Space Force Song Shoots for the Stars—Some Think It Falls Flat

From a New York Times story by Michael Levenson headlined “Space Force Song Shoots for the Stars, but Some Think It Falls Flat”:

Since its creation in 2019, the United States Space Force has named its service members Guardians, created a symbol with a futuristic-looking silver delta and debuted a dress uniform with a deep blue coat to evoke the vastness of space.

This week, the Space Force dropped an official song, “Semper Supra,” named for its motto, which is Latin for “always above.”

Complete with cymbals and high-flying lyrics extolling the force’s celestial mission, the song was the creation of two former service members — one a singer-songwriter, the other an arranger — who collaborated over months to create a musical composition that would inspire pride and esprit de corps.

But after the Space Force released the song and a “behind the music” video on Tuesday, some public reactions were scathing.

One headline, on, read: “Space Force Unveiled Its Official Service Song. It’s Not a Banger.” Kevin Baron, the executive editor of Defense One, called the lyrics “the verbal word salad version of a bad Air Force painting.” Some suggested it needed laser sounds.

Such reactions have become all too familiar for the fledgling military branch, which has drawn endless comparisons to “Star Trek” and was even satirized in “Space Force,” a Netflix comedy series starring Steve Carell.

“You want something that’s going to inspire people,” said Raoul F. Camus, a professor emeritus of music at Queensborough Community College in New York and a former bandmaster for the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York Army National Guard. “This is like bouncing along to a carnival.”

Professor Camus, the author of “Military Music of the American Revolution,” also questioned the lyrics. “I don’t want to use the word ‘laughable,’ but come on,” he said. “It’s really pushing patriotism to a degree that I wonder: Do people believe that?”

The branch, despite its name, is not focused on sending its members into space, but rather on training and equipping them to launch and operate satellites. Nevertheless, the lyrics lean heavily on otherworldly imagery:

We’re the mighty watchful eye

Guardians beyond the blue

The invisible front line

Warfighters brave and true

Boldly reaching into space

There’s no limit to our sky

Standing guard both night and day

We’re the Space Force from on high

Not everyone panned the song. James Davis, a professor of musicology at the State University of New York at Fredonia, who researches Civil War music and musicians, took a more favorable view.

“As I assume they wanted, I thought it was remarkably similar to the other service anthems,” he said. “Tempo-wise, range-wise, and even the melody is reminiscent of some of the other military songs.”

He and others noted that the song must stand alongside established military songs like “Anchors Aweigh,” considered the unofficial song of the U.S. Navy, and “The Marines’ Hymn,” with its well-known lyrics that begin, “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.”

“So whether this one is going to be as catchy?” Professor Davis said. “Wow. Good luck to them.”

Eamonn O’Keeffe, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford who researches British military musicians during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, said that the song was an effective effort to create a sense of unit pride and that its use of the terms “warfighter” and “Guardians” evoked the branch’s “novelty and modernity.”

Still, he added, “I don’t think some of the dystopian and overdramatic lyrics about being a ‘mighty watchful eye’ and so forth will help the Space Force move past its public reputation as something reminiscent of a science fiction Hollywood movie.”

The song took years to develop. The driving force behind it was James Teachenor, a singer-songwriter and former member of the United States Air Force Academy Band, who created the melody and wrote the lyrics.

He then collaborated with Sean Nelson, chief musician, trombonist and arranger in the U.S. Coast Guard Band, who said that Mr. Teachenor “wanted me to help add the harmony and to orchestrate it.”

“At first, it started with singing and the piano,” Mr. Nelson said in a statement. “I became familiar with the other branches’ songs, but I wanted this one to have its own modern spin to reflect what the Space Force is — modern, new and very advanced.”

Mr. Nelson added 30 instrumental parts and the song was then played and recorded by the Coast Guard Band and submitted to the Space Force for review.

After many months of revisions and variations, the Space Force debuted the final version at this year’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md.

“It was quite a long work in progress for a while,” Mr. Teachenor said in the video detailing its creation, “because I wanted to make sure that everything that was in the song would adequately represent all the capabilities that our Space Force is involved with, and make sure I didn’t mess up on the mission or the vision of what the Space Force does.”

In a statement, Gen. John W. Raymond, chief of space operations, described the composition as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a Space Force song that will be part of our culture and heritage for years to come.”

“I will be proud,” he added, “to sing ‘Semper Supra’ alongside my fellow Guardians.”

Michael Levenson joined The Times in December 2019. He was previously a reporter at The Boston Globe, where he covered local, state and national politics and news.


Speak Your Mind