And there have now been versions made that make it easier for altos, tenors, and bases to sing it.

  • Mparker123wolf
    Mparker123wolf 2 days ago +1

    I know the words.

  • PoutineProductions
    PoutineProductions 2 days ago

    I actually like the anthem of Mexico. Star Spangled Banner is unique. And I love it too.

    DJBATMANGOLD 2 days ago +1

    Why is it bad? It's ring is perfect, easy to sing and remember, and it's about one of the greatestbwars in history.

  • Israel Hernandez
    Israel Hernandez 2 days ago


  • Arcane Wisdom TV
    Arcane Wisdom TV 2 days ago

    I imagine to most Americans the national anthem is like the Bible. Untouchable.

  • jj medick
    jj medick 2 days ago

    RIP Marvin Gaye! 🙏🙏🙏

  • jj medick
    jj medick 2 days ago

    RIP Whitney Houston! 🙏🙏🙏

  • TheGobious
    TheGobious 2 days ago

    That’s why we need a diva to sing the national anthem

  • Thevolumex
    Thevolumex 2 days ago

    Jose Feliciano in 1968 created the first and a great soulful rendition of the song. So Sad his career payed this forever, for this We losing a true genius musician

  • Voluntary
    Voluntary 3 days ago

    the best version is sung by the Alexandrov Ensemble IMO

  • Jackson The Epic
    Jackson The Epic 3 days ago

    The Anthem by Good Charlotte

  • Kelly Van
    Kelly Van 3 days ago

    I know the anthem

  • brbhmg
    brbhmg 3 days ago

    How there you not metion Gaga??

  • utanono
    utanono 3 days ago

    The Indonesian national anthem starts off with a high note.

  • Emmi the Cat Frog
    Emmi the Cat Frog 3 days ago

    Why are you guys complaining about the highest note ( C# )? That’s not that hard to sing in chest voice.

  • Reichtangle
    Reichtangle 3 days ago

    It's should be Toto - Africa

  • Blue Pearl
    Blue Pearl 3 days ago

    I Love Whitney Houston 😍

  • stagespectre
    stagespectre 3 days ago

    The tune is based on a drinking song. Try singing it as such.

  • PotatoTomato T-T
    PotatoTomato T-T 3 days ago

    In Mariah’s rendition, she sings from lowest to highest E3-B6.
    More than three octaves.

  • Paz Scalz
    Paz Scalz 3 days ago

    Unsubbed. #AdamNeely
    Buh bye.

  • try it
    try it 3 days ago +1

    This is horrible VOX is calling the US National Anthem “terrible” You guys are a bunch of anti-americans who have nothing better to do than to just bash on trump all day to get your ratings up. Then you call the national anthem “terrible” There is so many people who have sacrificed their lives for the US, and we have so many government officials and veterans who have worked so hard, and now it’s ok to call the US National Anthem “terrible”. You guys are just a bunch of fake news terrorist supporters.

  • Inivican
    Inivican 3 days ago

    In all seriousness, I prefer "Battle Cry of Freedom"

  • Inivican
    Inivican 3 days ago

    For awhile I thought Despacito was the new National Anthem.

  • Zachary Boyce
    Zachary Boyce 3 days ago

    O Canada, our home and native land...

  • IntOverflow
    IntOverflow 3 days ago

    It's just terrible, not perfect

  • Mountain Man
    Mountain Man 3 days ago

    The American national anthem is fine, if you have a problem with the anthem, just come to another country.

  • æsthëtïç_ mëmê

    Ehhhhhhhh I like the Canadian Anthem

  • Stoi T
    Stoi T 3 days ago

    Get Kanye on it

  • Eric Taylor
    Eric Taylor 3 days ago

    The tune comes from a German drinking song.

  • Bassem Boustany
    Bassem Boustany 3 days ago

    As a non-American, I just like that the anthem mentions rockets flying. If that's not American I don't know what is.

  • Yo Mama
    Yo Mama 3 days ago

    No mention of Jimi Hendrix? Seriously?

  • Camila Ferrabone L
    Camila Ferrabone L 3 days ago

    In my country we have to sing our national anthem every Monday at schools and they play it at 6:00 am every day, i think its a law or something.

    DRAKKENFIRE22 3 days ago

    Thank you, Vox, for actually focusing on the composition and history of the song; and not droning on about social justice in America and how Francis Scott Key was the typical white Christian heterosexual male who took pleasure in owning slaves (the brief mention that he was a slave owner wasn't necessary since many white Americans were or wanted to be). When you guys are able to talk about an issue without your liberal bias, you sound like real journalists. Please continue this type of good work and make it a habit.

  • Bukkake G0d
    Bukkake G0d 3 days ago

    The star spangled banner doesn’t even slap

  • Kiara Ruiz
    Kiara Ruiz 3 days ago

    Awe I like how people started singing with the girl at the end

  • Jessica Carvalho
    Jessica Carvalho 3 days ago

    Don't wanna be rude but the national anthem should be something you can sing from your heart at the top of your lungs and not something to be sung by a 5 star singer in a stadium.
    And if we are going to talk about the anthem in sports, in my opinion, it is much more fascinating when everyone in the stadium is singing along. Go watch football (soccer) anthem to see.
    So you can compare here is the Portuguese Football Team in the 2004 Euro Final in Portugal singing the anthem: tvclip.biz/video/_Jg68IUjQ0Q/video.html

  • Zebroid
    Zebroid 3 days ago

    I’ll have you know The USSR National Anthem has the best Anthem