The Apples in stereo's "Beauty of America"
Robert Schneider of The Apples in stereo wrote music and lyrics for a brand new national anthem, created just for us.
Thanks for your thoughtful commentary. I watched the All Star Game last night and was struck by the fact that professional singers treat “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” as PERFORMANCES. For them, it is all about THEM. I like your view that such songs should instead be about US. Of course, national anthems are also used for more solemn occasions—for visiting heads of state and at the Olympics. It may be difficult to identify one song that perfectly fits all occasions.
S360: Thanks for the comments here and elsewhere explaining how this played out on your end. I am very satisfied that you took our notes of disappointment to heart and did your best to make it right.
Lionel's comments show he is still miffed. In reading his blog, he clearly put a great deal of thought into his creation, which reminded me of a very politically correct Unitarian hymn--and did a good job meeting the objectives he set out for himself.
My own approach was somewhat different; I wanted to capture the essence of our national experience in as few words as possible (not my usual lyrical strategy) and create a song of foundational ideas that is easy to sing and can be built up through improvisation. I imagined a song that would be sung not by a soloist, but by a crowd during a game or a celebratory moment--much like what you hear from throngs of European fans at the World Cup--sort of a musical equivalent of "The Wave."
I mention these two songs simply to illustrate how difficult it is to set out to create such a work as everyone has very different ideas about what it should be. So perhaps the challenge should be not to design a replacement, but to encourage the creation of a number of songs that can serve as the soundtrack to our unfolding history. Official or not, these songs can help us all find a collective voice as we wrestle with our imperfect past and press on toward our uncertain future.
And, Lionel, cheer up. You stretched yourself created something new that you should be proud of. Last I checked, it had over 100 views on YouTube. It took Key's poem over 15 years before it was officially recognized as our National Anthem--and its popularity was undoubtedly aided by his brother-in-law matching it up to a well-known drinking song. So let your song's history unfold--and maybe see if your lyrics match up with any Justin Bieber tunes! And be grateful for the challenge--despite its imperfect execution--that Studio 360 presented. I know I am.
Sorry, but The Apples in stereo certainly seem like ringers. Perhaps you hadn't expected them to submit a song, but they clearly did not have to submit a song via YouTube as everyone else had to do. As professionals, they not only got the red carpet treatment, but they were allowed to completely obscure the fact that there were other contributors. Jenny's "apology" is woefully inadequate.
And, by the way, where is the substance of "Beauty of America"? At least "The Star-spangled Banner" says something.
Dear Ross and Sam (and everybody who contributed) -- Thank you for writing in -– you in particular, Ross, for biting off the challenge of writing and recording a song. We stand reproached: we ought to have mentioned that all the submissions were available online, and it was an oversight. We'll try to rectify that on this weekend’s show. Some of the submissions were, as Ross said, pretty left field, but every one showed creativity and time, and we're honored that more than 20 people shared their work with Studio 360 and our listeners. We didn't think of The Apples in Stereo as ringers –- their participation was a surprise to us, not a trick we had up our sleeve. Our goal in the redesigns isn't necessarily "unheard" versus "heard" voices, Sam: we've had professional graphic designers enter challenges of which the winner turned out to be an inspired amateur. We're as grateful to the Apples as we are to Ross and the others who submitted. In the meantime, I’ve added a link above that will take people to all those submissions. Again, our thanks,Jenny
Eh: sorry for the headache (though that puts my song in good company as I know our National Anthem has a similar effect on others). While I appreciate the critique, it wasn't really the point of my post. I would rather have spent more than the minimal time I was able to spend to record this song to meet the deadline.
Sam from NY summed it up well. It was just uncool to change it up without explanation.
It can't be a truly new anthem until it sings the praises of the Corporations which run our country and the 1% who own them."Oh say can we suck off the bitter sweet teat of big oil and big banks who gut our main streets"Or something like that.Hey Robert, you ever play the Netherlands?Thinking we want to move to a country with actual freedom.
I did not submit anything, so I really have no stake in this, but I do feel pretty strongly like Mr. Ross Martin that this was a pretty clumsy and dirty trick to pull on people who did respond to what was clearly advertised as a contest. Though the Apples in stereo song is fine and good, it sort of defeats the purpose of what otherwise seemed intriguing, to dip into the pool of unheard American talent and pull out a voice that speaks of the country in a way that perhaps challenges common perceptions or updates a classic idea. Either way, why bring in a ringer and destroy that? This was a rather dissapointing and uninspired choice.
Well, that settled that!
Ross, I listened to all of the songs, none of them are comparable to this... And your composition was a particular headache.
I love all The Apples. There national anthem is good but if this GREAT country has any thought of changing the Star Spangled Banner it should go to America The Beautiful hands down.
I just finished listening to your segment on reinventing the 4th of July. You never mentioned that you asked listeners to submit recordings to YouTube for consideration and it sounds like you chose to ask someone else to compose a song for you instead--a song not even posted to the challenge on YouTube. For the Uncle Sam challenge, you did acknowledge and post the many submissions.
I'm curious why you chose not to even mention your previously aired request or the 24 music videos that were submitted in response. I submitted one (and listened to all of the other submissions) and found that they ranged from quirky and interesting to moving and dramatic to just out in left field. But there were some pretty good pieces there--a few of which at least were on par, in my opinion, with the one from The Apples in stereo.
It was clear that folks spent a lot of time working on their songs and videos (I know I did) to meet the deadline of June 20th and it was very disappointing that these efforts were not even acknowledged. While we all perhaps had a hope of "winning," knowing that each would have a small chance of even being mentioned, it was especially disappointing that Studio 360 chose to go an entirely different direction.
Perhaps you had concerns about copyright or felt the submissions weren't of sufficient quality, but it would have been good to at least say something. Frankly, I feel like we were duped. I suppose this is part of the American experience too, but not one I expect from public radio.
In any case, thanks for posing the question--it was a good exercise, but one I would have preferred to pursue without a deadline.
Email addresses are required but never displayed.
Big gratitude and respect to Studio 360 for challenging people to be what I now call "New Years Resolutionaries"! Thanks ...
Rushing between morning activities with a car full of 9 to 12 year olds and Sandra Bernhard comes on. She's ...
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen is a co-production of Public Radio International
and WNYC Radio, and is funded in part by Ken and Lucy Lehman
and the National Endowment for the Arts. Studio 360's American Icons
series is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Our Science and Creativity series is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.