When American Idol champion Kelly Clarkson steps in front of the microphone to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" for Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, she’ll be joining the ranks of myriad professional singers who have faced the honor and challenge of tackling America’s national anthem on the big stage.
Most artists manage a rousing version and then it’s on to the game, but many performers before her have bungled it badly - most recently Steven Tyler of the rock band Aerosmith, whose highly stylized rendition at the New England Patriots’ and Baltimore Ravens’ AFC Championship game on January 22nd sent many viewers scrambling for the mute button on their remotes. But Tyler is far from alone… the list of celebrities who have butchered the song includes Roseanne Barr, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bolton, track star Carl Lewis and pop diva Christina Aguilera, who delivered a lyrically-challenged and widely-panned performance at last year’s Super Bowl.
Just what is it about Francis Scott Key’s bit of patriotic zeal that prompts such musical abuse? Is it the one-and-a-half octave range of the melody? Is it the fact that it is usually sung solo, and a capella? Is it the millions watching and listening? Who would you like to hear sing the national anthem before a big game?
Jim DeRogatis, WBEZ’s Sound Opinions; music blogger, Vocalo; lecturer, Columbia College; former rock critic, the Chicago Sun Times
Todd von Felker, professional opera singer; has sung "The Star Spangled Banner" for five Chicago Bulls NBA games