5 of the Best Super Bowl National Anthem Performances
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Even though it’s happened before every single Super Bowl game since 1967, the event doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Singing the national anthem in front of a sold-out stadium, along with the rest of the country watching through their television sets is no small feat. From Whitney Houston to Jennifer Hudson, countless singers have given unforgettable renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the biggest football game of the year begins.
Today, we’re taking a look back at some of the best performances of the national anthem performed at the NFL’s annual Super Bowl.
If you’ve heard it, you already know. And if you haven’t yet, you should. While Whitney Houston never had her own halftime show performance, her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” will go down in history as one of the greatest Super Bowl performances of all time. Houston made her flawless vocals appear effortless, hitting every note with ease. Her performance took place during a tumultuous time for our country, just 10 days after the start of the Gulf War. The televised sporting event was an escape, providing viewers with a respite from the stress of harrowing news. Her voice carried hope, moving listeners with her powerhouse vocals. Houston’s performance is regarded to this day as one of the greatest television moments of all time.
It’s hard to watch Gladys Knight perform and not have a smile on your face by the end. Introduced to the field by her nickname, “the empress of soul,” Gladys Knight gave the most recent vocal performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to date at the 2019 Super Bowl. The former Pips front-woman showed the country that her vocals are just as smooth and sultry as they were in her heyday. Still actively touring at 75 years old, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s voice has stood the test of time. Knight entered the field with her signature grace and elegance, sporting a gorgeous white gown while delivering equally as gorgeous vocal stylings. Her rendition is up there with Houston’s: not a single note missed, and sparkling with hope.
Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville & Dr. John
When three blues legends walk out onto any given stage, you know their performance is going to be magical. The performance features a variety of musicians from a wide array of musical backgrounds. The late Dr. John and Aaron Neville both hailing from New Orleans inject a heavy dose of southern blues into this arrangement, with the Doctor effortlessly riffing on the keys from the start. Neville begins the national anthem, backed by a gospel choir hailing from Detroit, Aretha Franklin’s hometown. As the arrangement builds, Franklin steps in to hit the highly anticipated high notes. (Yes, each and every one of them.) By the end, the rendition is oozing with soul, paying homage to the trio’s musical roots.
Beyoncé has both performed at the halftime show and sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl – a feat that few artists can say they’ve achieved. In 2004, Queen B sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in her hometown of Houston, TX at NRG Stadium. Her performance is a testament to her timelessness – with 20 years in the music industry under her belt, both of her Super Bowl performances transcend time, still gleaming with the her same signature flair that she exudes to this day. In addition to her 2004 Super Bowl debut, Beyoncé also sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the halftime show press conference in 2016.
After performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2012 Super Bowl, Jennifer Hudson returned to the field to deliver a poignant yet hopeful rendition of “America The Beautiful.” This performance took place just a little over a month since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. During a time that our country sought for it most, Hudson delivered strength in her performance. It opened with the Sandy Hook school chorus singing the iconic song, with Hudson joining in midway. Sporting green ribbons, the performance portrayed a message of hope amidst this tragedy.
Honorable Mention: Marlee Matlin
Renowned actress Marlee Matlin has performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” a total of three times at the Super Bowl thus far. After reading that, you might be wracking your brain trying to remember what her performance sounded like. And there’s your hint. Matlin, who was born deaf, has provided an American Sign Language performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at three Super Bowl events: in 1993 for Garth Brooks, in 2007 for Billy Joel, and most recently in 2016 for Lady Gaga.
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