February 3, 2013

The notion that the National Anthem is too hard to sing, so it's better to lip-sync.

Argument replete with sympathy for Beyonce and video of bad singing by "seasoned professionals."

I completely disagree with this argument. It's the difficulty that makes the performance thrilling. It's the risk of failure that makes it daring. And by the way, it's a song about fighting a war, which is not a risk-free enterprise. No safety net there. It's not like these seasoned professionals are drafted to sing the old song. The fact that it's also an old drinking song — mentioned in the linked article — counts on the side of throwing caution to the wind and overcoming inhibitions and leaving the consequences — the shame — for the morrow.... in the land of the freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee....

60 comments:

rhhardin said...

It's a wretched song.

The original is decent, which explains how the outline made musical sense even if the current version doesn't.

BDNYC said...

It does sound like something to be sung by a group of drunk friends, rather than an individual performance piece.

edutcher said...

Fact is, everything else was phony that day, so why shouldn't Bouncy join in?

Besides, Barry's out of the closet as to which side he's on.

Tim said...

Geezuz.

More excuses.

We've become a nation of losers, looking for excuses, to rationalize our failures.

One could, potentially, have some compassion for the failed singer of the National Anthem...IF there weren't so many examples of successful, rousing renditions of the song.

Losers.

Fucking losers.

Obama voters, no doubt.

Mark O said...

It is not a difficult song to sing. It is, however, a march. And a waltz. All across America little kids sing it, without mistake, at the start of all sorts of sporting and other events.

Much harder was the piece James Taylor played and sang in the arrangement he wrote.

She got caught faking it.

Ann Althouse said...

Our singers of today are mainly recording artists, and their work is perfected in the studio and inside computers.

Fine. Get someone else to sing. Get someone who can sing live. Or accept the screwups.

If it should be sung by a group, bring in a chorus.

bagoh20 said...

To be authentic, they should have to sing it drunk while being shot at.

"Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have Beyonce to sing the national anthem. At this moment she is in the green room doing shots of tequila. In addition, we have distinguished members of the Crypts in the house tonight and loading their Glocks for the performance. It should be a very special evening for all, and that will be starting in just a few minutes."

Chip S. said...

Not only should people lip-sync it, but they should all lip-sync a recording by Wayne Messmer.

Even the women.

Paul said...

"Our singers of today are mainly recording artists, and their work is perfected in the studio and inside computers."

Lesser singers can be digitally pitch corrected, but there is no lack of fantastic singers. I've worked with many and the black gospel churches are filled with them.

Paul said...

"Our singers of today are mainly recording artists, and their work is perfected in the studio and inside computers."

Lesser singers can be digitally pitch corrected, but there is no lack of fantastic singers. I've worked with many and the black gospel churches are filled with them.

Megaera said...

Anyone who whines about how difficult it is to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" has obviously never listened to or tried to perform "La Marseillaise", which actually is a bit taxing. This is just the usual snivelling by someone who wasn't up to the job. They should have hired someone who could handle it.

Brew Master said...

I've seen many many renditions of the National Anthem in many different venues.

Even the ones that sucks are still rousingly applauded. The vast majority of people don't care about the performance quality, provided it is done with enthusiasm and respect.

Modern pop music has no performance soul, it is, as Ann says, all done in the studio, tweaked and massaged to fit templates that sell.

IMO the only music worth paying for these days is that which is performed live (and the smaller the venue the better).

bagoh20 said...

It can't be that hard. We've seen kids do it, firemen, cops, the handicapped, and it's probably even been sung by a mime at one time somewhere. If your profession is singing then "shut up and sing". I must admit that her whine is perfect pitch.

Brew Master said...

So, if I may ask the commentariate; Does the national anthem give you goosebumps everytime you hear it?

It does to me, crowd participation is even double awesome.

Bristol TN, night race in Aug. It is always performed by the children of the drivers/teams as a choir. 160,000 people always join in.

That is a moving experience.

bagoh20 said...

Didn't that A.I. "She Bangs" Asian guy even do it once?

bpm4532 said...

can we abolish the word "notion" for at least a year?

Shouting Thomas said...

