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Oh, Say Can You Hear the Clichés?

Conservatives rightfully loathe “Nuestro Himno,” the recently recorded Spanish-language take on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and so should you. But the Dubyas and John & Kens of the world got it all wrong. “Nuestro Himno” isn’t a travesty because it’s seditious or perverts the idea of assimilation — the song’s danger is that it’s lyrically, tunefully and politically lame.

Sure, the song is in good spirits, and it keeps the basic chord progression of Francis Scott Key’s pride and joy, but “Nuestro Himno” quickly becomes a disaster more embarrassing to the amnesty movement than the Brown Berets. British producer Adam Kidron commits three Spanish-pop clichés not even seven seconds into the intro by layering impeccably plucked acoustic guitar and castrati hums over the chatter of Nuyorican ninnies who shout out “¡Somos Latinos, papá!” (“We’re Latinos, daddy.”) A snare drum keeps rhythm as the guitar plucks flourish, the strings fire up, the castanets rat-tat-tat away, notable musicians such as Gloria Trevi, Don Omar and Ivy Queen trade off the mic . . . and then nada. The much-debated translation does little to “teach a wider audience about the American Dream” (Kidron’s professed reason for selling the single at $10 a pop), and its call for immigrant solidarity drowns in the song’s swirl of PC pendejos.(Really, Kidron: Is “We’re equals, we’re brothers” the most radical addition to “The Star-Spangled Banner” you could whip together? Even Carlos Mencía is more insightful than that.) Only unappreciated Miami rapper Pitbull adds any real edge, when he manages to shout out “¡Mi gente sigue luchando!” (“Keep fighting, my people!”) and “¡Ya es tiempo de romper las cadenas!” (“It’s time to break the chains!”) amid the sap.

What’s most disappointing about “Nuestro Himno,” however, is that Kidron and his stable worked from a fertile vein. It wasn’t Jimi Hendrix but José Feliciano who proved that “The Star-Spangled Banner” could transform into a progressive political statement, when he performed a brooding, bolero-tinged version of it before Game Five of the 1968 World Series. And you’ll never truly understand the poignancy of the final stanza until you hear it wept out through the trills of a norteño accordion. Standing on the shoulders of such giants, “Nuestro Himno” falls flat.


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