No Jose

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Yesterday evening, before the first game of the 2011 World Series, Scotty McCreery sang the national anthem.  He started out fine:

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But in the next-to-last line (of the first verse, the only verse normally performed on such occasions), he did something odd:

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What should have been

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

seems to have become

No Jose does that star-spangled banner yet wave

This must be connected with the old joke (I first heard on the playground in the first grade) about a Latino kid who went to his first baseball game in the U.S., and when his friends asked him how it was, responded that Americans are very considerate, because before the game they all stood up and sang a song to ask him "Jose can you see?". Similar childhood memories seem to have subverted Mr. McCreery's lyric recall, perhaps because he was rattled by an earlier microphone malfunction.

Here's the whole thing:


  1. Ryan said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    Listening to the rest of it, I seem to hear a lot of nasalized syllable onsets after he breathes.

    [(myl) But he doesn't sing "nat the twilight's last gleaming", or "Nor the ramparts we watched", or "Nand the rockets red glare", or "nor the land of the free", or "nand the home of the brave".]

  2. mettle said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    Glad I looked at the category (humor) before posting because otherwise I would have written that the "j"/[h] just sounded more like vibrato to me…

    [(myl) It would be more "re-articulation" than "vibrato" if your were going to treat it as a vocal style thing, wouldn't it? But thanks for looking at the category.]

  3. Ø said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    No way, Jose. It is just as plausible that he briefly thought that the final line began with "Now" and quickly corrected himself.

    Or maybe it's a style thing. He also starts every phrase by sliding up from a deep growly bass note sometimes more than an octave below the actual note of the melody. An extra bass note, an extra consonant, whatever.

    He's also got "perolous" and "gallintly".

  4. James said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    He does sing

    "nThe bombs bursting in air"


    Ø's hypothesis (the null hypothesis?) is plausible, too.

  5. Freddy Hill said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

    What did the Mexican fireman name his two boys? Jose and Hose-B.


  6. Eric P Smith said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

    I hear this the same as Ryan and Ø do. The singer’s slide “from a deep growly bass note” to the melody note encompasses an astonishing twelfth – from F2 to C4 – at the start of the phrase “And the rockets’ red glare”. The slide is often accompanied by a nasal. He sings “mby the dawn”, “nthrough the perilous”, “nthe bombs bursting in air”, “nat our flag” and “mbanner”. The “No Jose” is “n-O-o! say”; I don’t think it has anything to do with “Now”.

    That is how I hear it, anyway: I have not worked from a spectrogram.

    For many years I sang in a choir beside a man who sang every /ð/ onset as [n], like “nat our flag”. I found it most annoying. He didn’t do it when speaking.

  7. Janice Byer said,

    October 20, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    Scott's father is from Puerto Rico, which lends weight, imo, to Professor Liberman's theory that a certain play on the lyrics was on Scott's mind.

  8. jp 吉平 Villanueva said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 2:09 am

    Hi folks,

    The nasal note before a word is a singing thing; it's a way to check that the note that you're about to sing is the right pitch.

    For some reason, bass and baritone vocalists tend to do it a lot. Usually vocal coaches and studio producers discourage it as a bad habit. I don't want to say it's specifically a country music thing; but there are relatively more baritone country singers than in other genres.

    I'm pretty sure that any church choir director can corroborate this "hum-to-check-pitch-habit" theory.

  9. pj said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 4:24 am

    All the nasal-onset apologetics don't explain the voiced [z] for [s] at the start of 'say' (or, as it might be, in the middle of 'Jose'), though, do they?

  10. pj said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 4:28 am

    Actually, his 'say' in the first line is quite [z]-y, too, I realise. But not as much, I don't think, as the second one. There seems to be more of an [s] preceding the voicing in the opening line.

  11. J Lee said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 6:02 am

    at least myl spared us another crypto-racism conspiracy theory

  12. marc said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    Wait, is someone seriously proposing he mistakenly sang "No Jose" instead of "Oh say"? It's obviously the n-onset.

  13. Lazar said,

    October 21, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    In my family we sing the Jewish version: "Oy vey! Can you see?"

  14. ianmorris said,

    October 22, 2011 @ 3:06 am

    How long before political pundits jump on this?

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