Most memorable Super Bowl national anthem performances, from Whitney Houston to Christina Aguilera
With Demi Lovato announced as the national anthem singer for Super Bowl LIV, we can look forward to a powerhouse performance in February. Still, not everyone who's had that responsibility has lived up to expectations. While we've watched artists like Whitney Houston and Beyonce dazzle the audience, we've also seen (quite talented) musicians like Christina Aguilera do too much and blow their shot. But good or bad, at least they're not forgettable. Click through the rest of the gallery to see the most memorable Super Bowl national anthems.
Cheryl Ladd, Super Bowl XIV (1980)
For the most part, the national anthem had been performed by marching bands up until the Charlie's Angels star received the honor in 1980 for Super Bowl XIV. No pressure or anything. Ladd's powerful rendition, which she dedicated to the American hostages in Iran, nicely kicked off the tradition of having professional singers perform the anthem. Brava!
Diana Ross, Super Bowl XVI (1982)
The iconic singer brought a welcome simplicity and gentleness to the classic tune, and proved that you don't need a million embellishments to stand out (a lesson other performers on this list could learn).
Billy Joel, Super Bowl XXIII (1989) and Super Bowl XLI (2007)
Aaron Neville, Super Bowl XXIV (1990) and Super Bowl XL (2006)
Neville, a famed R&B and soul singer, first sang the anthem in 1990. The New Orleans native once again performed the song in 2006, along with Aretha Franklin, pianist Dr. John, and a 150-member choir, as a tribute to the city damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Their performance divided audiences (there was a lot going on), but its sincerity couldn't be denied.
Whitney Houston, Super Bowl (1991)
Houston released it as a single later that month, with the proceeds going to soldiers involved in the Persian Gulf War and their families. When the single was re-released following Sept. 11, it peaked at No. 6 on the US Hot 100. Houston became the first artist to reach the top 10 in the US with the national anthem and have it certified platinum.
She set such a high bar for what perfection sounded like, that each year we watch a performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" only to go "That was pretty good ... but Whitney's was better."
Harry Connick Jr., Super Bowl XXVI (1992)
Connick Jr's performance marked the first time an American Sign Language interpretator accompanied the national anthem singer, Lori Hilary, but Connick's time at the Super Bowl is not notable for what happened on the field, but for what happened off of it. A member of his techical crew moved running back Thurman Thomas' helmet before the game causing the future Hall of Famer to miss the first play of the Super Bowl.
Garth Brooks, Super Bowl XXVII (1993)
Brooks' rendition was superb, but the behind-the-scenes drama behind his performance may have been the most memorable part. Moments before the country singer took the stage, he threatened to leave unless NBC played his new video. The show's executive producer ended up agreeing to play a portion of the video, but since then, the league has required performers to have a backup track in case a similar issue occurred.
Natalie Cole, Super Bowl XXVIII (1994)
Kathie Lee Gifford, Super Bowl XXIX (1995)
Vanessa Williams, Super Bowl XXX (1996)
Luther Vandross, Super Bowl XXXI (1996)
Cher, Super Bowl XXXIII (1999)
Faith Hill, Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)
The Backstreet Boys, Super Bowl XXXV (2001)
Mariah Carey, Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)
The Dixie Chicks, Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)
The first girl group to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl, the Dixie Chicks had one of the most memorable performances, as their harmonies were gorgeous yet still restrained and respectful. The Super Bowl national anthem is not the time to try out crazy new vocal techniques, y'all. Unfortunately, about two months later, the group's music would effectively be banned on country radio stations over their criticism of President George W. Bush.
Beyoncé, Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)
Combined academy choirs, Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)
The Super Bowl played it safe and chose a choir to sing the anthem, as the previous year was Janet Jackson's infamous halftime show wardrobe malfunction. It was a nice change of pace to hear the combined choirs of the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. It was also the first time since President Nixon's second inauguration in 1973 that all four service academies sang together.
Jordin Sparks, Super Bowl XLII (2008)
Jennifer Hudson, Super Bowl XLIII (2009)
Carrie Underwood, Super Bowl XLIV (2010)
Christina Aguilera, Super Bowl XLV (2011)
We all know Aguilera (who performed at the 2000 halftime show) is an amazing singer, but many seem to agree that her take was ... a little much, considering her flub and all the vocal runs. Comedians have long parodied Aguilera's over-riffing tendency, and this performance certainly gave them more material to work with.
Kelly Clarkson, Super Bowl XLVI (2012)
Alicia Keys, Super Bowl XLVII (2013)
Renée Fleming, Super Bowl XLVIII 2014
The first opera singer to sing the anthem at the Super Bowl, Fleming made "The Star-Spangled Banner" a theatrical production. Her dramatic vocals, backed by a chorus, made for a unique and riveting performance.
Idina Menzel, Super Bowl XLIX (2015)
Lady Gaga, Super Bowl 50 (2016)
Luke Bryan, Super Bowl LI (2017)
Pink, Super Bowl LII (2018)
Gladys Knight, Super Bowl LIII (2019)
Marlee Matlin, Super Bowl XXVII (1993), Super Bowl XLI (2007), Super Bowl 50 (2016)
Cher, Jennifer Hudson, and Lady Gaga aren't the only Oscar winners who have been tapped for the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Film buffs should recognize Oscar winner Marlee Matlin as a frequent ASL performer. She was alongside Garth Brooks in 1993, Billy Joel in 2007, and most recently Lady Gaga in 2016.