“Oh-Hay, Have You Sheen?” 10 Of The Best, WORST And Most Head-Scratch Worthy National Anthem Performances EVER

February 5, 2013  |  
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It’s not an easy feat to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” for big games and events. For years, the top singers and performers have been trying their best at it, and while many have been amazing, others…? Not so much. And after watching Alicia Keys try something different with her rendition of the national anthem this past Sunday, we thought we’d go through some of the best of the best, the hottest of the messes and the performances that piqued our interest for different unique reasons. And boy was it fun! Check out these 10 takes on the national anthem and decide if you agree with us about who killed it, who should have sat down somewhere, and who made us think a stepper’s jam version of the “Star Spangled Banner” wouldn’t be so bad…

And no, Roseanne Barr is not on this list because she HAD to be joking…


Mariah Carey

One Of The Best

In 2002, with her long blonde hair and tiny frame, Mimi stepped on the stage and killed the national anthem (in a good way of course). Her notes were on point (especially the very high one she did when she sang “freeeeeeeeee”), and with the dramatic music done in the background by the band, it was just perfect. And it wouldn’t be a Mariah Carey performance without her signature hand movements. It’s one of the few renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner” that I can listen to as if it’s an actual top 10 hit on the radio.


R. Kelly

One Of The Most Interesting

Oooooh child, I don’t know who told R. Kelly that the “Star Spangled Banner” would be better fit to be a stepper’s jam, but this rendition for the Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor fight in 2005 was comical. It was like the patriotic remix to “Step In The Name of Love,” and it might as well had been with the people doing a mean Chicago step inside of the boxing ring. I would say that I was expecting him to keep it traditional, but as my friend would say, “When you ask R Kelly to sing the anthem you must prepare for the remix.” Was it terrible? Not at all. Awkward as hell? Very much so!


Keri Hilson

One Of The Worst

At a Lakers vs. Hawks basketball in 2010, the “Pretty Girl Rock” singer sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for a packed crowd in the ATL, but clearly she wasn’t prepared. All was going pretty good until Hilson got confused around the 28-second mark, where she forgot her words, and started repeating lines she had already belted out. It wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened, but the crowd was clearly confused and started fussing during her performance, throwing out a few boos at the end. The cameraman even said, “I’m putting this on YouTube now!”



Destiny’s Child

One Of The Best

Before Beyoncé’s little snafu with the national anthem at the inauguration, she had put on quite a few memorable performances of the “Star Spangled Banner.” For instance, as what was supposed to be a farewell performance for Destiny’s Child in 2006, the ladies got together in Houston, Kelly and Beyoncé’s hometown, to sing the song for the NBA All Star Game. And of course, their soulful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” was gold. The runs were perfect, the notes they were hitting were fabulous, and no, there were no awkward moments for Michelle. It was a great way to say goodbye to their fans…even if they would perform together again a bunch of times after the fact…


Marvin Gaye

One Of The Most Interesting

What can you say about a guy like Marvin Gaye? He embodied smooth. He proved that when he performed at the NBA All Star Game in February of 1983 and somehow, some way, was able to make it sexually entertaining. Hence all the screaming by the ladies in the crowd. You could blame it on the very seductive ’80s beat that they played in the background, but I just blame it on his classic voice (and the shades). It was definitely different, and interesting, but in a great way!


Keyshia Cole

One Of The Worst

In 2008, Keyshia Cole did her best rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” to get folks ready for the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao Fight. And let’s just say, homegirl’s look and sound was a wee bit all over the place. The elongated runs were way too dramatic (“For the ramparts we waaaaaaaaaaatched”), she sounded very rushed (except during the long runs). And then the outfit, with the big “Dynasty” wig, the big bell sleeves and the chunky Mr. T necklaces, were a bit much. And the shaking she did at the end when belting out “brave”? I just can’t…



Luther Vandross

One Of The Best

LOVE me some Luther! And I loved this performance, probably because it sounded more like a Luther Vandross song, rather than a traditional national anthem. Vandross belted out his take on the song in 1997 during the Super Bowl, and while he kept it simple, he still did a great job. Vandross wasn’t one for extreme dramatics when he sang, because of course, his voice was strong enough to move you without all the pomp.


Christina Aguilera

One Of The Most…Uh…Interesting

Okay, so folks were a bit hard on Christina, and she still has one of the best voices ever, but really, you’ve got to remember the words to this song if you’re going to agree to do it ya’ll. Homegirl sang a particularly bravado rich rendition of the song (let’s be honest, there was a bit more yelling than normal, and elongating of certain words while she tried to remember others) while performing at the Super Bowl in 2011. It had it’s up and down moments, and the last note came on so strong it almost blew my damn ear drum, but I still got love for Christina, and I’ve seen her kill the “Star Spangled Banner” in the past.


Kat Deluna

One Of The Worst

And to know this baby was trying her hardest and got booed like that!? How rude. But let’s be honest, she was something kind of terrible when the pop singer performed in 2008 at a Monday Night Football game. There were too many times she tried to sing the song like it was a sassy girl anthem (what’s with all the neck rolling??), too many notes she didn’t hit, and a lot of unnecessary growling. She did her best, but I think her performance was a how-NOT-to for future singers who hope to try their hand at doing the song in front of a HUGE crowd.


Whitney Houston


This song still gives me goosebumps. With the backing of an amazing band, Whitney Houston sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for the Super Bowl in 1991. Her voice was so clear and beautiful that you couldn’t help but be moved by her performance. It has been the most lauded performance of the song…probably ever…and was beloved by so many that Arista Records decided to sell it and give the proceeds to charity. My high school even used it as the preferred national anthem for every volleyball and basketball game we had at home.  Always and forever a classic!

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