The Rules

October 25, 2022

What is the first thing people think of when they are asked for a symbol of a country? Some turn to the flag, while others may mention their national bird. However, the most prominent and complex of them all may just be the national anthem.

National anthems are seen as a central part of a country’s identity and are often praised as a symbol of patriotism. But how do these anthems stack up against one another as individual pieces of music? These questions had to be answered, and the anthems needed to be analyzed.

In a historical sense, national anthems are a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first ones composed in the late 18th century in Europe.  Today, the total number is massive, with all 193 UN countries having a national anthem. Former and non-UN countries’ anthems add to the list.  Due to space constraints–and for the sake of the author’s sanity–only 51 nations’ anthems were selected.

(As a disclaimer, the decision for the nations chosen for the sample was mostly arbitrary. The process simply involved a division of the world via regions, and selecting a few nations from each region, along with the inclusion of two former nations. Politics were ignored and avoided in both the selection and ranking processes.)

With the sample size determined, the ranking could begin. Each tier was given a one-sentence description that acted as a general justification for why each nation belonged in the said tier. The anthems were judged solely on the instrumentation, tune, and general mood of the music. The lyrics were generally ignored for the sake of avoiding political controversy. However, the amount of patriotism that could be heard within the anthem was factored in, as it tends to set an anthem apart from any regular piece of music.   

With everything established, the rankings were decided.

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