Beyoncé and more: the best US anthem performances
The national anthem of the United States, The Star-Spangled Banner, is famously difficult to perform, particularly for singers. It requires a vocal range of at least one-and-a-half octaves, and can be performed in one of several different timings and keys. Additionally, it is often performed in large-scale, public events, further raising the stakes for any singer risking a performance.
Despite this, some artists have achieved renowned for their skill and elegance in performing the anthem, often at particularly prestigious events. Here’s some of the best.
Beyoncé Knowles, at the inauguration of President Barack Obama
This rendition, performed together with the United States Marine Band in Washington DC on January 21st, 2013, was kept simple and clear, and was a deft and experienced performance. What made it all the more remarkable was that, mid-way through the performance, Beyoncé removed her in-ear monitor (often used by singers to monitor onstage sound and stay in tune). This is visible in the video at approximately 1.24, just after half-way. She performed the rest of the anthem, in tune and without hitches or mistakes, completely without any sound monitoring. Impressive.
Whitney Houston, at Super Bowl XXV
This version of the Star-Spangled Banner was performed at Tampa Stadium, Florida, on January 27th, 1991. Whitney Houston was backed by the Florida Orchestra, and the performance concludes with a flyover by four F-16 fighter jets from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The performance was sung only ten days after the beginning of the Gulf War, and has a particularly patriotic tone. Although it has been criticised for its implicit militarism, this performance has also been recognised as a powerful and enduring rendition of the American anthem.
United States Military Academy Choirs, at Super Bowl XXXIX
The full personnel of this performance is quite a mouthful. This version of the anthem was performed by: the combined choirs of the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. It is a traditionalist rendition, and one of the largest and most complex versions of the anthem to be performed at the Super Bowl.
Justin Timberlake at Memphis Grizzlies season-opening game
Justin might be a surprising addition to this list, but his performance at the Memphis Pyramid Arena, on November 1st 2002, has become famous for its accuracy and power – always difficult in an acapella rendition – as well as its comparative simplicity.