The National Anthem is a challenging piece to sing. It's full of soaring notes, and there are three other stanzas no one ever learns because they're rife with imagery from the War of 1812, aka the One We Don't Study Because It Was a Tie.
To top it all off, our anthem is based on an English drinking song, so it wouldn't be disrespectful of you to have a couple beers before attempting it. Heck, a good drink might even be a necessary step in remembering the lyrics.
It certainly would have relaxed the vocal cords in these screeching and stammering singers, perpetrators of some of the anthem's worst renditions ever recorded (and then posted on YouTube).
Let's start with an uplifting one. Natalie Gilbert has a great voice, but she forgets the words. The supportive crowd touchingly cheers her on, but she remains flummoxed. She needs a hero. And because this is America, she gets one in the form of Mo Cheeks. Coach Cheeks can't sing, but remembers all the words. Together, they're the Voltron of national pride. People helping people: That's what this country is all about (and cheeseburgers).
This plucky chanteuse is French-Canadian, so there's no shame in needing the written lyrics, especially since an American would have used a cheat sheet from the start. What happens next, however, seals this failure into a debacle worthy of its own anthem. Give her credit, though; she wins a gold medal for her positive attitude.
This next rendition isn't so much off-key as trying every key on the chain without realizing you're at the wrong door. It's hard to tell if the audience is for this version or against it, but one thing's for sure: Passion is great, but you have to at least make eye contact with the notes you hope to use.
Now for something even more uncomfortable than teasing teenage girls. This policeman in Chattanooga gave the anthem a go at a memorial for fallen officers. That's normally where your smartass pals at Asylum politely walk the other way whistling, but then we noticed his compatriot doing his level best not to laugh. That makes it OK, right?
Just to cement our reputation as horrible people, here's an atonal elderly veteran who leapfrogs from verse to verse, sometimes mid-sentence. Look, it's not our fault that all these nice folks keep screwing up. This is the material life hands us because amoral killers are only chosen to sing the anthem in Nevada, where there are no laws, and the measure of a man is in the speed of his trigger finger.
If only there were some anthem failure we could all hate guilt-free. In the movie "Office Space" a character named Michael Bolton complains about "that no-talent assclown" who stole his name. "Why should I change?" he moans. "He's the one who sucks." That's how this next clip makes us feel. Why should we change the national anthem, Mr. Sings From His Groin? You're the one who sucks.
There's no explaining why the San Diego Padres invited professional squawker Roseanne Barr to do to the anthem what "Hellraiser" did to D-list actresses. Still, they probably didn't expect her to hock a spitwad at the end, a move the comedienne later explained was just her tribute to dip-chewing, seed-munching baseball players. Twenty years later, this is still the second thing people think of when you say "Roseanne Barr," after her long-running TV show.
Using great technical proficiency but little discretion, this man invents a new anthem. Take out the words, and what song is he singing? Is this one of those live mashups? Because if so, we would prefer YouTube stick with sultry songstress Allison Williams.
Here's a rare case of an Anthembomb! Singer Rene Rancourt is pumped to belt the "Star Spangled Banner" like it was two sizes too big. The much-amused announcer's box sings along with an R-rated version that's pre-empted by some speedy producer-inflicted muzak. Remember muzak, kids? No? Ah, you're better off. (NSFW language)
Speaking of gold medals, here's America's most famous anthem failure, as the crushing weight of Olympic gold round his neck cracks Carl Lewis's voice. Listen to the audience roar its contempt. That's a man who brought more glory to our country than bald eagles and Rambo combined, but they're laughing at him.
The roundup below is the final word in forgotten words. Watch a few clips, but don't try to convince us Cab Calloway wasn't just coming up with new and better ways to bend the English language.