By COLLIN BRENNAN
August 3, 2016
Among the many dirty secrets set to be exposed when the Olympic Games kick off in Rio this week, there’s one that irks music fans the most. Every fourth summer, we’re presented with incontrovertible evidence that national anthems kind of suck. Hell, every athlete competing this year deserves an honorary medal just for having to sit through the wildly unimaginative “Hino Nacional Brasileiro” at the opening ceremony. (Where’s the squealing Bahian guitar solo, Brazil? Cum on feel the noize!) To be fair, it’s not like “God Save the Queen” or “The Star-Spangled Banner” is any better. Pretty much all of these weirdly jingoistic odes to king and country make us want to stuff flags in our ears.
So we had an idea: Why not let a bunch of musicians choose a new national anthem to represent their home country? Imagine, if you will, a world in which the Dutch rapped “Drank & Drugs” to get pumped before a football game. Better yet, imagine a world in which the Australians swore in a new prime minister to the tune of a song called “Gimme Head”. Yes, we know. This is a good idea.
Not all of the musicians we reached out to had such unconventional responses, and some (Peter Bjorn and John) took the question more seriously than others (here’s looking at you, Hockey Dad). But the world is a quilt stitched together with all kinds of mismatched fabrics. Shouldn’t its nations’ anthems be the same?
Read ahead to see what anthems you’d be hearing in Rio if these artists had their way.
People don’t normally associate Canada with the feeling of being wild and reckless and free, but America’s neighbor to the north has a lot more to offer than cheap healthcare and cheaper Molson. Shit, something like three-fourths of the country is wilderness! That’s a lot of space in which to bury “O Canada”after we take it out behind the shed and put it out of its bilingual misery.
OK, fine, “O Canada” isn’t all that bad, but Canada is home to way too much good music that deserves a chance to shine in the national spotlight. Look past your Drakes and your Arcade Fires and you’ll stumble across lean, mean bands like Toronto’s July Talk, who won us over (and then some) at this year’s Festival d’été de Québec. When asked to choose a new national anthem for the Great White North, the group’s gravelly vocalist, Peter Dreimanis, didn’t hesitate in selecting Constantines’ “Young Lions”.
“This anthem seems to highlight the experience of growing up in Canada in a way that feels far more honest and liberating than the ordinary explanation of our ‘true north strong and free,’” Dreimanis explains. “Canada is a vast, sparsely populated country, and this song acts as a call to arms for all of the young people across our landscape to ‘climb out the window’ and ‘glow like a beacon fire.’ Just, uh, try not to glow too bright. There are bears out there.
Northern Ireland has it pretty rough in terms of national anthems. As part of the United Kingdom, they’re stuck with “God Saves the Queen”, a song that had already been played to death before the Sex Pistols went ahead and recorded their own, better version in 1977. Drummer Rick McMurray of Northern Irish alt-rock band Ash figures it’s high time for a reboot, if only so his country isn’t laughed off the pitch at their next international football match.
McMurray chose “Teenage Kicks” by Derry’s finest punk rockers The Undertones, which seems like a fine way to tell the Queen to shove it. He describes the 1978 classic as “a song very close to our hearts and the one song we regularly cover. It’s a slice of perfect guitar-pop joy. Coming out of some of the darkest times for Northern Ireland, this is a song which lifted the place out of that misery and showed there was another side to the country.” Like teenage dreams, this one’s hard to beat.
Norway is a country of beautiful fjords, universal healthcare, and massive man-eating trolls, but none of those wonders can match the country’s musical output. These are the folks who invented black metal! Do not fuck with Norway.
Highasakite are a Norwegian indie pop band that’s as far from black metal as the sun is from Oslo in December, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get a say in things. Drummer Trond Bersu doesn’t think his country’s de facto national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker dette landet”, is the best choice out there, so he offered up another one: Emilie Nicholas’ cover of “Pstereo”, originally by the Norwegian band DumDum Boys. He describes it as “an incredibly strong pop tune from an artist we know and really admire. It´s done with a completely new twist, and it makes us proud of being Norwegian.”
PETER BJORN AND JOHN
Peter Bjorn and John hail from the land of Abba and Ace of Base and Robyn, a place so dedicated to the pursuit of pop perfection that these three scruffy dudes probably qualify as punks in their hometown of Stockholm. So what’s the song they chose for their new national anthem? Broder Daniel’s “When We Were Winning”, a triumphant indie rock anthem that sounds like Bruce Springsteen fronting Manic Street Preachers. “Call Your Girlfriend” it is not, but it’s a hell of a lot better than “Du gamla, Du fria”.
The guys picked the song because it has “nostalgia, melancholy, and some sort of hope for the future.” They were also quick to point out that nobody really gives a shit about national anthems outside the Olympics, anyway. “Since the best and maybe the only good use of national anthems is around sport events, the lyrics work perfectly,” they note. “It’s also a fantastic anthem for all the invisible, struggling, real heroes in the world.”