This week’s article will be a little different. I decided to examine several different national anthems and ask just what do these songs say about their countries. You see, I’m a bit of a history buff, so of course things like national anthems kind of excites me. And considering AudioPerfecta is about all genres of music, it seemed like a good idea.
Before I start analyzing national anthems, fair warning. By the nature of the subject, this article may get a little political. I apologize in advance, and I promise to try to be as objective as possible. That said, I may say something you find offensive – consider this a trigger warning. I do, however, invite you to let me know if I get something wrong. I also want to hear your well thought out opinions on whatever I say in this article. Let’s dialogue!
With that stated, let’s get started!
God save the Queen
One of the most interesting, and yet obvious things about God Save the Queen, the lyrics and the title will change depending on the gender of the monarch. When Queen Elizabeth takes her last breath, and the crown is passed onto Prince Charles, the song will officially be called “God Save the King.” I wonder how many people will sing the old lyrics out of habit. The song hasn’t changed since the 1950s, but I digress.
So what does the United Kingdom’s Anthem say about the United Kingdom? We hear a song all about one person: The Queen (or King). The first verse talks about blessings such as long-life for the United Kingdom’s monarch. To dedicate the entire anthem to one person is to say the monarch is the most important person in the UK. However, looking at the second verse, we see the Monarch themselves as the symbol that is all of England. As the song progresses, we hear about the glory days of the United Kingdom. We hear a plea to God to “scatter their enemies.” In the third verse, there’s another plea to God: this time, to spread his mercy all over the world. Granted, the fourth and fifth verses come back to the monarch.
God Save the Queen (King) may be about the monarch, but the UK’s national anthem shows that the monarch is a symbol of the UK.
I can probably recite the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, by heart. My native WHL team (the Portland Winterhawks) plays a number of Canadian teams, so it’s common for me to hear O Canada before a game. But that’s neither here nor there.
If you could describe O Canada in two words, it would be short and patriotic. O Canada has one verse; again, it’s short. In that one verse, however, so much patriotism is crammed into the song! With lines like “true patriot love, in all our son’s command” and “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” The entirety of Oh Canada dedicates itself to the land and the people of Canada.
O Canada says one thing: Canadians love Canada.
Advance Australia Fair
Australia’s national anthem might just be my favorite. Like O Canada, Advance Australia Fair is a love fest to their country. Also like O Canada, Advance Australia Fair is a very short and to the point song. However, while O Canada talks about loving the land, Advance Australia Fair talks about the bounty of the land, and how lucky the citizens are to be Australians.
Lines 3 to 6 say it all “We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea; Our land abounds in nature’s gifts, Of beauty rich and rare.” That’s quite a brag! The second stanza goes on to say they will “toil with hearts and hands,” not only to make Australia great but also to share with those who come to visit their land. What a great sentiment!
I may not be Australian, but I don’t see a way one cannot salute the Australian flag when Advance Australia Fair plays.
The French have one thing to say with their national anthem: never freaking again. La Marseillaise was first adopted after the French Revolution, as a sign that they’ve had quite enough of this monarchy thing. A new king gained control of France, and they changed the anthem. However, France once again rose up against the monarchs, and in 1870, they once again changed the national anthem.
La Marseillaise cries out against tyrants and all the merde that tyrants bring. Mostly though, La Marseillaise serves as a battle cry for the citizens. Take the line “They’re coming right into your arms / To cut the throats of your sons, your women!” That line tells the citizens of France that they should always be vigilant. You never know when or even who, might be marching over the hill to occupy France.
Modern day France seems pacifist in nature, but La Marseillaise reminds us that France can and will defend it’s way of life by any means necessary.
Did you think France’s national anthem was brutal? Well, La Marseillaise has nothing on Deșteaptă-te, române! Like France, Romania’s national anthem talks about being free from tyrants. However, Romania takes things to a whole new level with their anthem. Adopted at first in 1917, and then again in 1990 after the revolt against Ceaușescu, Romania’s national anthem, uh, takes no prisoners. From the first line, roughly translated to say “Wake up Romania, from your sleep of death” we hear a song that says yeah – no more of that! Romania’s anthem might as well say, look what we did to the last guy. On Christmas Day no less.
Another interesting fact: Deșteaptă-te, române! also talks about Romania’s ancient past, mentioning both its Roman heritage and even name drops the Emporer Trajan! There’s a reason the country is called Romania (or rather România) and Deșteaptă-te, române! reminds the country of that reason.
Deșteaptă-te, române! wants Romania not only to remember the recent history but also its roots in antiquity.
United States of America
The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner is all about the American Flag. The national anthem of the USA shouts about pride, as we see the stars and stripes waving against the sky. Even when bombs exploded all around in an epic battle, there was the flag, waiving ever so proudly. However, the Star-Spangled Banner is more than just a tribute to the flag.
The Star-Spangled Banner sees the flag as a symbol of the American people. What happens to the flag, happens to the USA, and its citizens. Flying proudly while “bombs burst in air” is a symbol of the resilience of Americans. The Star-Spangled Banner almost seems to say “bring it on!” to any and all enemies of America, both foreign and domestic.
The United States of America’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, shares a great deal with the national anthems of France and Romania.
What did we learn about national anthems?
Firstly, I realize I only examined the national anthems of western nations, so perhaps we would find different conclusions in say, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. If I had more time, I might examine the Dutch National anthem, which pledges loyalty to Spain, or the Spanish national anthem, which officially has no lyrics whatsoever.
With that said, what we learned here is that every national anthem I analyzed, emphasizes what’s important to the country as a whole. The Queen is important to the UK (as she is the symbol of the UK). The land and people are important to Canada. France and Romania value their independence from tyranny, while Australia values the land, and the blessings the land brings. And America, well, we value our strong spirit to rise up against our enemies. Of course, this is not necessarily what’s important to the common man. I’m sure, in the case of England, not everyone cares so much about the monarchy to dedicate their anthem. And in America, well, I’m trying to stay apolitical as possible here.
I will say this. What I love so much about Australia’s national anthem is that it talks about what’s going right in the country. I also love the fact that Romania points out its historical heritage. These are features I would want to see if my country ever does decide to change its national anthem. On that note, part two of this article will be examining possible national anthems for the United States. I don’t think we’ll change our national anthem in my lifetime. However, I do have some suggestions on what songs might serve the people of the United States of America better. Again, keep an eye out for this article in January.
Also, keep an eye out in December, as I deck the halls with Christmas music. Maybe the Holiday Shame Train will make another stop. Maybe we’ll find a better version of You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You’ll just have to come back and see. And of course, there’s going to be holiday playlists. The first will come out on December 1st, and will feature a bunch of Rock and roll holiday songs!
Happy Holidays everyone. Rock on, and Rocksteady!