Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grading the Anthems

I'm still searching for that elusive, perfect National Anthem. I'm usually white-knuckling it when I watch sporting events, either because the singer starts off shakily or picks a key that's too high and I'll spend the entire song holding my breath because I know something gotta break, and it's probably going to be some hapless bastard's voice.

Or -- and this is almost worse -- the singer sounds fantastic and I'm just waiting for them to get to "Land of the freeeeeee" and fuck it up because the singer in question decides that now is the perfect time to bust out some melisma or "make it their own" or decide that melodies are overrated. Case in point:

What did the word "free" ever do to you, Carrie? You sounded amazing for the first 9/10 of the song. You just couldn't resist, could you? Everyone does this, even if it's not this specific offense, but they've got to find some way to screw it up. Everyone.

Yeah, the "Star-Spangled Banner" is a difficult song to sing. I understand this. As far as national anthems go, it's not high on the list. Australia and Canada already have us beat when it comes to the prettier tunes, and those are just the English-speaking ones. And the long "eee" vowel is sent from Hell, especially if it's at the top of one's range. It's just not a pretty sound and singers have to find some way to salvage it. I get it.

But my own vocal range is approximately half an octave and I can get through the song without killing myself, so there's really no reason for a professional singer to duff the song. Seeing as we've been hearing a lot of anthems lately courtesy of the NFL playoffs, let's judge a few, shall we?

Martina McBride - Steelers vs. Jets

Gorgeous, even though she probably could have dropped it down a half step and saved herself a little strain. Also, honey? I'm pretty sure Francis Scott Key didn't include "Yeah!" at the end of his poem. Just sayin'.

Grade: B, for extraneous lyrics.
Punishment: Followed around by Lil' Jon for a week.

Sully Erna - Jets vs. Patriots

 I admit, my reaction to hearing the lead singer of Godsmack would be doing the anthem was along the lines of, "...really?" But Sully's not a bad singer, and if anyone's not going to bother oversinging it, it'll be him. It wasn't televised, because if anyone's going to improvise and add "fuck" to the lyrics, well.

That was... actually really good. Fair play to you, sir.

Grade: A, for singing it straight.
Punishment: Lead singer of a band called "Godsmack."

Zac Brown Band - Falcons vs. Packers

Almost excellent, but there's a wanky harmony happening in the first half. Simple and pretty, which is how I like it.

Grade: B+, for nice harmonies and offensive facial hair.
Punishment: Waxing.

Kris Allen - Pro Bowl

Okay, so the hula dancers are a little weird. And I've never been to the Land of the Fraaay, but it sounds like a nice place. Very pretty.

Grade: A- for good vocals and tight white t-shirts.
Punishment: Forbidden to wear shirts.

Christina Aguilera - Superbowl

I... didn't know the National Anthem had that many syllables. She's fighting the lyrics, her diminishing range, her make-up artist, and taste. It's pretty painful.

Grade: C-.
Punishment: Out-sung by the guy from Godsmack.


  1. Heeee. I loved this post.

    Especially Kris's punishment.


  2. She had to add all the extra syllables to make up for missing the entire "o'er the ramparts" line.