I;m worn out with the ultra-hyper, all-out, frenetic renditions of the Banner.

This shit started with Hendrix and it's been going on for decades.

It's old and it's boring.

The young women singers are particularly awful with their steroid versions of the song.

I'd rather hear somebody sing it without setting off their full arsenal of artillery.

C R Krieger said...

The inauguration is a big deal and Ms Knowles was humble enough to accept that it wasn't about her and if she muffed it, it would be.  I think, given the situation, she did the proper thing.  Kudos to Ms Knowles.

Regards  —  Cliff

C R Krieger said...

And I voted for the other guy.

Regards  —  Cliff

YoungHegelian said...

Maybe there could have been a compromise and Beyonce could have lead a chorus of all the single ladies in a choral rendition.

Tim said...

Brew Master said...

"So, if I may ask the commentariate; Does the national anthem give you goosebumps everytime you hear it?"

Every time?

No, nor a variety of random reasons; it usually concerns context and the performance.

But many times?

Yes, most certainly; this too usually concerns context and the performance.

Brew Master said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwnAQXxwrCI

Childrens Choir doing national anthem. No, they aren't pitch perfect, but who cares.

Beyonce is a coward.

ricpic said...

The best and the brightest credentialed up the whazoo LOVE IT when the national anthem is massacred by a vibrant singer. It is the fullest possible expression of America II -- their America.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Regardless of the difficulty of the song or the glamor of the singist, the whole concept is wrong. The National Anthem should be sung WITH people, AS a people, and not 'performed' for mute adoring (or enduring) audiences.

Christmas carols likewise.

Putting mass music in the hands of 'stars', at the expense of having a musical population as we did before recordings and video and amplification, is a net loss to civilization.

At first, songs were sung WITH people, everybody was in on it. Later, with stages and theaters, songs were sung FOR people, who could still empathise with the act of singing. Today, with amplification measured in horsepower instead of watts, songs are done TO people, who like the performers must wear earplugs during the performance.

Barry Dauphin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry Dauphin said...

Perhaps it is a difficult song to sing, but experienced recording professionals have only one excuse for singing it badly--- lack of preparation. They can't just wing it or do some sloppy rehearsals.

Paul said...

And how much was Beyonace PAID to lip-sync????

So Obama uses fake shotgun, Beyonace uses fake Anthem, Hillary has to fake illness to testify, and Biden, oh well he is just fake period, and one wonders why our foreign policy is the pits, we are going into another recession, Obamacare doubles the cost of healthcare, and well FOUR MORE YEARS FOLKS OF THIS fake crap.

No hope for change folks for the next four years! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it (or snort it if you are Obama.)

Ann Althouse said...

"Lesser singers can be digitally pitch corrected, but there is no lack of fantastic singers. I've worked with many and the black gospel churches are filled with them."

I should have said "our singing stars."

I agree that there are as many great singers as ever and that churches have plenty of fine singers.

kentuckyliz said...

If they wanted a prominent African American singer to sing it, and do it well, they should have hired Kathleen Battle.

Big Mike said...

Let's use Carrie Underwood exclusively.

Ambrose said...

Ann will appreciate:

"But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'"

Shouting Thomas said...

Here's Jose Feliciano nailing the Banner, without setting off any bombs or screeching at the top of his voice.

Shouting Thomas said...

Jose Feliciano is "vibrant," too!

Cedarford said...

rhhardin said...
It's a wretched song.


=============
Agree. A truly wretched song. Not just hard to sing, but a paeon to war and how a Flag stood while the troops hunkered down in deep earthen bunkers during a shelling and suffered no losses and inflicted non.
I'd like to think America can do better than that war-focused dreck...and craft a song that extolls America, not the skill of the Brit military engineers that built the McHenry bunkers or how a big flag flew.

Remember, the only reason we are stuck with that shitty ditty is that Mrs. Woodrow Wilson loved it because her Woodrow alone, at the Princeton Glee Club, had the skill to sing that barely remembered 19th century battle song.

As for performers - We want performances of perfect audio quality, but we also want that with big extravaganza of American Excess with loads of bandplaying, jets roaring overhead, wind buffeting the mic with crowd noise also filtering in. We want the singer to dance, move, entertain at such recitals along with simultaneously doing perfect vocals.

kentuckyliz said...

