The 10 Best Renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner"
Happy Independence Day, everyone!
What’s more American than our national anthem, am I right? While (for some reason) The Star Spangled Banner is sung at just about every sporting event, there are a few that stand out from the crowd as particularly spine-tingling. Some are more unique than others in their make up, while some are chilling just because of certain circumstances. Here are ten of the best renditions of The Star Spangled Banner.
While another musician (who will be coming later on this list) performed the national anthem on a guitar, Metallica does a pretty solid version of it here. The double-guitar method works very well, with James Hatfield’s backing chords doing well to compliment Kirk Hammett’s solo work. Also, the two are long time Sharks fans, so that’s pretty cool that they’ve been able to do anthems like this at sporting events around the San Francisco Bay area.
Mariah Carey, Super Bowl XXXVI
Forget her horrendous “All I Want For Christmas is You” at Rockefeller Center that one time, just for a minute. Mariah’s anthem at Super Bowl XXXVI (the first Super Bowl since 9/11) is certainly one to remember. It really reminds you exactly how talented (and extraordinarily gifted at riffling and singing in her whistle tone) Mariah is. That last “free” at the very end? Clutch whistle tone. Vintage Mariah.
Dixie Chicks, Super Bowl XXXVII
It’s one thing to have a solo national anthem. It’s another to have it in pretty rad three-part harmony, which the Grammy-winning country artists do here. It’s extremely pleasing to the ears. Take a listen.
Carrie Underwood, 2005 NFC Championship Game
Underwood, fresh off her 2005 American Idol win, entered Qwest Field and let loose a powerful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Easily attacking the typically very rangy song, this was one of the performances where people really started to take note of her and her talent. I mean, she’s one of the most successful country artists of all time now, in hindsight.
The Top 10:
Okay, so who ever thought that the operatic Josh Groban and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea would ever sound good together? Anyone? No? Yeah, me either. But, surprisingly, it works. I’m not sure who decided on the instrumentation for this one, but apparently the strong mixed drinks paid dividends. Flea’s backing bass flourishes actually contrast Groban’s voice quite nicely, and it gets even better when that drum corps comes in toward the end.
9. Lady Gaga, Super Bowl 50
The question was: what was Gaga going to surprise us with this time? Fortunately, there was no meat dress in sight. Only Gaga in a gorgeous red pantsuit and a piano. While it stars off like any other anthem, it finishes impassioned, theatrical, and grand, complete with emphatic gestures, unexpected but incredible melody changes, and a fierce chest pound before the final line. Bless you, Gaga.
8. Beyoncé, press conference before Super Bowl XLVII
So, Beyoncé had sung the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXXVIII, and had done a fine job of it. However, the reason this one makes the list and that one does not is because of the controversy that surrounded Queen Bey’s upcoming performance at the Super Bowl. Many people had accused Beyoncé of lip-syncing the national anthem during the president’s inauguration ceremony- something the singer had actually admitted to doing (sort of, she sang along with a pre-recorded track). When asked if she was going to be singing her halftime show performance live or not, she responded with this. A big middle finger to all of the speculators about her talent. Also, spoiler alert, her halftime show is now widely considered to be one of the best of all time (See the "Top 10 Super Bowl Halftime Shows" list to view that piece of greatness).
7. Pia Toscano, 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5
I had no idea who Pia Toscano was until the night I watched game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Apparently, she too was a contestant on American Idol in season 10, and was shockingly voted off in 9th place, leaving all three judges both visibly and vocally upset at her being eliminated. So, Ms. Toscano decides to go off and sing the national anthem at the Kings’ home games. I say she’s doing a pretty damn good job of it.
6. Combined U.S. Military Academy Choirs, Super Bowl XXXIX
There’s something about a good old-fashioned choir singing The Star Spangled Banner that really gets me. This one features the combined choirs of all the U.S. Armed Forces Academies. While this one doesn’t really get good until the women come at “O say does that…” this one takes OFF with the addition of the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. It’s simple, it’s a well-respected rendition, and it’s so quintessentially American.
5. Jim Cornelison, Soldier Field on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11
One of the best things about national anthems in Chicago: the people are encouraged to applaud the country while the anthem is being sung (the way it should be, because America is AWESOME). Jim Cornelison, who typically does the anthem for the Chicago Blackhawks, gave this stirring rendition at the Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field on the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks. It’s also amazing when he points to the flag on “that our flag was still there.” Simply legendary.
4. Marvin Gaye, 1983 NBA All Star Game
This takes The Star Spangled Banner to a new level of cool. A very understated performance from a very unusual arrangement of the song, Marvin’s silky smooth voice effortlessly shapes the song as if it were another one of his soulful ballads. With a keyboard and a drum machine backing his vocals, Marvin took the crowd and players that night on a journey to a different side of America- the cool side of America.
3. Rene Rancourt, First sporting event in Boston after Marathon Bombing
Rene Rancourt has been a staple of TD Garden for a long time. His voice is loud, and often erratic. Honestly, he’s hit or miss with some people, and mostly just there for the novelty of having a boisterous singer/old timey organ combo. But on this day, when the city of Boston had been shaken to its core by horrendous act of violence during the running of the Boston Marathon, Rancourt’s rendition got the entire TD Garden crowd involved, and the result was absolutely incredible. The emotion in the building was electric, and this particular anthem brings a team to my eye. The anthem itself begins at 3:20, but watch the package before it.
2. Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock
I don’t really have words for this one. It was one of the first on a guitar, and it’s performed by a damn legend. Sit back and listen to some greatness. ‘Murcuh.
1. Whitney Houston, Super Bowl XXV
So, some context for this one. The United States had just entered combat in the Gulf War in 1991- and I’m talking JUST entered. Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991, the Super Bowl was on January 27, 1991. Naturally, American emotions were running high. Houston came to the Rose Bowl and blew everyone out of the water. This version of the Star Spangled Banner (complete with a backing orchestra) was so well-received, it reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This was the performance that turned the national anthem into a pop hit of such great magnitude. Take a listen and let the chills flow through you.
Which ones did we miss? Which national anthem renditions gave you chills? Leave a comment down below! Also, be safe around fireworks, kids.
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.