Oh Say, Can You Sing?

Christina Aguilera’s Super Bowl XLV rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, or as someone referred to it the Star Mangled Banner, lit up the Twitter and Facebook feeds almost immediately with questions like “did she just miss the words?”

Yes, she did.

She sang “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming,” instead of “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.” [You can watch it on YouTube]

After the game she said “I got so caught up in the moment of the song that I lost my place. I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through.”

Well, I’m afraid not.  I mean, I can almost forgive a four time Grammy winner who has sold over 50 million records worldwide getting a little stage fright and flubbing the words to the country’s most famous song.  Almost.

Seriously, a professional singer should be more prepared.  But even given that, it was a huge venue, she sang acapella in front of a live crowd of about 100,000 with millions more watching via live television.  So, okay, Christina, we’ll give you that one.

What we can’t accept however is the arrangement, if that’s what you call it of our national anthem.

It’s not really Aguilera’s fault for trying to turn it into a performance.  That’s the way it’s been for years.  But, at what point in our history did the singing of the anthem have to become entertainment? 

The national anthem is a song best sung straight through, as written, with little embellishment.  It’s not about the performer or the accompanyment or the venue.  Unfortunately, yesterday it was about Christina.

I was thinking back to the one Super Bowl I’ve been able to attend.  Back in 1994 I was working briefly for Jack Kemp.  I got to help with events at the Super Bowl in Atlanta.  There Natalie Cole sang the National Anthem accompanied by the Atlanta University Center Chorus.  She didn’t sing it straight through, but blended it with an arrangement of America the Beautiful.  It was a great performance and you can also see it on YouTube.  But it’s not the National Anthem.

Our National Anthem about the freedom we enjoy as a nation.  Freedom purchased with blood and ideas and hard work.  And, yes, I guess that includes the freedom to sing it badly. 

But the National Anthem is stirring enough without embellishment.  And quite frankly, any high school band can play it.  If we’re really talking about showing off America, why not bring them in to lead us all in singing?  As a matter of fact the TCU band did a pregame show in Dallas yesterday.  I’m pretty sure they could have played it.

If the NFL and the broadcast network want a “star” to sing the National Anthem, that’s fine.  Just do it right.

Glee’s Lea Michelle did just that with the singing of America the Beautiful.  A similar simple version of the Anthem would have done just nicely.

And while we’re talking about nice, it would be very nice if the players on the field would show some respect as well.  Yes, we know how cool you are.  We know how important you are.  And we understand that you came to play football.

But for just a few minutes, you can stand still, stop talking, stop swaying, stop tossing footballs, and show a little respect for the country that gave you the opportunity to be paid outrageously, and in many cases a country that allows you to sweep your decadent behavior under the rug just because you know how to toss or catch a football.

But, I digress.

The U.S. Code for proper behavior during the National Anthem for non-military personnel reads as follows:

…all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

That needs to be taught in schools, and apparently in professional sports locker rooms.

And, while we’re at it, teach all four verses:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Cross posted to Bearing Drift.

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  1. […] February, after Christina Aguilera sang the Star Mangled Banner, the Green Back Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25 in Super Bowl […]

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