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I have heard the term thrown around, usually about songs I might not think would qualify as anthems. Tonight I was listening to Tool's Eulogy. I had a sense it might be so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Its roots, it seems, stem from Anglican England. But the rest of the article seems a bit narrow. Other than Queen's contributions to the anthem, it cites only songs whose title contain the word.

My sense of an anthem is that it should elicit inspiration. For this reason I would think there are many other modern songs that should be shown as examples. Ones which have reached a greater audience.

While lyrically the song Eulogy is not inspirational, I would argue that the music itself is. The transition from verse through the chorus evokes grandeur and pride. Now...after the bridge the song turns dark and I think we're out of the running to qualify as an anthem. But, before that turn I would say this is the kind of music that is anthemic.

My question, at long last, what defines a song as being an anthem, or at least somewhat anthemic?

  • asking the same question as you I am glad I found a range of satisfying answers scattered across the web. I play a guitar (finger Style) solo that I have always considered an anthem, called "Keep me safe and keep me warm shelter me from darkness." This was written by Herbie Flowers. A fantastic version was recorded ( and played live, which first drew my interest in it) by SKY, the rock group led by John Williams, in which Herbie played bass (electric, double bass and tuba!). If you listen to it on YouTube I will be interested to hear of you think it qualifies as an anthem. Cheers John h – John h Jul 13 '17 at 5:34
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I always thought an "anthem" was sort of like a "musical voice". The lyrics are on-point, and the music inspires courage, elation or pride. I mean, The Who's song Baba O'Riley is considered an anthem.

For a deeper look at anthems and what makes a song an anthem, check out this article on NPR:

The Good Listener: What Makes An Anthem?

To quote the last sentence:

The only prerequisite of an anthem, to my mind, is that it speaks for someone.

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In other contexts, away from religious or national anthems, to qualify as an "anthem", it has to be one or more of the following : uplifting, strongly identified with a group or individual, great chorus that will stand being sung badly.

For example : "Something inside so strong", "Forever Young", "Someone like you", "Summer of 69"....

  • I like this so far. – Jason P Sallinger May 24 '16 at 18:09
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    "great chorus that will stand being sung badly." Classic. :o) – Johnny Bones May 24 '16 at 19:10
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The following is from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music (Third Edition).

The English-speaking Protestant Churches’ equivalent of the Latin motet, from which it sprang. … It constitutes in ordinary churches the one great occasion when the choir alone undertakes the duty of song, and when an elaborate vocal setting impossible and unsuitable in other parts of the service becomes proper and effective.

That is obvious a definition of anthem in a religious context. In a non-religious context, it goes on to say:

The term is also less strictly used, as in the phrase “National Anthem”, to denote a solemn, hymn-like song.
  • Don't dispute these by any means. If one were to take only these definitions, how could a song that isn't a National Anthem be defined as anthemic? – Jason P Sallinger May 24 '16 at 12:35
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A song can be a national aththem by simplicity in the message and tbe commanality others feel and understandi and identify with strong and represent how one emotionally in their spirit.

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