I take that back. Her last public performance was in 2010. I wonder if her voice has failed?

kentuckyliz said...

I like America the Beautiful, and all its verses. A far better song if you ask me, including its singability.

pm317 said...

Beyonce like people are pretty faces who can hold a tune -- they are not real artists who live by their art.. they are celebrity singers.. just like celebrity presidents.

Roger J. said...

I rather enjoy "la Marseilles" (sp?) I recall during, I think a fairly recent Olympics when the 10 year old singer did it. Nothing finer than a young girl talking about drenching the fields with our enemies blood. Those are some gory lyrics indeed.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

'Anacreon in Heaven' is a perfectly fine drinking song for a pubful of English drunks to bellow.

If Francis Scott Key had had any musical sense, he'd have made up his own air for the Star Sprinkled Banana. But he didn't, so instead stole the air from 'Anacreon in Heaven' and applied the words to it.

Balfegor said...

I was going to comment the what makes it hard is that it covers such a broad range. Then I plunked it out on the piano and realised it's just an octave and a half.

And for some reason, it's a lot easier for me to hit the "rockets red glare" notes without straining when I'm playing along on the piano -- not a matter of hitting the right note, just of getting it to come out clear without being overly tensed.

Anyhow, no, there's no excuse in terms of the technical difficulty of the piece. It might be the case, though, that singing it all out in the cold would be bad for the vocal cords or something.

bagoh20 said...

Cedarford,

I think you completely miss the point of the lyrics. To me they come from a place of humility and vulnerability. They express a gratitude for the survival of a nation and an idea that easily could have been snuffed out on numerous occasions. That's what the song reminds me of when I hear it - the simple miracle of the whole thing, and above all, gratitude for the luck or providence or whatever that kept it alive.

It serves me well especially when sitting with friends, food, drink, peace and prosperity, and unsurprisingly also when times are tough, which is the theme of the song.

Balfegor said...

Re: Insufficiently Sensitive:

At first, songs were sung WITH people, everybody was in on it. Later, with stages and theaters, songs were sung FOR people, who could still empathise with the act of singing. Today, with amplification measured in horsepower instead of watts, songs are done TO people, who like the performers must wear earplugs during the performance.

I don't think this should be true in all cases, but certainly a culture that supported public singing would be nice. I can't remember the last time I heard anyone sing a Christmas carol in public other than at a school pageant. I don't think Americans even have drinking songs anymore, no?

McTriumph said...

"Stars" with any moxie would have the professionalism to admit they can't do it. Why do "stars" have to be asked to sing it? Almost every university with a competent music department has students capable of doing it well live.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

We could, I suppose, attempt adopting more caring and sensitive national anthem.

But I shudder to think that the Administration would choose the composer who ginned up that despicable 'Obama's Gonna Lead Us' song to foist on a kiddie group for their 2008 video.

Military bombast and bloodshed are far better. Remember, war is bad, but you can call it 'armed struggle' and suddenly it's heroic and righteous.

bagoh20 said...

" I don't think Americans even have drinking songs anymore, no?"

ACDC

Skookum John said...

The trick to singing the SSB is to remember that the third note, on the word 'say', is the lowest in the entire song. People typically start singing it in the middle of their vocal range, which works for most songs, but not this one.

Adjust your key so that the first three notes are well into the lowest register of your vocal range, and the rest of the song is a snap, even the 'land of the free'. It's a myth that it has too wide a range of notes for normal people to sing. It's only an octave and a half.

If the French can get through 'la Marseillaise' and the English can manage not to butcher 'Jerusalem', both of them pretty challenging songs, we ought to be able to teach our school kids to sing our anthem better than we do as a society.

Synova said...

Haha! Did you notice that I mentioned the song in the cafe post last night? The pilot of the television show "The Americans" (set in 1981) has a school program scene that starts with the National Anthem. They sang it half an octave low. No screeching!

Synova said...

My theory is that it's easier for men to sing the melody line but women get stuck one octave up and if you're not a natural soprano you're sort of screwed.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'd rather hear somebody sing it without setting off their full arsenal of artillery.

