Christina Aguilera, Jesse McCartney: Worst national anthem flubs
Since Steven Tyler performed a cat-scratch rendition of the national anthem at yesterday’s AFC Championship game, the performance has gone viral and been met with an Internet response about as hospitable as New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick’s “What’s that smell?” face. Which brings to our attention for the trillionth time that, Man, that song is tricky. Since Francis Scott Key penned the rousing lyrics in 1814, many have been felled by its one-and-a-half-octave range and flummoxing verbiage (“O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming”? That’s old-time speak!). For fairness, I’ve mainly stuck with actual singers (or people who clearly think they can sing, ahem, Carl Lewis). Below, some of the biggest “Star-Spangled” screwups. (We’ve included video. You’re welcome!)
Dishonorable Mention Roseanne Barr: July 26, 1990
Whoever booked the comedian to perform America’s most hallowed melody was on crack. It was a disaster waiting to happen, though Roseanne’s attempt at comedy (spitting and grabbing her crotch) was a particularly nice touch. And by “nice,” I mean “infuriating.”
Star-Spangled Mangle: 5/10 (Vocally, it’s a 10, but you really have to cut her some slack: She never claimed she could sing.)
NEXT: Creed might have taken us “Higher,” but Scott Stapp’s voice has its limits
Scott Stapp: Nov. 20, 2005
In defense of the former Creed frontman, he didn’t technically screw anything up. Still, the performance plays like South Park‘s Cartman parodying Chad Kroeger parodying Stapp. This song is not meant to be growled, even at a NASCAR rally. Leave it to the divas, buddy.
Star-Spangled Mangle: 3/10
NEXT: There is such a thing as trying to hard, Kat DeLuna
Kat DeLuna: Sept. 15, 2008
Or not? The then-20-year-old put on her sassy pants to perform at a Dallas Cowboys game. Leaning heavily on head bobbing and finger waving, she caused an uproar for trying way too hard to put her stamp on the American classic. The crowd’s boos sent an unmistakable message: “It’s not about you.”
Star-Spangled Mangle: 4/10
NEXT: Did you say “twilight’s last reaming,” Christina Aguilera?
Christina Aguilera: Feb. 6, 2011
Xtina was pitted against Glee‘s Lea Michele in a Super Bowl XLV preshow, and clearly she was feeling the pressure. The first three lines were on point, then those dastardly ramparts threw her off there was no looking back until “the twilight’s last reaming.” Eep.
Star-Spangled Mangle: 6/10
NEXT: Michael Bolton is a meticulous note-taker
Michael Bolton: Oct. 13, 2003
Again with the ramparts! The portion of the anthem we sing is 80 words total. Bolton could only make it through 35 before, perhaps distracted by the feedback in Boston’s Fenway Park, he had to consult his palm for the next line. It would take the mighty power of Captain Jack Sparrow to bring Bolton back from this doghouse.
Star-Spangled Mangle: 7/10
NEXT: Stick to your day job, Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis: Jan. 21, 1993
An Olympic gold medal does not make for golden pipes, as the world-champion sprinter Lewis learned during a particularly horrifying precursor to a New Jersey Nets game. A man like Lewis knows when he’s on his A-game, and he was most certainly not that day. “I’ll make up for it now,” he promised…before continuing to be terrible.
Star-Spangled Mangle: 8/10
NEXT: Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” had no effect on his memory
Jesse McCartney: Oct. 11, 2009
From his “Let’s do this!” self-bracing at the beginning to his not-up-to-the-challenge voice, McCartney’s performance was poised to be a NASCAR-ready crash-and-burn. Still, it’s really not a great idea to miss an entire line of the song in front of a rabidly patriotic audience. In hindsight, Bolton’s pre-Palin crib notes were a stroke of genius, no?
Star-Spangled Mangle: 9/10
NEXT: I’ll take 32 new chapters of “Trapped in the Closet” over this Anthem retool any day
R. Kelly: Dec. 3, 2005
You know what “The Star-Spangled Banner” needs? A smooth-jazz backbeat and more bongos! Apparently that’s what the R&B crooner thought when he reworked the iconic song in advance of his performance at a Las Vegas bout between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. The crowd did not agree. Perhaps Kelly was paying homage to Marvin Gaye’s 1983 NBA All-Star twist on the song, but what he failed to realize was that was 1983, also known as the year that gave us Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack’s, “Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You.” That leave of smoothness flew back then.
Star-Spangled Mangle: 10/10
What do you think, PopWatchers? Did you walk that-a-way at hearing Tyler’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” or would you rather listen to that on loop than hear any of these? Which performance of the glorious hymn do you consider the absolute worst?