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The Pow Wow

The National Anthem is outdated – and it’s time to change it

Evan Gerike, Managing Editor

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At the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles last month, Fergie earned the opportunity to do one of the most prestigious things a singer can do: sing the Star-Spangled Banner in front of a national crowd on live television. And she absolutely killed it.

Literally. The national anthem was murdered by the same singer who delivered us Clumsy.

If you’ve been living under a rock for a while, and have not heard Fergie’s National Anthem, imagine the way your mom sings Uptown Funk to you in the car on the way home from the grocery store: out of tune, out of time, and completely ridiculous. She tried to be 3008 with the song, adding innovative rhythms and creative new notes to change it up, but she only ended up being two thousand-and-late. Even the players had to stop their laughter when they noticed they had been caught on camera.

As bad as her version was, it still might not be the worst version ever. On July 25, 1990, Roseanne Barr sang the anthem at a baseball game in San Diego. She screeched out the notes, even worse than Fergie’s, and rushed through the song without any intent of honoring the country.

The performances were awful. But maybe we shouldn’t pin all of our blame on the singers themselves. Part of it should be pointed at the song.

The Star-Spangled Banner was originally written as a poem by Francis Scott Key, who was inspired after witnessing the fight at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The poem was later set to the tune of a popular British song, which was already well known in the United States. It remained one of many popular patriotic songs until 1931 when President Herbert Hoover officially made it the national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner has quite a reputation for being difficult to sing, thanks to a difficult key and a wide range. The key is in A-flat, which is not as common as other keys. The range also includes 19 semitones, or half-steps, which many people do not have the vocal range for. The combination of these two things make the anthem harder to perform well, and not everyone can.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to sing. Jim Cornelison, the regular anthem singer for the Chicago Blackhawks, delivers a beautiful rendition of the song before each Hawks home game. Paired with the atmosphere in the United Center as everyone screams throughout his performance, and you have one of the coolest anthem rituals in sports.

Not only is the song written in a manner that makes it easy to be poorly sung, it is also set to a popular British tune. Even with America originally being a British colony, it would only seem to make sense to have a completely American national anthem. America rages with patriotism, yet one of the most essential parts of American culture is not fully American.
What song could replace the Star-Spangled Banner and be way more American? Another one of the most patriotic songs in America – America the Beautiful. Written in America, by Americans, to an American tune, it is already more patriotic than the Star-Spangled Banner. It sits in a way better key – B flat – and has a much more generous range that makes it easier for everyone to sing.

The lyrics represent America better than the Star-Spangled Banner. The current national anthem is entirely based on one battle and the Stars and Stripes still standing after it. America the Beautiful, however, is entirely about the beauty found throughout the country, from sea to shining sea. The lyrics provide a generally more appropriate feel for a national anthem, expressing a tone through its words of a truly magnificent country.

I’m not trying to be unpatriotic. While this country is certainly far from being the best in the world, I still appreciate living here, but the anthem needs to be changed to something better. Whether it is America the Beautiful, or something more likely to be chosen by Twitter, such as Trumpets by Jason Derulo, it’s past the time for the Star-Spangled Banner.

About the Writer
Evan Gerike, Managing Editor

Evan Gerike is excited to spend his senior year as the Managing Editor on the Pow Wow staff. After he leaves the publications room, he can be found on...

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The National Anthem is outdated – and it’s time to change it