If you have watched TV broadcasts of any of the 5 major sports, you have likely run into a disastrous attempt to sing the national anthem. NFL Knee Knocking aside, the Super Bowl is one of the world’s most watched sporting events, so getting the national anthem right should be a priority. But as this list of 5 will show, that has not always been the case. Here are 5 of the most controversial Super Bowl national anthem performances on record, in no particular order. This does not mean the performances were bad, but did cause a bit of a stir at the time.
1. Renee Fleming – The fat lady should never sing before the end of the game. – Super Bowl XLVIII
It needs to be made clear that this is not a knock on Renee Fleming, if you happen to know who she is. She is a superb opera singer who ended up getting the nod to perform the national anthem in 2014. The question is why an opera singer, especially in 2014? In the 5 years previous, the performers of the national anthem were Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Christine Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson. So why go from popular, known singers to give the opera a try? Well, for those with shorter memories, the Super Bowl that year was held in East Rutherford, New Jersey. You might make a case for opera in New York, but New Jersey?
2. Alicia Keys – The slowest version on record – Super Bowl XLVII
Yes, only one year before the operatic rendition, there was Alicia Keys who currently stands as the record holder for most drawn out national anthem performance at the Super Bowl. Going at a pace that lasted 2 hours … minutes … and 29 seconds, it was not a given that the song would ever end before halftime. There are those who make the case that Alicia has a fine voice, and most of her hit songs are much longer. This is true, but the national anthem vocalists are supposed to remember it is a traditional introduction to a professional game – not an entire concert.
3. Charley Pride – When silence is not golden – Super Bowl VIII
Despite the criticism from many Baby Boomers, Millennials are not the only ones who can be lyrically challenged by the national anthem. Going back to 1974, American country singer Charlie Pride was thought to be a good choice to sing the national anthem in Houston, Texas. But as any viewer of the scratchy video can tell, he didn’t have a clue to the words, beginning with the first line. The first line. Arguably, to his credit he remained silent instead of trying to fake it. But it was a lose-lose situation for him, so no matter what he did he would go down as the country singing bumpkin who didn’t even try to practice for the performance. It’s hard to know which is more shameful.
4. Christina Aguilera – The conundrum of live singing – Super Bowl XLV
Christina Aguilera had a different problem than Charlie Pride, but one that is actually both forgivable while yet being unforgiveable. Christine didn’t botch the song from the beginning, which would have been worthy of national mocking. But she didn’t know the words in the middle of the song. The question is, what should she have done? Singing on, which is what she did, didn’t help to cover up the error. But should she have stopped? What would you have done? Maybe the down tempo start of her performance should have been a sign of things to come. In the video, two Steelers can be seen looking at each other, like, “What’s this?” Being selected for the honor to sing at the Super Bowl isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
5. Lady Gaga – Never bet against The Lady – Super Bowl L
It was decided that for Super Bowl 50 (just the letter “L”) that Lady Gaga would sing the anthem. Now asking one of the most talented but controversial entertainers of the time to perform was taking a risk. Instead of just simply following the erroneous ways of previous performers who botched the lyrics, The Lady decided to add to the lyrics by singing “the brave” twice. Critics have her making a political statement, while others have given her the benefit of the doubt and giving her literary license to perform. But that was not the only controversy. Based on the drawn out performances of previous anthem singers, there were people actually betting on the over-under of Gaga’s performance. By repeating “the brave” it required bettors to decide when exactly the song ended. It’s not clear whether Lady Gaga had any money on it, but if she did she likely took the over.