This is the post in which I will actually advance an idea from my sister – trust me, no one will find this more bizarre than her. Anyway, she chimed in on a Facebook chat about the latest horrendous rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by a pop star at a major sporting event – Christina Aguilera’s Cher-channeling, memory-lapsing performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Karen suggested: “Let’s just have the entire stadium sing. It’s much more moving! Isn’t that what they do in other countries?”
That is perfect. In addition to other countries, it is what we often hear at high school sports events and other gatherings where the anthem is played. Yeah, the guy behind you may not be able to carry a tune in a bucket and there may be a woman a row or two over trying to do her best Whitney. But collectively, it is invariably moving to hear a collective rendition of the national anthem, particularly in these days when we can’t seem to be unified in much of anything else.
Whitney Houston’s much-loved rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV in the midst of the Persian Gulf War, is often seen as the event that started the current trend of major sports events trying to book marquee stars to sing the anthem. The Kentucky Derby even got in on the action a couple years ago. But those Whitney-like winning renditions are few and far between. Too often pop singers, who for the most part are not trained singers, are overmatched by the difficult anthem and end up with a black mark on their resume. Aguilera, who not only made an embarassing spectacle of herself but also flubbed the lyrics, is just the newest member of the club.
Sure, there are plenty of people capable of tastefully nailing the anthem. I remember going to a New York Mets game and hearing a Metropolitan Opera soprano blow Shea Stadium away. But, sad to say, events such as the Super Bowl are more interested in star power than musicianship when they book anthem singers.
So, if they are not going to give us a performer who can actually do the anthem justice, how about giving us the sound of tens-of-thousands of people singing The Star-Spangled Banner in unison. That would be kind of spectacular.