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International Artists Choose New National Anthems That Don’t Suck

We asked Civil Twilight, July Talk, Peter Bjorn and John, and others to pick new anthems for the Olympic Games

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    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?

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    Read ahead to see what anthems you’d be hearing in Rio if these artists had their way.


    Australia

    Hockey Dad and Gypsy & The Cat

    It’s one thing to propose a replacement for “Advance Australia Fair”, the song that usurped “God Save the Queen” as Australia’s national anthem in 1977 (The year punk broke! And a shit year for Queen Elizabeth II, apparently). But the young Aussie rapscallions in Hockey Dad had to take it a step further, thumbing their nose at the establishment by selecting the Radiators’ “Gimme Head” as their national anthem of choice. A sample lyric: “Gimme head baby/ Gimme head like you did just last night.” If that doesn’t give you a tingling patriotic sensation, maybe their description will: “It’s the perfect mix of cheeky Aussie banter and a solid riff that will get any blue-light disco rocking.”

    Another Aussie band, Melbourne dream pop duo Gypsy & The Cat, took the challenge a bit more seriously. They chose “Great Southern Land” by legendary Sydney rockers Icehouse. “Our current anthem is a bit naff and pompous,” they said, “whereas ‘Great Southern Land’ is an inclusive description of the hard and beautiful extremes of the Australian landscape. Australia as a land is rough and rugged, and this song captures that in its sparse synth sounds and simple, descriptive lyrics.”


    Brazil

    Rodrigo Brandao of BROOKZILL!

    Brazilian MC Rodrigo Brandão knows that his home country isn’t showing its best face to the world at the moment. But he also knows that Brazil has so much more to offer than whatever’s going on in Rio these days, and a by-the-books national anthem like “Hino Nacional Brasileiro” doesn’t do a great job of capturing that. Hell, it has a better chance of capturing a virus just by going for an afternoon swim.

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    That’s why the member of new collective BROOKZILL! (Brooklyn meets Brazil) has proposed a new anthem for his home country: Martinho da Vila’s “Canta Canta Minha Gente”. He describes the classic 1974 track as “one of those songs that’s so attached to the nation’s DNA that you know the lyrics even without realizing when or how you learned it. The title means ‘Sing Sing My People’, and it’s a shiny samba jam that calls for better days during tough times, just like Brazil is facing right now.”


    Canada

    July Talk

    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”.

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    “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.


    France

    Yael Naim

    Born in France and raised in Israel, singer-songwriter Yael Naim is pretty much the textbook definition of a world citizen. As if to rub our lack of culture in our stupid faces, she even sings in three languages: English, French, and Hebrew. Naim drew from her worldly perspective to select an alternative to France’s “La Marseillaise”, a song that isn’t even that bad in the first place. It hurt the Nazis’ feelings in Casablanca! France gets all the good stuff.

    Anyway, Naim chose Serge Gainsbourg’s “Aux Armes Et Caetera”, which is itself a loosely interpreted reggae version of “La Marseillaise”. “It was very controversial when it was released,” explains Naim, “but has now become a classic for many generations. This song and Serge Gainsbourg himself represent everything we like in our country: musical curiosity, openness to the world, a mix of cultural influences, rebel spirit. Just going on stage after releasing this song was brave at that period. Olympic games like we dream them!”


    Greece

    Monika

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    You want to talk about Olympic countries overrun by corruption and plagued by financial crises (and home to some very nice beaches, too)? Greece is Ground Zero for all that and more, having hosted the Games in 2004 and subsequently descended into something slightly more functional than a failed state. But you know what Greece has that your dumb country doesn’t? Culture. This is the birthplace of civilization, fuckers. It’s too bad they couldn’t find a better national anthem than the “Hymn to Liberty”, which fails to mention popular Greek exports such as yogurt and democracy.

    Pop artist Monika is another Greek export, having worked her way up fronting indie bands in her hometown of Athens. She’s also the only artist to choose a song that originated outside her country: Bob Dylan’s underrated classic “Make You Feel My Love”. “Greece, my beautiful country, has been through many difficulties in the past and is in the midst of a nightmare because of the financial crisis,” she says. “It is so small and has had weak moments. But still, it always makes locals and visitors smile, inspiring love, hope and courage.

    “There are no words to describe how much I love my country, and I’m sure that all the Greeks around the world would feel the same. We are stubborn, but sweet and romantic on the inside. I want to make you feel that love with this song.”


    The Netherlands

    GANZ

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    “Het Wilhelmus” may be the oldest known national anthem in the world, but Dutch electronic artist GANZ (aka Jordy Saämena) doesn’t connect with those stodgy lyrics celebrating William of Nassau. More like Prince of Bore-ange, right? (Excuse me while I find a scenic canal to drown myself in).

    The Netherlands may be a small country, but it’s big when it comes to bold ideas. In that tradition, GANZ recommended that his countrymen change their national anthem to “Drank & Drugs”, a wildly popular Dutch hip-hop track by Lil Kleine and Ronnie Flex. “It’s a huge hit in the Netherlands,” he claims. “Little kids and old people know and sing along with the song!” Normally we’d protest, but we’re going to need all the drank and drugs in the world to get through this shitshow in Rio. Bring it on.


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