I will cut right to the chase here. I, like quite many Americans, pay more attention to the commercials than I do to that sportsy event happening this evening. However, I have to admit I don’t even care as much about that as I do the singing of our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, before the game even begins.
As a general music teacher, as a voice teacher and also as someone who has sung the national anthem at many events, I feel pretty qualified to give my opinion on the topic. At the very least, it’s the only thing on Super Bowl Sunday that I can really comment on in any kind of informed capacity.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we? Thanks to YouTube and Wikipedia, you can easily stroll back, at least a decade or two, but for the sake of brevity, let’s stick with the last five years.
Lady Gaga – Super Bowl 50, 2016
Lady Gaga definitely rocketed to a spot in my Top 5 for sure with this rendition. She didn’t go crazy with ornamentation and her voice was absolutely on point. Sure, there’s the meat dress that people are still talking about, and countless other stunts that she has pulled through the years, but underneath the showmanship, is a really powerful, classically trained voice that totally shone through here.
Idina Menzel – Super Bowl 49, 2015
There is no doubting Idina’s talent as a singer, but she did weird things with the rhythm that I just wish she wouldn’t have. For example, the way she rushes the words “what so” and “at the twilight’s,” and then drags out the ends of her phrases.
Renee Fleming – Super Bowl 48, 2014
Yo. Very little ornamentation, but when you’re RENEE FREAKING FLEMING, you don’t need it. Very powerful, very classic.
Alicia Keys – Super Bowl 47, 2013
I have to give props to Alicia for accompanying herself – I would be nervous enough just to do the singing, let alone the playing as well. However, her voice is just not in tip top shape here. I can’t tell if she’s nervous or over singing.
Kelly Clarkson – Super Bowl 46, 2012
I loved Kelly, I loved the choir. The drums confused me. They did a few neat things with the rhythm that were unexpected, but took me a few listenings to take used to.
Christina Aguilera – Super Bowl 45, 2011
A lot of people hate on Christina’s version of the anthem. Yes, she messed up the lyrics, and she was not in tip top vocal shape that evening. BUT! Christina is a great vocalist who basically rocked this. As I’ve discussed with many classes since then (I regularly cover the National Anthem the week after the Super Bowl every year), one of the things that I like about her rendition is how she manages to ornament it in a style that is distinctly hers without obliterating the melody or rhythm (ahem, Idina).
BONUS FEATURE – WHITNEY HOUSTON – SUPER BOWL 25, 1991
How could I do a post on the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl and not mention Whitney? I think one of the things I love most about Whitney’s version is she just makes it look SO EASY. She doesn’t ornament too much, but powers through that song like it’s nothing, allowing the strength of her voice to carry her right into the history books.
So what do you think about these ladies? Who’s your fave? Is there an older rendition of the anthem you think we need to revisit? Let me know in the comments!