Sunday, February 3

Anthem

Super Bowl Sunday, when two American football teams attempt to beat each other into a juicy pulp, is a media hype-fest with said football game added for color. The purpose of the bowl is to sell things. This, it would  seem, is the secondary purpose for all American sporting events. 

The primary purpose is apparently to go on at great length about how patriotic we Americans are, complete with a video-punctuated reading of the Declaration of Independence with a faux Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers garbed in historical frippery, the whole production intercut with images of young military men in desert camo, staring at the camera with a combination of youthful bravado and abject terror. The fact that most Americans couldn't tell you who their congressman is, much less find Washington D.C. on a map or ever even bother to exercise their vote, is never mentioned

Meanwhile, back at the big production, we prepare for the icing on the patriotic cake, the ceremonial singing (!) of the National Anthem. At today's Super Bowl, the task was handed to one Jordin Sparks, she of the latter-day Ted Mack Amateur Hour, now known as American Idol. Ms. Sparks is a genuine talent. We know this because she won a globally-televised talent contest, and though she is quite pretty, she is somewhat zaftig. This, in Barbie-land is usually a deal-breaker.
Ms. Sparks did what she was asked to do - she sang the song, and in doing so, added the now-requisite embellishments, grace notes and R&B warbles to Francis Scott Key's poem-set-to- music. To further punctuate the silly-singing idea, there was a military fly-over at the end of the Anthem. Outside. They flew over outside a domed stadium. 71,000 people didn't see it happen. A powerful show of military force that only the parking lot attendants will remember.
Anyway, what I'm not clear on is why we bother will the National Anthem to begin with. These aren't nationally-endorsed events. There is no nationalized support of the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA or Professional Croquet Leagues.


To allow the R&B or Country/Pop flavor of the day take a vocal machete to the Star Spangled Banner is criminal. It wasn't written to be sung by R. Kelly or the lovely Ms. Sparks. It was barely meant to be sung at all.
"The Defense of Fort McHenry", as written by Key, was set to music long known as a British drinking song. (The Brits are really good at organized drinking and the vocal camaraderie that makes it all seem less like debauchery than good, clean fun.) "To Anachreon In Heaven" was sung in a robust 6/4 time, and in modern times was reduced to simple 4/4 time to make it seem more balanced and less awkward and syncopated. 

It is martial music. It is a march. Anyone who doesn't believe this should listen to the United States Marine Band play it. If you don't have a lump in your throat after hearing it done correctly, you're a Canadian. This should not discourage you, however, as Canada has one of the most powerful, singable anthems I know of. "O' Canada" is a beautiful song about patriots' love for their home. It is not about a flag.

We could have done better than The Star Spangled Banner for a national anthem, (America the Beautiful comes to mind.) but as long as we've agreed on it, don't let the vocal "stylists" fuck it up.

While I'm on a rant, Kansas City Chiefs football fans who finish singing the anthem with "the land of the free and the home of the Chiefs," should be taken out behind Fort McHenry, stripped and beaten. They'd be the first to build a gallows if someone burned an American flag, but they'll gladly piss all over the flag every time they sing about it at a football game. We really could do better than that.

Thus spake the Rabbit.

1 comment:

Spyder said...

Very true about the Canadian national anthem! I thought she did a decent enough job with a song that is difficult to sing. But you are right that America the Beautiful would have been a better anthem. Good post!