Agreed. There is not any need to do the convoluted vocal gymnastics and screaming that seems to be the vogue today.

Granted it is a somewhat difficult song to sing, mainly because it requires a large vocal range.

I would love to hear a low energy, low key and heartfelt version. Nina Simone doing the Star Spangled Banner. THAT would have been something.

Captain Curt said...

Isaac Asimov had what I consider a marvelous take on the Star Spangled Banner, one that gave me a newfound appreciation for it.

One version can be found here:

http://www.purewatergazette.net/asimov.htm

Many others can be found with a simple search.

Captain Curt said...

Isaac Asimov had what I consider a marvelous take on the Star Spangled Banner, one that gave me a newfound appreciation for it.

One version can be found here:

http://www.purewatergazette.net/asimov.htm

Many others can be found with a simple search.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

If it's a difficult job, then best to fake it. Our President Obama does. Maybe we should all fake performance at our jobs.

edutcher said...

Robert Goulet screwed it badly 50 years ago, but he was given dispensation because he was a Canuck and didn't know any better.

Cedarford said...

Agree. A truly wretched song. Not just hard to sing, but a paeon to war and how a Flag stood while the troops hunkered down in deep earthen bunkers during a shelling and suffered no losses and inflicted non.

Yes, because all wars are started by the Jooz.

Read the last sentence of Walter lord's book about the battle of midway and you get an appreciation for what those words mean.

They appreciated them in 1814. If not, Cedar would be answering to Her Majesty's Diversity Board of Inquisition right about now.

EDH said...

All that was missing from that video montage was a cut-away to a clip of stampeding animals of every species.

rhhardin said...

I'd go with American Prayer, Obama's 2008 song.

Musically it's excellent.

The trick is that the entire song is rebased on a fourth, except the chorus; which makes it float.

The repeats of the chorus at the end go flat because the float is lost, but nobody's perfect.

Maybe something about bombs bursting could be written in.

sonicfrog said...

Beyonce is a coward.

No. She is not a coward. The choice to lip-synch is not her call. Lets face it - everyone wants to point to any media event and see how perfect it is. We, the public, typically demand it. After what happened with the swearing in four years ago, I would not be shocked at all if we found out the lip-synched that too! The inauguration has become a spectacle, just like everything else.

Cedarford said...

Edutcher - They appreciated them in 1814. If not, Cedar would be answering to Her Majesty's Diversity Board of Inquisition right about now.

I don't give a fuck how much a lawyer on a British ship 200 years ago saw God's providence in how a bombardment with black powder ammo failed to destroy "a symbol".

Edutcher doesn't understand much history. The War of 1812 was not about Britain thinking it was a war to reconquer America, it was a punitive war. They had too many other problems and didn't want to drive us into Frances arms with a full-scale invasion.

Ft McHenry was a naval "shock and awe" show that failed because the Brits had built the bunkers too well. Largely irrelevant to that war.

And no, Edutcher, WWII was not all about the Jews. They were way down the list of concerns the UK, US, and USSR had.


ken in sc said...

I have never had any problem singing the Banner. It's not like it was written by Bach, Handel, or Mozart, who wrote things that are hard to sing, and we sing those things in church regularly.

BTW, have you ever tried to sing shaped-note songs. You have to sing the notes before you sing the words—as in, so doe doe ray ray mi ray doe ray mi mi fa mi ray. That's the beginning of 'Oh For A Thousand Tongues to Sing'.

Megaera said...

Ken - agreed. Singing it straight is not the problem. It's a robust air that, sung the way a brass band would be expected to play it, isn't that much of an ordeal. It's the people who insist on obsessive vocal embroidering, the mellisma queens who can't resist throwing in gratuitous jumps to the octave (usually on FREE-EEEEEE)who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near it.
A group I used to sing with casually did some songs from the "Sacred Harp" and "Southern Harmony" -- wish I could go back and do that again because the sound was very appealing to me.

Beldar said...

The National Anthem should be played by a military band and sung by everyone in the stadium, as is still common -- and unquestionably less controversial, more reliable, and more respectful of the Anthem's purpose -- at college and high school football games nationwide.