The Dirt Is Red!

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Change the National Anthem? No way!

Something interesting happened when Christina Aguilera butchered the National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl on February 2nd. A contingent of people began to more vocally recommend that we change our National Anthem to “something simpler”. Now being honest, recommending that we use another song for our National Anthem isn’t really that new. I’ve heard quite a few excuses over the years as to why various people want to change our National Anthem to another song (maybe something by Hinder would work for them, then cover bands could do it too!). However, this time there was something new in this story for me to hate. These people were saying that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was too difficult to sing… To the point that nearly no one could ever sing it correctly! Now this is when fear really gripped me. I’ve heard this particular song performed hundreds of times in my life and the vast majority of the times I’ve heard it I thought it was done pretty darn well. Obviously I was wrong! Every time I heard the song it was awful, because the song is completely unsingable! I guess now would be a good time to stop teaching it to my kids, just to be sure they never experience a disappointment at the hands of something that can’t be mastered.

According to Michael Kinsley (from the article linked earlier):

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is notoriously unsingable. A professor of music, Caldwell Titcomb of Brandeis, pointed out years ago in the New Republic that its melody spans nearly two octaves, when most people are good for one octave, max. The first eight lines are one enormous sentence with subordinate clauses, leaving no really good place to take a breath. There are far too many mandatory leaps off the high board (“. . . what so PROU-dly we hail . . .”).

Of course, Christina Aguilera understandably had a really difficult time with the range on this song, with her severely limited vocal range. According to Wikipedia:

Her vocal range extends from G below middle C to C one octave above soprano high C (G3 – C7).

Mr. Kinsley completely ignored the fact that Christina Aguilera, someone who gets paid millions of dollars to sing songs… forgot the words! I’m not knocking Christina’s ability, she has an amazing voice. And being honest everyone forgets the words at some point. It’s unfortunate for her that she forgot the words to that song, in front of that audience. But hey, it happens.


My real problem is an approach many people seem to be taking lately regarding impressive accomplishments: “If something is too hard for some people, we should make it easier so all people can do it.” I hate this thought pattern with every fiber in my being.

Everyone has, at some time, looked at someone who has achieved something amazing and thought, “Boy, I sure would like to be able to do that!” It’s only natural. When you think that, common knowledge dictates that there are essentially two approaches: 1) Work your tail off (like the person you are admiring likely did) and never give up until you either achieve your goal or die trying; 2) Don’t do anything and never accomplish the amazing. Nothing worth having comes without a price, and the price for accomplishment is hard work, sacrifice and perserverence.

Oh but wait! There are those who want you to have yet a third option! Lower the difficulty of the accomplishment so that anyone can do it without having to make any personal changes or sacrifices. It seems that these people look at those amazingly accomplished individuals and think, “If I could do what they are doing, I’d be amazing too!” when the truth is, they are average at said activity because they choose to be. If “average you” could do what “incredible them” are doing “you” wouldn’t become amazing, what they were doing would become average!

I am not a vocalist who has spent 25 years honing my voice to be a finely tuned fighting machine… er… instrument. Chances are, neither are you. As such, neither of us deserve to have the honor of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL. Christina Aguilera is an accomplished vocalist who spent many, many years earning the right to take a shot at singing the nation’s most important song on its biggest stage. She got the chance and she blew it. That is no indictment on her abilities to sing it well. In fact, she has sung it well many, many times. But in this case, she simply blew it.

So just because some celebrity singer forgot words doesn’t mean we should clamor for a way to dumb down our National Anthem to accommodate people who can’t sing it. Either come to grips with being average (and enjoy singing the song badly, like I do) or get off your rear and work to become amazing. Stomping your feet like an insolent child and demanding that the system change to coddle your personal deficiencies robs the accomplished of their accomplishments and the admirers of an object of admiration. Oh, and it makes you look like a tool.


While we’re on the subject, someone should tell these poor, poor kids that they’re awful. They just can’t sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” very well because… well… it’s quite simply unsingable.

Of course I’m being sarcastic. These girls are awesome. Every time I watch this I get chills. It is a special, difficult song and when performed well, that, too should be special. And that is why I’m against changing our National Anthem.



February 25, 2011

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