“The Star-Spangled Banner,” like the American flag, has been shoehorned into so many aspects of American life that we accept its ubiquity as normal. From professional sports games to civic functions to dance competitions and dog shows, we Americans are constantly subjected to its dissonant dirge.
In recent times, the song has become a flashpoint in the discussion of police brutality. Protestors symbolically and defiantly kneel mid-song. I unambiguously support this discourse, but I can’t help but think that the message of their protest would be even stronger against a song that didn’t cause people to nod off from sheer boredom.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” does not slap. You can’t possibly add it to a Summer Jamz playlist. If it appears mid-shuffle between “SICKO MODE” and “Run The World (Girls)” your pool party’s vibe is immediately murdered and left to rot.
The lyrics are so tedious and bland that YouTube compilations exist of people forgetting them. We laugh at morons who stumble on the words like we’re any better, which we’re not. No one can be expected to remember such weak bars. You never hum “The Star-Spangled Banner” to yourself. It’s never stuck in your head. The range of the melody is wide enough that only the most talented singers can hope to adequately pull it off.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is simply not a bop. And this is to say nothing of its composer.
Francis Scott Key owned slaves. This should be grounds enough for relegating his art to a mere historical footnote. While he did eventually free his slaves, the man was no progressive abolitionist. He referred to African-Americans as “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” It is impossible for me to feel pride for my country while humming the awful melodies of a racist, slave-owning asshole. Just drop the puck already.
So how do we fix it? Two words: “Crusher Destroyer.”
“Crusher Destroyer” is a song from Atlanta sludge metal band Mastodon, who never owned slaves. The two-minute thrasher opens their 2003 debut album Remission. Every time I hear it I want to run headfirst through a brick wall, which is the highest compliment I can possibly give a song.
It is a perfect and succinct work of purely American art. The song’s lyrics depict a bull (the thirteen original colonies) successfully mauling its garishly-clothed matador opponent (Britain).
Just imagine the glory and pride you’ll feel witnessing an Olympian receive a gold medal for half-pipe snowboarding while the devastating guitar power chords of Mastodon’s Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher bludgeon the self-worth of the other loser countries.
“Crusher Destroyer” is in ¾ time, just like “The Star-Spangled Banner” so marching bands can still use their previous choreography. And the song’s opening seconds of screeching feedback give ample time to remove one’s hat and/or shirt if desired. Instead of opening sporting events and government ceremonies with a funeral prelude, our national pride could be summoned with a mosh pit.
So, the next time you half-heartedly mumble along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the hopes of not looking like a traitor, I want you to consider that it doesn’t have to be this way. Come on, America! It’s time to crush. It’s time to destroy. It’s time for “Crusher Destroyer” by Mastodon to be our new National Anthem.