Of course. In the wake of yet another deadly shooting, there’s an uproar in the States. The uproar is, yet again, not what you would expect. Survivors of the shooting are making an effort to get there, but America wouldn’t be America if there wasn’t Something Stupid.
Something Stupid is a song, but in this case we’re not referring to Frank and Nancy, nor to Robbie and Nicole. We’re referring to the national anthem of the USA: the Star-Spangled Banner. Fergie performed it at the NBA all-star games half-time. The rendition was very non-traditional and that didn’t go over well. Of course, the anthem at a sports game, its full lyrics referring to rockets, bombs in the air, havoc of war, the terror of flight and gloom of the grave, was the source of outrage.
Fergie can’t help it, though. Every body sings the anthem. It’s learned in school and the author of this piece has sat in a pub in Ireland looking around emberassedly as a New York police officer was called upon to sing a song. She sung the anthem. The American crowd joined in.
Singing the anthem is the worst possible gig for a reputed performer. It’s catch 22. You can’t win. Think about the number of beginning guitarists you’ve heard attempting Wonderwall, or the number of female singing-contest candidates covering something by Adele. The anthem is like that, except boring. Everybody’s done it, and unless your game is being really good at traditional hymns, as an artist you can’t make a difference without drawing ire. From Roseanne Barr, of all people.
Fergie risked that. Was it a succesfull attempt? No, it wasn’t. Her voice was too dominant in the soundmix for the effect she probably intended. That made the entire thing sound forcedly different. But it wasn’t bad, or off-key. It just, well, failed. The way you can lose a baseball game. Shoot and miss.
And with that and the blood from the latest shooting no doubt still drying up, perhaps it was fitting. Except when it comes to shootings, the US isn’t trying and failing. Just failing. Maybe if Americans had a little more concern for children dying than they would for the anthem and the flag being respected during a game of sports, they would have started solving gun violence.
In fact, we have a proposition to make. If the anthem at sports games is that important, we present to you the lyrics to sing for as long as the gunmade streams of blood keep flowing.
O! say can you see
by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we shot
at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
full of holes still was streaming?
And the beacons’ blue glare,
flashlights lighting the air,
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there;
O, say, does that blood-spangled
banner yet wave
o’er the land of the guns
and the home of the grave?