Watch Out, Weird Al: ‘Modifying’ National-Anthem Lyrics Could Get You Fined

Star-spangled switchers could face a fee for parodying the tune at Indiana schools

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Nick Laham / Getty Images

A giant American Flag stretches across the field during a New York Giants game on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Just in time for Indianapolis’ hosting of the Super Bowl, an Indiana state senator wants to ensure that any rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” emerging from her state is sung properly, with a plan to penalize those who flub it.  It’s understandable that Indiana would want to prevent a repeat of last year – Christina Aguilera’s flub at the 2011 Super Bowl made headlines around the world – but the proposed law stretches further than to just music superstars at internationally televised events.

State senator Vaneta Becker, who represents the southern Indiana city of Evansville, has set forth a bill that would fine anyone, professional or amateur, who modifies the anthem while singing at a public school or a university-sponsored event in the state. Performers would sign a contract pledging to stick to the originally written lyrics and traditional melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Those who change the words, even comically, could be subject to a $25 fine. “Sometimes it’s just done in a joking manner,” she told the Indy Star, “but I don’t think the national anthem is something we ought to be joking around with.”

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The legislation is equivalent to banning the modification of the Pledge of Allegiance to remove “Under God,” since the bill attacks parodies of the national anthem. Becker’s bill was fueled by a constituent who complained about a parody of the national anthem being sung in a school. As part of the legislation, schools would be forced to maintain audio recordings of every national anthem sung in their gyms and on their fields, in case anyone complains. Indiana wouldn’t be the first state to enact a bill setting standards for the anthem — Massachusetts and Michigan already ban embellishments to the tune.

Becker made it clear, though, that she intends to punish only those who intentionally pull a “Star-Spangled” switcheroo, not those who accidentally slip up. “It’s not like we’re going after anyone’s ability to sing,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “We just want them to respect the words and the tune as it was originally intended and we normally sing it.” So if this year’s singer pulls a flub like Christina did, there will likely be no fine levied. Trust us, though: the international humiliation is much worse than a paltry fine.

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