“The Star-Spangled Banner” has an image problem. That is, no one likes it.
Oh sure, everyone respects and reveres what it stands for, what it evokes in us as nation and as a people. But no one really admires it on its merits as song, and singers and sports fans have long detested the difficulty hitting some of the notes (I'm looking at you Carl Lewis). In fact, “America the Beautiful” and “This Land Is Your Land” have both been suggested as replacements for Francis Scott Key's little ditty. Strong candidates, but I don't think they go far enough.
This Fourth of July, I thought it might be a perfect time to audition new tracks to fill the role as our nation's no. 1 hit. Here are the 10 tunes that made my cut.
So what was I looking for in a new national anthem? The song needs to embody the traits Americans value–freedom, unity, equality, striving for a better life. It shouldn't war monger, but it should sound confident and proud. It needs to be honest, too, which means it's not afraid to point to America's shortcomings as way to encourage its citizens to rise above their faults.
Here are 10 songs that deliver on the promise of America and would be worthy of being played before sporting events.
“One Nation Under a Groove,” Funkadelic
Sample lyrics “One nation under a groove/Gettin' down just for the funk of it/One nation and we're on the move/Nothin' can stop us now”
Why you'd stand for it No one can sit when a Funkadelic song plays, especially one that proclaims the power of funk as the ultimate unifier and dancing as the ultimate expression of freedom.
“Rockin' in the Free World,” Neil Young
Sample lyrics “There's colors on the street/Red, white and blue/People shufflin' their feet/People sleepin' in their shoes”
Why you'd stand for it How can a song written by a Canadian and critical of a president be a proper anthem? The truth can hurt, but it can also inspire if it comes from the right place. “Rockin' in the Free World” asks people to look around, shake their apathy and make a difference.
“Make Love Fuck War,” Moby and Public Enemy
Sample lyrics “Power to the people/Put your hands in the air/Peace sign high/Like you really do care”
Why you'd stand for it You'll be hard pressed to find a more aggressive song advocating peace. Chuck D demands people to stand up, come together and hold their leaders accountable for doing what's right. Aren't those these ideals that created this country?
“Everyday People,” Sly and the Family Stone
Sample lyrics “I am no better, and neither are you/We are the same, whatever we do/You love me, you hate me, you know me and then/You can't figure out the bag I'm in”
Why you'd stand for it Sly Stone had a knack for making the ordinary seem like it had been dipped and rolled in coolness. This celebration of diversity musically captures a part of what makes this country great.
“America, Fuck Yeah,” Trey Parker
Sample lyrics “Freedom is the only way yeah/Terrorist your game is through 'cause now you have to answer too/America, Fuck Yeah!”
Why you'd stand for it No one said a national anthem couldn't have a sense of humor. A country that can't laugh at itself isn't a country I want to live in.
“Living in America,” James Brown
Sample lyrics “I live in America, help me out, but I live in America–wait a minute/You might not be looking for the promised land, but you might find it anyway/Under one of those old familiar names”
Why you'd stand for it Godfather of Soul + Rocky Balboa + Cold War patriotism = The reason being an American “feels good.”
“(Looking for the) Heart of Saturday Night,” Tom Waits
Sample lyrics “Makes it kind of special down in the core/And you're dreamin' of them Saturdays that came before/It's found you stumblin'/Stumblin' onto the heart of Saturday night”
Why you'd stand for it This is a tune about the simple, mundane pleasures of a weekend evening, but Tom Waits elevates it into a boozy epic of what's great about living in this country. Plus, no one is going to complain about you sounding worse than Tom.
“I Can,” Nas
Sample lyrics “Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up/You can be anything in the world, in God we trust/An architect, doctor, maybe an actress/But nothing comes easy it takes much practice”
Why you'd stand for it Nas gives a musical lesson in chasing after your dreams. And he's savvy enough to remind everyone that reaching those dreams takes hard work. Even if it's the American dream.
“Hawaii Five-O,” The Ventures
Sample lyrics None
Why you'd stand for it Who says our anthem needs to have lyrics? Nothing says we can't co-opt this theme that was written for a single state. This is the way every sporting event should start.
“You're the Best,” Joe Esposito
Sample lyrics “History repeats itself/Try and you'll succeed/Never doubt that you're the one/And you can have your dreams!”
Why you'd stand for it The beauty about this song from the original Karate Kid is that its lyrics are so vague that it fits any situation. A call to war. An appeal to better citizenship. A plea to pass campaign finance reform that will end the disenfranchisement of those with limited monetary resources. It's also nice to have an anthem that boosts your self-esteem every time you hear it.
BONUS INTERNATIONAL REMIX ANTHEM: “America Is Not the World,” Morrissey
Sample lyrics America your head's too big/Because America, your belly is too big/And I love you, I just wish you'd stay where you belong.”
stand for boo it Know what's worse than someone pointing out your flaws in public? Morrissey pointing out your flaws in public.
What song do you think could be our new national anthem?