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What should the British national anthem be?

The current national anthem is boring, difficult to remember, and outdated – but which song should replace it?

Isabella Welch: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – Queen

There was an Oxfess the other day saying that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ should be the next national anthem, and I’d have to agree. Why shouldn’t it? Its style is unique to 70s English music, written with both major and minor tones, sounding simultaneously triumphant and deeply mournful. It is timelessly operatic. A soliloquy which covers so much of the human condition, it has something for everyone.

Maybe it isn’t a song about England, but it’s a song closer to the hearts of the English people than the current anthem – who even knows the second verse of ‘God Save the Queen’? ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has no clear chorus, no repetitive phrases, and yet it seems that people are much more familiar with this incredibly complex absurdist song  than with the second verse of our anthem. We are a secular democracy: to sing a song about the exploration of self seems a much better representation of England. You know you love Freddie Mercury far more than our monarch.

Áine Kennedy: ‘Despacito (Remix)’ – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee (feat. Justin Bieber)

I would argue that it is impossible for any living creature this side of the Milky Way to hear the first quivering, seductive guitar ripple of ‘Despacito’ without feeling the first faint stirrings of orgasm in their crotch. Without a doubt this is the most musically masterful creation since Hildegard of Bingen’s 1161 AD summer chart-topper, ‘Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum’. Bieber’s opening verse, delivered with the moist eroticism of a mouth-breather on bus 319 to Streatham Hill, showcases not only a huge range of about six notes, but also nimble rhymes that would have the Bard moaning in envy and awe: the pairing of ‘direction’ with ‘blessing’ is a particular standout.

When the melodic baton is passed to Luis Fonzi and non-Spanish speakers lose track of the narrative, they are more than compensated by a thrusting rhythmic drive, as some nameless talent strums and slaps a guitar. The wet, tantalising drip down the minor third transmogrifies the melancholic yearnings of B-minor into the climactic, blushing warmth of the G-major chorus; the repetitiveness of the melody builds a primal, throaty leap into a higher register for the post-chorus, by which time anyone with a healthy number of nerve endings will, quite simply, have busted a nut. But ‘God Save the Queen’. I know what I’d rather hear every night on BBC Radio 4 before closedown.

Fraser Maclean: ‘In My Life’ – The Beatles

The most emotionally charged track on the Beatles 1965 album Rubber Soul, ‘In My Life’ was written by Lennon as an emotional ode to his British childhood, and as a testament to the ongoing nature of life and the future. A national anthem must be able to fit in a number of settings – memorial services, sports fixtures, and everything in between – the balance could definitely be found here. A beautiful melody set to a pleasant guitar part from Harrison, the song also features a Baroque-inspired piano solo contributed by producer George Martin. But the catchy vocals and pleasant harmonies mean that crowds and choirs alike would get on board.

Lennon was very proud of the end result, calling it “my first real, major piece of work”. The Beatles are Britain’s greatest contribution to popular music. If any Brits should be given responsibility for their nation’s anthem, it should be Lennon and McCartney. And if any Beatles track should be chosen, it should be something that shows emotional depth, musical brilliance, and British talent. In my life, I’ve loved you more.

Caleb-Daniel Oyekanmi: ‘Talkin’ the Hardest’ – Giggs

I actually find it insulting that I even need to explain this one. The country should bow to the one true national anthem without any explanation. Giggs has become a household name in the UK. ‘Talkin’ the Hardest’ is perhaps the most influential song in UK rap history. Krept & Konan, Dave, and perhaps even less obvious artists like Loyle Carner might not even exist had it not been for this ballad. For myself – as well as for many other babies born in the late 90s – it was the first rap song that I knew all the words to.

At Reading Festival 2017, I was there, live in the flesh, watching Giggs perform. Many of you will know that this is the performance where he brought out Drake – a tremendous spectacle which permeated all the way through the media. Yet, nothing evoked a more burning passion in my heart than putting my right hand on my left nipple and screaming out the one true national anthem at the top of my lungs. No human person should be able to write about putting ketchup on chips and somehow make it sound threatening- Giggs did that. From this angle, it is only rational to conclude that Giggs is, in fact, a god, and this song is rightfully his most prized possession. Vive la ‘Talkin’ the Hardest’.


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