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.

Colin Kaepernick’s standing for his anthem again :(

This is Colin Kaepernick after being tackled, but it sums up how I’m feeling about his decision! Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

American footballer Colin Kaepernick has announced he will stand for the US national anthem next season, ending his months-long protest against the treatment of minorities in the country.

I know it’s because he needs a job – the San Francisco 49ers have decided not to keep him on – but it’s a shame. You could easily argue things have got worse in the US since his protest started and it’s needed more than ever.

Expect fewer protests all round soon: the US soccer association has announced a new policy saying all players have to “stand respectfully” for anthems at international matches. Last year, Megan Rapinoe kneeled for the Star-Spangled Banner before two games – aping Kaepernick. Guess she won’t any more.

O say can you shut the hell up: Sir Twittwaddle on The Gist!

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended I listen to Slate’s daily podcast, The Gist – one of the most American podcasts you could come across, but funny and opinionated and topical in a similar way to The Daily Show.

I did as told, but about two episodes in had the shock of hearing myself being introduced as Sir Twittwaddle, and then being torn apart for some comments I made about the Star-Spangled Banner to the BBC.

All credit to Mike Pesca, the man in charge, though. I tweeted him and he decided to get me on to explain myself and talk about the US anthem. You can listen below (or here) from the incredibly specific time of 6:47! It’s a fun interview and somehow I come out in one piece!

Listen before for some bizarre talk about Starbucks sandwiches, and afterwards for some very interesting chat about US gun laws!

Voting for a president based on The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner has finally – finally! – made an appearance in the US presidential race.

Unfortunately, it’s not been raised by either Obama or Romney, but by a pensioner from DeMotte, Indiana, named Berlin Wyman.

Berlin recently wrote into his local paper, The Times of Indiana, with the stunning observation that “if Olympians can sing the anthem, why can’t Obama?”

“Isn’t it a shame that our president can only stand and look bored while the anthem is being played,” he wrote. “If you plan on voting for him in November, I suggest instead you accompany him to Kenya and salute their anthem.”

Berlin hasn’t received the best feedback for his comments. But his letter does raise an important point: how should fans of The Star-Spangled Banner vote in the coming election?

The picture below explains why Berlin would say Romney. Taken in 2007, it shows Obama failing to sing the anthem while it’s being played, and worse, failing to put his hand on his heart. The fact no one else is singing, because they’re listening to a professional off-stage, seems by-the-by. As does the fact the photo’s five years old.

But should Berlin really think better of Romney? Romney may always boom out the anthem, but he doesn’t seem to know much about its history. Here’s a video of him from February claiming that America’s the only country where people put their hand on their heart when singing their anthem, and that President Roosevelt created the gesture “in honour of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far off places.”

Neither point’s true. The hand-on-heart gesture was apparently adopted in the 1940s to stop Americans making one that looked like a Nazi salute.

Perhaps Berlin should vote for neither candidate. He could always look instead to the many independents running. Although somehow I doubt he’d pick the Peace and Freedom Party’s Roseanne Barr.