Here’s the song so bad it’s got the Netherlands in an uproar and is ruining the king’s big day

April 23, 2013

Someone in the Netherlands had a basically good idea that has gone disastrously wrong.

Prince Willem-Alexander is going to become king next week and the committee responsible for his inauguration decided to commission a song for the occasion. The five-minute composition was to incorporate musical and lyrical contributions from dozens of Dutch artists and regular citizens. A music video would show the Netherlands' finest musicians coming together to celebrate their new king in song. Schoolteachers around the country were to have their students memorize and practice the song so that, when Willem-Alexander ascended to the throne April 30, the country's children could perform it in a mass national sing-along.

But there was one problem: The song, released Friday, is terrible. That's not my judgment; it appears to be the opinion of the Dutch people themselves, according to a Financial Times story on the controversy. An online petition that reads: "In protest at this imbecilic 'King's Song,' I hereby abdicate as a Dutch subject," has earned more than 40,000 votes. Furious Dutch (there's a phrase you don't see too often) filled the national media and Web with criticism for, among other things, "the song’s poor grammar, eclectic mix of styles and lack of a memorable refrain," as the Financial Times put it.

The infamous "Koningslied" (Dutch for "King Song") is embedded above so that you can judge for yourself. It's hard not to find the video hokey and the music less than inspiring, although I'm not Dutch so it's not meant for me. The slow-motion, soft-focus footage of Dutch people is regrettable, such as the shot of a smiling Asian woman painting a customer's nails.

A rap sequence, about two minutes into the video, has apparently drawn particular scorn. So has the bit, at about 3:15, when singers break into a chant of "W for Willem," flashing three fingers in what appears to be a failed bid to start a trend.

The backlash got so bad that songwriter John Ewbank announced he was withdrawing it, putting the king's inauguration committee in the difficult position of having to pretend that the song it had sent to Dutch schools for memorization suddenly no longer existed. The committee first declared that the song was no longer the king's official song then, on Monday, changed their minds and announced that it was back in.

Unless something changes in the next week, which it might, the citizens of the Netherlands will hold their noses, sing the dreaded Koningslied that had become their royal duty and, immediately afterward, promptly return to the 21st century.

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Max Fisher · April 23, 2013