Throughout the World Cup viewers are able to witness the playing of every participant’s national anthem. This can be a moving experience for the participants. It also provides people around the globe the opportunity to observe national pride through the singing (and sometimes screaming) of the words. During the Chile-Brazil Round of 16 match, this was quite evident as both nation’s players sang well past the musical rendition offered through the public address system. This poses an interesting question: who has the “best” national anthem?
This article is going to grade each of the 32 participant’s national anthems on the basis of five categories to determine who really has the “best.” These categories will include: historical relevance, ease of memorization, national identity, musical catchiness and the emotional factor. Each category contains a 10-point scale yielding a possible 50 points. A brief breakdown of each of these categories follows using the Star Spangled Banner to give an example of how the category applies.
Historical relevance examines the significance the anthem has with respect to the nation and its history. While seemingly obvious, not every anthem actually pertains to anything specific within the nation’s history. Historical relevance grades on the basis of the words and the national history. The strength of the link to the national history will increase the score in this category. (Ex: Star Spangled Banner explained that Americans continued to fight during a War of 1812 battle against the British that seemed hopeless and yet the flag remained flying throughout the night amidst relentless explosions.)
East of Memorization
This category deals with the catchiness of the wording. Some national anthems (like England) do not require a lot of effort to memorize the whole anthem. The easier the anthem to memorize, the greater the score for this category. However, this does not mean that the anthem must be simple, just easy to memorize. Rhyme schemes also play a pivotal role in gaining points here – rhyme based on original language, not English. (Ex: Star Spangled Banner attempts to aid in memorization by the tune, but wording is not easy to memorize – ask the numerous musicians that failed to properly sing it before a sporting event.)
Similar to historical relevance, national identity seeks to tease out the link between the words of the anthem and the people of that country. Some anthems portray a national spirit (pride, brave, free, monarchy, etc.) while others simply speak to the country itself (terrain characteristics). Greater link to the identity of the culture and people yields a greater score in this category. (Ex: Star Spangled Banner’s final two lines are “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”)
This category is all about the tune itself. If you listen to the song with no words, how much enjoyment comes from the tune? While much of the rating in this category deals with musical preference, most national anthems utilize an orchestra. Greater scores in this category come from the ability to follow the tune and its likeability. (Ex: Star Spangled Banner uses trumpets to guide the music through each line and a clanging cymbal to signify moving on to another line.)