Believe it or not, Roseanne Barr wasn’t trying to be funny when she screeched her way through the National Anthem in 1990. She told the LA Times she was flattered and that she was a good singer. But she failed to take Johnny Carson’s advice and started too high. The boos come loud and fast, but like any comic who’s bombed before, she barrel rolled through her ear-piercing, crotch-grabbing rendition in a little over a minute, then spat on the mound.
This performance by Carl Lewis before a Chicago Bulls game seems almost inexplicable, because he’s not a singer but an Olympic track and field star. He murdered Francis Scott Off-Key’s song, as these ESPN broadcasters put it, in failing to hit the high notes and apologizing midway through with an intent to make it up to the crowd (he never could). He later told Oprah he was “glad” he botched it.
Fresh off their 2001 album “Just Push Play,” people were “Jaded” after seeing Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler try and spruce up the National Anthem, first by riffing on harmonica, then essentially shouting through the performance. He doesn’t even sing “brave” at the end of the song, opting to call out to the Indy 500 crowd as fireworks went off. In 2012, he also earned some groans when he belted out his throaty “yeaaahhh” during the song.
Tyler wasn’t the only one to get creative with the anthem. R. Kelly brought his signature R&B soul to a performance at a boxing match in Las Vegas throwing in some synths, backbeats and hand clapping smoothness into the song. Unfortunately we won’t be getting more of the same at this year’s inauguration, as he’s one of the celebrities who said he won’t perform.
Lead singer of alt-rock band Staind Aaron Lewis delivered a relatively strong, growling rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but early on he missed the line “at the twilight’s last gleaming.” He said in a statement he felt devastated, asking for “the Nation’s forgiveness” by saying “nerves got the best of me.”
Christina Aguilera likewise nailed her pitch but found herself doubling back to “the twilight’s last gleaming” rather than moving on to “gallantly streaming.” Maybe she doesn’t nail the last note, but she still performed like a pro.
The incredible echo you can hear in this video would’ve been enough to doom Michael Bolton’s crooning of the Anthem at this 2003 Red Sox vs. Yankees game, but Bolton had to stop and peek at lyrics scrawled in his palm in order to remember “twilight’s last gleaming,” and the Boston fans let him have it.
Clearly the 20-year-old Dominican pop star Kat DeLuna put a lot of bluster and verve into her performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The eye test would make you think she’s killing it. But a pitchy last note and a chorus of boos from this Dallas Cowboys crowd would disagree.
Maybe this one isn’t bad so much as perplexing. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea performed a solo, phased out performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Staples Center this past April for Kobe Bryant’s farewell game that drew mixed reaction. Compare that to when he formed a bizarre duet with Josh Groban singing the Anthem back in 2010.
Maybe she would’ve been better of singing “Oh, Canada”? Canadian jazz singer Alexis Normand’s mind went completely blank as she fumbled words left and right to the Anthem that she ended up humming the remainder of the song. Thankfully the crowd was polite enough to bail her out.
Country star Dierks Bentley received no mercy online after performing the anthem ahead of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals in June 2017: “Sounded like the drunk guy at the bar trying to be in tune,” wrote er.
Fergie got ripped for her rendition before the NBA All-Star Game in February 2018: “Fergie sang that Anthem so bad, Kaepernick stood up and told her not to disrespect the Anthem like that.”
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