Monday, February 7, 2011

Singing National Anthem...Not Easy Job

The Star Spangled Banner became the National Anthem in 1931. Now, it's a staple before any sporting event and at many other times of ceremony. The song is a poem by Francis Scott Key set to the tune of an old British drinking song.

Let's make this clear. There is no right or wrong way to sing this song. That said, there are conventions. If you step outside those conventions, you had better do it correctly or else people are going to nail you for it.

Here in Indiana, 16-year-old Shai Warfield-Cross, had the audacity to put a spin on the anthem and do it well, but some of the crusty old crowd that heard her sing the song in Martinsville her way complained to Bloomington North High School administration, and she was briefly told to sing the Anthem the traditional way or not sing it at events at all. Fortunately, the school apologized to Warfield-Cross and came to its senses.

Here's her singing the song...doesn't sound bad to me.

Of course, the Anthem and the way it is sung came back into the public discussion following Christina Aguilera's lyrical disaster and screechingly-bad performance at Super Bowl XLV. The way I see it, Aguilera made two critical errors: messing up the words and singing it non-traditionally (and poorly).

Flubbing the words can be forgiven. Look what Michael Bolton did to the Anthem here.

He recovered with a rousing finish, and you can actually hear the crowd helping him along, but Bolton messed the words up while being traditional. That's ok...especially if you sing it well!

Shai Warfield-Cross got it. Her rendition is different, but it is beautiful. The National Anthem should belong to each of us, but, if you are going to do it differently that the tradition, you have to make sure you do it respectfully (see Rosanne) and lyrically accurate (see Christina Aguilera) or else, you're going to end up in the public discussion.

Of course, this rendition is not traditional, and Marvin Gaye took some license as well with the words changing, "Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?" to "Oh say does my Star Spangled Banner yet wave?" It makes sense though because Marvin made sweet music with a beautiful song. I still get chills.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on this one, Jon. Yes, Christina Aguilar missed a couple of words but her voice was great and she got it right. She had a fantastic set of pipes and make a song come alive. Remember the words are put to an old British drinking song....

Anonymous said...

Look at what Ray Charles did to the 1895 poem " America The Beautiful"

When he sang it at the rededication of the restored Statue of Liberty ceremony with Ronald Reagan, there was alot of talk about changing our national anthem to Ray Charles version of this song.

His version still inspires me.

Check it out on YouTube or ITunes.