Monday, May 27, 2013

"Through the peril.... uh... hum, hum, hum, dum hum hum..."

Recently Canadien singer Alexis Normand butchered our national anthem at a minor league hockey game. No big deal. It happens.

Except she really train wrecked that sucker! Move over Dr. Richard Kimble!

Normand got a second chance to perform on last Tuesday night — but it was just the Canadian anthem this time. She hesitated when asked if she’d ever try again to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in an arena setting. 
“I don’t know,” Normand said. “I’d have to think about. I know I can do it, but it would be kind of a head game.”
Yeah, if that's your "can't do attitude" then perhaps it's best you stick to "Oh Canada" with all of it's rolling odes to hockey, Molson, and curling. had an interesting - if perhaps less than "scientific" - assessment of exactly where sports event anthem singers derail on our national anthem.
As it turns out, pretty much anything in the first half of the anthem is fuckupable, although only one poor guy (in the very worst rendition we could find) screwed up the first line. If you made it to "And the rockets' red glare" you were in great shape, and if you got as far as "That our flag was still there" you were in the clear (with another horrible exception, shown above). The danger zone seems to be a pair of lines in the middle: O'er the ramparts we watched / Were so gallantly streaming? 
These lines are tough for a few reasons. First, as everyone learns in Intro Psych, it's harder to remember stuff that's in the middle of a sequence than it is to remember stuff at the beginning or end. Second, the structure of this whole section is poetically jumbled (easier to understand:"Whose broad stripes and bright stars / were so gallantly streaming / through the perilous fight / o'er the ramparts we watched?") Finally, Google Ngram tells us that o'er, rampart, andgallant themselves have kind of fallen out of favor since this poem was written in 1814, more so than any other words in the anthem. Words that Americans haven't used much in the last two centuries can be tricky to remember.
I know I would probably jacknife the anthem if you put a gun to my head. But at least when it's played in the stadium, I stand proudly, shut the hell up, and don't bellow out "red" or "ooooh!" like a jackass.

1 comment:

  1. I will never understand this. You are given one job: singing a 200 year-old anthem. Don't know the words? Fine. Google it. The song itself is challenging, but how one effs up the words is beyond me.