Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh say, can you sing?

Christina Aguilera's slightly botched rendition of the US national anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday has been quite a hot topic, and has a nice overview of some even worse versions. But the thing that amazes me is that so few people are pointing out that she has screwed up the Stars and Stripes before.

What so proudly we what?

She did it better when she was eight.

If you want to waste some time, search for "worst national anthem" at YouTube.

Incidentally, my biggest culture shock last summer in the US was all of the situations where the national anthem is sung. In a park with fried chicken in my hands, a concert was about to start given by the local big-band, and the first two was the national anthem. With greasy hands, I was completely unprepared, leading one of the people with me to sternly warn: "Take off your hat."

I'm not sure what it's like in France, Spain, the Netherlands, etc., but in Germany the national anthem is not played at concerts, football games, and other similar events. I rather like this guy's take on the ubiquity of the national anthem in the US. He also talks about how the event gradually became so commonplace over the last century at sports events

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the US national anthem is probably the most difficult one of all to sing. It stretches roughly over nearly an octave and a half, which is about all the range your average Joe has. A skilled singer with more than two octaves nonetheless has to carefully choose the key – if you start off too high, you'll be pushing your luck when you hit the high notes. The German national anthem, for instance, stretches across one octave exactly and only hits the top note once. In Stars and Stripes, you have to go to the major third in the second octave twice.

Fortunately, my vocal range is well over three octaves, so if you want me at next year's Super Bowl, I promise to get the lyrics right.
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