The internet continues to pile on singer Fergie’s rendition of the National Anthem during the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
However, in defense of the Grammy winner’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it’s not the easiest song to nail. In fact, plenty of the world’s best singers have managed to butcher it over time, including talented vocalists Michael Bolton and Christina Aguilera.
So why exactly is America’s national anthem — which didn’t claim the title until 1931 — so hard to belt out?
According to Kenneth Slowik, the Director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, “It has a lot to do with the range,” as he told the Smithsonian back in 2014, the year marking the song’s 200th anniversary. “It’s a very wide range. Basically, the notes are very high.”
Slowik explained that “The Star Spangled Banner” has notes in the “High f—it’s traditionally sung in Bb major because going higher than that makes it hard for the altos and basses singing to get to the high note, and going lower makes it hard for the tenors and sopranos to manage.”
This is why even the best-trained vocalists still have a difficult time keeping their range together during public renditions.
The song has also stumped plenty of trained choirs and singers who have trouble singing the National Anthem, that they’ve saved themselves the embarrassment by skipping performances altogether.
The best advice for those willing to tackle “The Star Spangled Banner”? Start out as low as possible, note-wise. And keep in mind, the way modern singers recite it today isn’t how Francis Scott Key intended for it to be sung back in 1812.
“Probably, it’s best to be sung the way it was originally intended, that is to be sung as the Anacreontic Song,” Slowik said. “That is to say, a traditional British Gentleman’s Club song—where you can really belt out the top.”
More so reason to ease up on Fergie’s version.