Most memorable Super Bowl national anthem performances, from Whitney Houston to Lady Gaga
Superstars of the "The Star-Spangled Banner"
With Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church announced as the national anthem singers for Super Bowl LV, 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, Lady Gaga and Cher 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 XXV (1991)
What would a memorable national anthem singer list be without Whitney Houston? Even though it was later revealed she pre-taped her set, it still outshined many live renditions of the song.
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)
Harry 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)
Garth 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)
The singer and former Miss America offered up an elegant version of the anthem, showing us all how it's done.
Luther Vandross, Super Bowl XXXI (1996)
Cher, Super Bowl XXXIII (1999)
Cher's contralto range was a welcome shakeup from all the soprano voices we've heard perform the national anthem, and she perfected the balance of adding her own twist without unncessarily transforming the song.
Faith Hill, Super Bowl XXXIV (2000)
The Backstreet Boys, Super Bowl XXXV (2001)
Mariah Carey, Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)
People can't seem to agree on anything, except that Houston and Mariah Carey had two of the most distinct and beautiful renditions of the anthem. Houston's version was passionate and stirring, while Carey's was angelic and gentle. Stay tuned to the end to watch Carey hit her signature whistle high note.
The Chicks, Super Bowl XXXVII (2003)
The first girl group to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl, the 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)
At Super Bowl 50, Lady Gaga wore a fiery red number on stage, but her performance — accompanied by only a piano — was stripped down and simply beautiful. Audiences hailed Gaga's rendition as one of the best of all time, and a year later, her stunning halftime show received similar acclaim.
Luke Bryan, Super Bowl LI (2017)
Pink, Super Bowl LII (2018)
Gladys Knight, Super Bowl LIII (2019)
Demi Lovato, Super Bowl LIV (2020)
Riding high expectations, especially as she had just come off an acclaimed comeback performance at the Grammys, Demi Lovato delivered what some called the best National Anthem rendition since Whitney Houston.
The "Sorry Not Sorry" singer rode the line perfectly, keeping her performance straightforward and allowing her powerhouse voice to shine, while still giving the iconic song her own take with subtle vocal runs. And she ended her performance on a high note — literally — that let fans and casual watchers alike know: Demi's officially back!"
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.