In just three days, Super Bowl XLVI will be under way in Indianapolis. There will be touchdowns, Madonna, M.I.A., LMFAO, maybe Cee Lo Green, bets won and bets lost. There will also be flags flown and an anthem sung, as is the custom for big American sports spectacles. This, to many, is the biggest of them all, and the very worthy Kelly Clarkson will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”, bringing her range and power to a song that many have attempted but few have mastered.
There have been some incredible — and some unforgivable — versions of the national anthem sung at football games past. Take a trip down memory lane with us while we recap the five very best and the five very worst.
THE 5 WORST NATIONAL ANTHEM PERFORMANCES FOOTBALL HAS EVER SEEN
5. Christina Aguilera changes the lyrics at Super Bowl XLV. For all the flack Xtina got for flubbing the lyrics at the opening of the game, her vocal performance was pretty solid. Sure, she missed that “o’er the ramparts we watched” line (and replaced it with the arguably more patriotic “what so proudly we watched”), but the slip-up was nearly undetectable. We’ll take the wrong words with the right sentiment over an empty expanse of dead air anytime.
4. Lauren Alaina freezes — and not from the cold — at the Lions vs. Packers game. Not too far into the former American Idol contestant’s Thanksgiving performance, she… pretty much fumbled. Alaina took a somewhat lengthy pause (the TV equivalent of “an eternity”) to get herself back together. She pulled it off in the end, and, as she responded in a comment after the performance, “at least [she] didn’t fall down.”
3. Steven Tyler screeches at the Ravens vs. Patriots AFC Championship game. What’s most confounding about Steven Tyler’s 2012 performance is the juxtaposition of how horribly strained the American Idol judge’s voice is and how loud the crowd seems to be cheering.
2. Josh Groban and Flea join forces at the 2010 Rose Bowl BCS National Championship. Groban singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” sounds like a recipe for success, right? But pairing him with another massively successful artist, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, added up to a mind-bogglingly WTF result.
1. Kat Deluna gets booed. The pop singer took to the field at the opening of a Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game in September of 2008, and apparently decided it was the right day to play diva. Deluna’s pitchy, overwrought performance was a sure-fire crowd-displeaser, and the audience was not shy about voicing its dissatisfaction.
THE 5 BEST NATIONAL ANTHEM PERFORMANCES FOOTBALL HAS EVER SEEN
5. Kelly Clarkson does America proud on Thanksgiving. Perhaps this is a little preview of what we have to look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday. Kelly has a bit more experience under her belt since this 2006 Thanksgiving Day performance, but her control and range are on full display here. Also, the pom-pom flag re-creation is just adorable.
4. Faith Hill keeps it classy at Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. The combination of Faith’s understated pitch perfection and the kids doing that kind of Napoleon Dynamite interpretive dance earned the flawless country crossover star our #4 spot.
3. Beyoncé brings the players to tears at Super Bowl XXXVII. This performance should be required viewing for any singer planning to step anywhere near a field with a microphone. In 2004, Beyoncé displayed the essential grace and poise that performing the anthem demands (particularly in wartime). And she did so while showcasing the full power of her pipes. Watch closely, and you can see at least one player with a shaky lip and teary eyes.
2. Dixie Chicks create perfect harmony at Super Bowl XXXVII. The same year they sparked controversy by making anti-President Bush comments at a London performance, the Dixie Chicks performed our second favorite rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” (The year was 2003, FYI.) These ladies obviously love their country, and lend a sense of solemnity to the well-worn tune.
1. Whitney Houston sets the gold standard at Super Bowl XXV. The only word that can be used to describe this performance is: flawless. Whitney sang the anthem in 1991, when America was still at war in the Persian Gulf. This was the singer at her prime, and the rendition was later released as a charity single, with Houston donating her profits to help soldiers returning home. The single was re-released after September 11, 2001 and reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, with Houston once again donating the proceeds from sales to help firefighters and other victims of the attacks.
— Reporting by Maud Deitch