Apologies in advance for not staying in my lane, but this one truly had a sporting origin. While sitting and watching the UEFA 2016 tournament, I really enjoy watching Spain take the pitch for the national anthem as their fans sing the unofficial lyrics while the team members themselves stand stoically. It made me wonder what the distribution of national anthems were by theme. I took the lyrics from the respective Wikipedia page of the nation, then I divided them into the six categories mentioned below. In cases where multiple categories applied, I took the “most right” option, judging from the lyrics (and assuming they were translated accurately to English).
Without further ado, the map, and then some clarification below:
1. National Anthems About The Country Itself
In some regards, every national anthem is somewhat about the nation itself. It is the aural symbol of the country in question. However, while some anthems are tangentially about the country they are about, quite a few are solely about the country. As a whole, these anthems go something along the lines of “Oh ______, you are so great. You have beautiful land, strong people, and a bright future, and you will always be the fatherland/motherland/my native land.” Relevant examples include: “O Canada,” “Advance Australia Fair,” and my personal favorite “Libya, Libya, Libya.”1 Most of the world has anthems like these.
2. National Anthems About Some Sort of Battle (whether real or hypothetical)
These are the fun anthems. Usually militaristic with strong rhetoric, talking about how they violently fought colonialism, or overthrew the old, ruthless, despots. This is the second most common type of anthem. France, Sudan, and Colombia all have this in common with one another, with France winning this entire group’s lyric contest with the amazing imagery of “La Marseillaise.”
3. Songs About The Flag Itself
This one is pretty self-explanatory. USA, Switzerland, Somalia, Albania and Turkey! What an amazing mix of countries. Now, there’s some question about whether the US song is about a battle or about the flag, with the song taking place in the Battle of Baltimore, a reference to Fort McHenry holding against the British bombardment. Since the song itself is called “The Star Spangled Banner” I have opted to put it in the flag category. You are free to disagree, however.
4. Songs About A Person or People
This one is generally about the leader of the country, though a handful of nations have this about the collective population of their nation. See: “God Save The Queen,” “March of the Volunteers” (China).
5. Songs About A Language
Moldova. Who knows.
6. Songs About Friendship
Slovenia used a historic poem that does not specifically mention any of the above.