It’s easy to remember the biggest anthem fails of all time, but finding the best versions is a much more difficult task. The notoriously difficult tune coupled with the inordinately large crowd–even for top stars–can be daunting. So when somebody is able to nail it, they deserve as much credit as can be given.

Lady Gaga (Super Bowl 50)

Lady Gaga has established herself as one of the premier talents of our time, so when she took the stage to do the honors at the milestone Super Bowl 50 expectations were high among her devoted fans. But when Mother Monster sang the song everybody took notice, with goosebumps running up and down the arms of Americans and international viewers alike.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (2014 NHL Season)

You read that right: our northern neighbors, famed for their friendliness and politeness, proved why they earned that reputation. When technical difficulties cut the performance short, the Leafs took to the ice to finish the song, showing that sports really can transcend national boundaries.

Beyonce (Super Bowl 38)

In 2004, the Super Bowl came to Beyonce’s hometown of Houston, and she was offered the choice of singing either the star Spangled Banner or getting the halftime show. In a move that baffled many at the time, she opted for the pregame honors, fulfilling a childhood dream, and proved to everybody that she had made the right choice. As a bonus, she got to perform at the halftime show eight years later, providing the internet with memes for days.

Carrie Underwood (2006 NFL Playoffs)

As if singing the anthem in front of tens of thousands of fans and millions of viewers wasn’t hard enough, Carrie Underwood decided to do it without any help, opting to go a cappella. But if you were doubting that the singer who rose to stardom via American Idol would be up to the challenge, you were pleasantly surprised. Or unpleasantly, if you were looking for schadenfreude. Either way, she nailed it.

Whitney Houston (Super Bowl 25)

You probably guessed that this one would be at the top of the list if you know anything about, well, anything. Hands-down the best rendition not just at a sporting event, but of all time, anybody who doesn’t have Whitney belting it out as their top pick is wrong. Re-released after the September 11 attacks with proceeds going to charity, this is the gold standard that shows what the anthem should be, and why Whitney was one of the most talented singers in the history of music.

(Cropped image courtesy of Proacguy1 via Flickr.)