6 Amazing Super Bowl National Anthem Performances That Lady Gaga Can Learn From
For months we've known that Coldplay would be performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 50, but it wasn't until Wednesday — just a few days before the big game — that we learned Lady Gaga will perform the national anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl. An interesting, but not too farfetched, a choice for the biggest sporting event of the year since, whether Gaga's leading her Monster Ball or playing the Countess on American Horror Story (which she recently won a Golden Globe for, remember?) or channeling Frank Sinatra on his 100th birthday, she is definitely earning all the applause.
But Francis Scott Key isn't letting anyone off that easy, and "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a whole different ballgame that can be difficult for even the most accomplished vocalists — just ask Christina Aguilera, who famously flubbed the words back in 2011. To get herself into national anthem singing shape, I recommend Gaga, like any good athlete, refers back to the tape. I'm talking about revisiting the greatest national anthem performances in Super Bowl history to study what made them so great and covet a bit of that magic for herself.
So let's take a look back at Super Bowls past, and these six amazing performances, to see what exactly Gaga can learn from each of them.
1. Whitney Houston's Showmanship
Singing the national anthem often sets the tone of the game, and, of course, the NFL wants someone to kick things off with a bang. Just like Whitney Houston did at the 1991 Super Bowl — one of the most iconic performances of the anthem in not just football history, but history in general. Dressed in red, white and blue, Houston took the stage after the Persian Gulf War had started and riled up a nation, turning her rendition into the ultimate gold standard of the classic song. She did so by giving it everything she had, with a performance that was full of both style and substance. It's something Gaga does well, and I'd love to see her pull out all the stops for a performance that, dare I say, could rival Whitney's from all those years ago.
2. Beyoncé's Confidence
Before she was shutting the lights down during her halftime performance in New Orleans, Beyoncé was just a multiple Grammy-award winning artist singing the national anthem in her home state of Houston in 2004. Maybe it was a little hometown pride, or maybe it was just signs of the Queen Bey to come, but she seemed poised and ready for this moment. And, boy, did she shine singing this live, and, yes, she sang it live. Her show-stopping performance, which included a not-so-subtle key change, could be summed up with that little snarl at the end, which was her way of saying, "This anthem today, it's all mine, no matter how many people have sung it before." Bow down. Gaga is an artist all her own; let's hope she shows the world why that is with a bit of that Mother Monster conviction.
3. Kelly Clarkson's Vocal Prowess
In 2012, the OG American Idol didn't try to do too much with the song. She just offered up an amazing vocal performance that had her hitting all the right notes with just a little drum accompaniment and a children's choir for backup. Clarkson showed that a little goes a long way when you've got an amazingly big voice. Gaga should take her lead and just focus on singing the song and hitting a few big notes, instead of going for too many vocal runs. Not unlike her Sound of Music performance at the 2015 Oscars, which showed that Gaga no longer needs a meat dress to get the world's attention.
4. Jennifer Hudson's Style
Hudson seemed to be channeling Aretha Franklin with her soulful performance back in 2009, which showed there's more than one way to sing this anthem. The now over 100-year-old song doesn't have to be stodgy and classic sounding; it could be performed as if it was totally modern. Gaga's always been able to toe the line between past, present, and sometimes even future, so I'd love to see her bring some of that inventiveness to her version.
5. Aaron Neville & Aretha Franklin's Teamwork
Sure, this is Gaga's time to shine, but, like Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin showed, sometimes a little extra star-power definitely doesn't hurt. Neville and Franklin took turns showing off their style for a funky version of the anthem, with a little help from Dr. John on keys that had them trading verses. We've seen how well Gaga works with Tony Bennett; it might be nice to see the two sing it together. Cheek-to-cheek would be an even better way to do it.
6. Harry Connick Jr.'s Intimacy
Back in 1992, Connick Jr. slowed things down and made it feel like he was singing just for you. No easy feat in a stadium, but he was there to reach even those in the nosebleeds, giving them chills with his rendition. Gaga may be a mega-star who sells out stadiums, but she's always been good at singing to each and every one of her Little Monsters. Often, she likes to slow down her own songs, like "Poker Face," a club track she turned into a Broadway-like revue, to get at the message of the song. Maybe Gaga gets behind the piano for her rendition of the national anthem and decides to re-invent it for everyone in the stadium and at home, too.
7. Carrie Underwood's Bravery
Singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" will never be easy, but one way to make it just that much harder is to sing it a cappella. Yes, without any instrumentation at all, Underwood sang the anthem in 2010. It was definitely a message to anyone who thought she was just some reality TV show winning country singer. Only the brave could do something this daring, and, since Gaga doesn't seem to be afraid of anything — remember that time Gaga had a girl vomit on her for art? — this may be the way to go.
While Gaga may take some inspiration from these past performers, I know that whatever she decides to do, and especially to wear, to the Super Bowl will be all her own. And, let's be honest, we're all almost as interested in her ensemble as we are in her performance itself.
Image: Giphy (7)