Best (and worst) national anthems

If we put aside our nationalism and our like and dislikes of certain countries, which are the best – and worst – national anthems?

Remember, this has nothing to do with how you feel about the country itself.

By the way, if you want to hear a given anthem, I think you can find most of them on Youtube. If you have another site where one may hear them all, please contribute it.

I have come to the conclusion that the French National Anthem belongs in the top 10 best. This rendition by opera singer Roberto Alagna is AWESOME! See it here:

The German National Anthem is very nice and is one of the few written by a famous composer (Haydn). I would rate it just under the French anthem.

At the other end of the scale, the Hungarian National Anthem leaves me kind of cold.

But the one I am most disappointed with is Italy’s (Hear it at )

I can’t believe this is the anthem of the country that gave the world Verdi, the Grand March from Aida, Rigoletto, etc. etc. This is the best Italy could do for an anthem? It sounds like some sort of polka!

Any other opinions?

The worst was probably East Germany’s.


*Hail, hail East Germany / Land of fruit and grape / Land where you’ll regret / If you try to escape / No matter if you tunnel under or take a running jump at the wall / Forget it, the guards will kill you, if the electrified fence doesn’t first. *


Denmark’s royal anthem gets my vote, if only for its lyrics:

King Kristian stood by the lofty mast
In mist and smoke;
His sword was hammering so fast,
Through Gothic helm and brain it passed;
Then sank each hostile hulk and mast,
In mist and smoke.
"Fly!" shouted they, "fly, he who can!
Who braves of Denmark's Kristian,
Who braves of Denmark's Kristian,
In battle?"

I’ve always liked Israel’s Hatikva, “the hope”, and here’s a stirring rendition with a translation. Is this the only anthem in a minor key?

I also have loved “God Bless Africa”, or ‘Nkosi sikelei’ iAfrica’ which was originally an anti-apartheid anthem sung in the 80s (although compsed in 1897) and has now become the new national anthem, in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English.

Sorry, my flapping-headed beady-eyed neighbors to the north, but ‘O Canada’ is pretty bad IMO. In the 20s, my NS grandmother learned the old anthem, ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’, with stirring lyrics such as these:

“At Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane,
Our brave fathers, side by side,
For freedom, homes, and loved ones dear,
Firmly stood and nobly died;
And those dear rights which they maintained,
We swear to yield them never!
Our watchword evermore shall be,
The Maple Leaf forever!”

America’s anthem doesn’t torture syntax half as badly. And the chorus:

“The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear
The Maple Leaf forever!
God save our Queen, and Heaven bless,
The Maple Leaf forever!”

Bleah. You’re singing a song to a plant.

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Sung to exactly the same tune as God Save The Queen, I give you Liechtenstein’s national anthem, Oben am deutschen Rhein:

*Up above the young Rhine
Lies Liechtenstein, resting
On Alpine heights.
This beloved homeland,
This dear fatherland
Was chosen for us by
God’s wise hand.
Second stanza

Long live Liechtenstein,
Blossoming on the young Rhine,
Happy and faithful!
Long live the Prince of the Land,
Long live our fatherland,
Through bonds of brotherly love
united and free!*

I love “O Canada!”! Even Terrence and Philip’s version!

I’m also partial to “Advance Australia Fair”. Anecdote: Years ago, Hugh Jackman was called upon to sing it at the Bledisloe Cup. Tension was so high before the match (well, perhaps it always is?) that the visiting All-Blacks fans started booing before he even got to the mike. Like, “And now, to honor Australia–” “BOOOOOOOOOOO!” Well, he took that as a challenge, sang the hell out of it, the Aussie fans went nuts, and the NZ fans were at least subdued.

But even out of that context, it’s a very spirited melody. And the Canadian anthem is grand, too. Personally, I just can’t get past the SSB’s melody being that of a drinking song. I’d rather sing any American anthem other than that. “America the Beautiful”, for instance. “Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear!” (You know you’re Gen-X if you can’t hear or sing AtB without adding that.)

“The Star Spangled Banner” is terrible. It has that bleating tune, and it’s incredibly difficult to sing, especially en masse. I’d prefer “This Land Is Your Land” or something folksy and American, not a co-opted British drinking song. While I’m at it, our flag is essentially a tacky combination of gaudy stripes and polka dots. I love my country, but I request a do-over for some of our patriotic symbols.

