How do you sing a song that stirs up so much feeling?

The New York Times Magazine’s annual music issue contains a piece by rapper/singer Dessa – of Doomtree – on what it’s like singing The Star-Spangled Banner in these odd times. It’s really good.

“When you sing the line ‘rocket’s red glare,’ fireworks are going to go off. Then, when you get to ‘O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,’ an eagle named Challenger is going to take off and soar over the stadium.” Becky, my tour manager, was talking me through the mechanics of my gig on April 5. That day I am scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Minnesota Twins’ season opener in Minneapolis. “He’s a professional sports eagle,” Becky explained. “He has a website.”

Read the rest over at the Times.

There’s already been an anthem cock-up at the Olympics

Nigerian football team at Rio celebrating

The Olympics doesn’t officially start until tonight’s opening ceremony, but things are already going wrong – in anthem terms at least.

Last night, Nigeria beat Japan 5-4 in their opening match of the men’s football tournament (that’s them celebrating above). But beforehand they had the humiliation of being played Venezuela’s anthem rather than their own by mistake.

I’d love to show you a clip, but the IOC seems to have eliminated all traces of it from the internet so instead here are the two anthems. Decide for yourselves which is better.

Making swimmers cry


I’ve finally heard some anthems in person at the Olympics! Well, the Paralympics at least. And it turns out the easiest way to make an athlete cry is to get 18,000 people to badly sing along to their national tune.

Last night, the swimming arena had a 16-year-old American, Ian Silverman, in tears, and also managed to set-off 23-year-old Frenchwoman Elodie Lorandi.

The British crowd didn’t know all the words to either the Star-Spangled Banner or la Marseillaise, but bellowing the tunes seemed to work just as well.

I’m sure they could have had several Chinese and Ukranian swimmers crying their eyes out too if they’d known their anthems better.

Clearly, most of the athletes were on the verge of tears anyway, but it really seemed like the singing acted as the tipping point.

At the top of this post is a photo of 18-year-old Mexican swimmer Gustavo Martinez getting his gold. He didn’t cry, but then he had the quietest medal ceremony – unsurprising as last night was probably the first time most people had heard Mexico’s anthem. Also, Gustavo likes listening to Queen, and Mexico’s Himno Nacional unfortunately sounds nothing like We Will Rock You.