France and Germany have some of the best anthems. Dignified, easy enough to sing as a group of thousands, and still good enough to sound compelling when sung by a talented soloist.

“God Save the Queen” is quite dire. “La Marseillaise” is really good, and as was mentioned earlier, well, “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” is tremendous, not least because it is so strange that the song of so many anti-apartheid demos is now, and I suppose for some time now, the national anthem.

Isn’t there supposed to be a country somewhere that uses the “Liberty Bell March” as its national anthem? That would be lovely, because to me it will always and only be the Monty Python tune. I’ve got a sad feeling that there is no such country and this is just a fun myth though. :frowning:

I’m a US citizen born in 1971 and I have no idea what the hell that means. What do I lose?

It’s a semi-obscure, but not very, Muppet reference.

Yes, the anthem is one of the most - maybe the only - boring things about Italy. Even the name (Il canto degli Italiani = “Song of the Italians”) is lame.

But think about it. Italy has no royal house, no illustrious military exploits…hell, it wasn’t even a nation until that Garibaldi fellow started making a fuss. About all it has, nationalistically, is a governmental coalition built on constantly shifting allegiances that historically fall to hell every nine months. So of course they have a blah national anthem. If they didn’t, they’d be on their 7,239th anthem since the end of WW2.

Darth, I wouldn’t say you lose anything by not knowing it; more that it’s unusual for someone outside the Gen-X demographic to know it.

YouTube link. Start at 4:43.

I’m fond an athems that involve war. A national anthen should be something you can sing in defiance of the enemy. “The Star Spangled Banner” is okay but Denmark’s is great, with a King chopping people’s head in two. “La Marseillaise” is also excellent:

They are coming into your midst
To cut the throats of your sons, your wives!

That’s an anthem you can get behind. I’ve always liked the tune of “O Canada” and I like the current habit of singing it in both languages, but I’d change the lyrics thus:

O Canada,
Our home and native land,
True patriot sons
Defend thy borders with guns,
Si tu foundre avec nous (If you fuck with us)
Vouz trouverez la bas seignant (You’ll lie bleeding on the ground)
Parce que nous vous tirons dans la tete. ('Cause we’ll shoot you in the head)
Alors, nous monterons d’un bateau (Then we’ll get in a boat)
Et saut a votre pays, (And go to your country)
Tuez votre famille et brulez vote maison sacre! (Kill your family and burn down your goddamned house!)
We’ll keep our land,
Glorious and free,
Oh, you sons of bitches
You’d best not fuck with us,
Oh, you sons of bitches
Best not fuck with us!

I forget who wrote it (some Canadian, obviously), but I once read a piece comparing the English vs. French lyrics to O Canada. The gist was the English lyric was blah, all about stalwartness and pride, but the French lyric was a lot more appealing, full of blood and crosses and swords.

God Save the Queen has a deadly boring melody. I personally couldn’t stand to sing it.
The best…I think maybe the Soviet Union. Very stirring.

I like the incorrectly-assumed national anthems; those songs so superior to the actual national anthems that many outsiders mistake them and nationals prefer them.

Here’s the Tukish national anthem, the musical equivlent of eating Stovetop Stuffing straight out of the box.

By contrast, here’s the traditional version of Ceddin Deden, (translation: “Look to Your Fathers,” meaning “Us Turks have always been tough!”) which the Janissaries march to for the tourists, and which Turkish rockers seem to enjoy, even if it’s a 300-year old song. (Cute girl! It’s somehow comforting to see an expression of nationalism in a Molsem country that employs imagery that would outrage Islamic fundies).

Another example: although Wales isn’t exactly a nation, it still has an anthem,The Land of my Fathers (again with the fathers. Doesn’t anyone’s mom count for anything?). But a lot of people either assume or wish the Welsh national anthem was Men of Harlech

Denmark’s reads like it was written by Iron Maiden.

The tune to the Russian/ex-Soviet anthem is truly fantastic.

and you know what else? the national anthems of tanzania and zambia are sung to that same tune.

and i agree, it is really pretty.


It should be Number one. You should hear it here, when people MEANT it. Stirs the soul like no other.

(edited to add) It probably helps to not speak French.
(edited to also add) I have dialup, but you appear to need to sit through what I recall was the “Horst Wessel Lied.”