From Roseanne to Whitney: 5 of the Best and 5 of the Worst National Anthem Performances Ever
In honor of Fergie’s horrible performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” we’ve rounded up five of the best and five of the worst national anthem performances ever. From Roseanne to Whitney, our list features the queens who delivered — and those queens who fell flat.
The 5 worst national anthem performances
5. Christina Aguilera
Hanging in the worst wing of the national anthem Performance Hall of Fame, there is Christina Aguilera’s flub-filled Super Bowl XLV rendition. “I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through,” Aguilera said in a statement after that game.
4. Michael Bolton
Michael Bolton didn’t sound too bad during his national anthem performance before a Red Sox game during the 2003 playoffs. But things went sideways for Bolton when it became apparent he had written the lyrics on his hand. When the crowd saw him taking a glance at his wrist, an outburst of laughter and boos silences his singing.
3. Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Barr set a new standard for horribleness with her 1990 version at a Padres game. President Bush called Barr’s performance “disgraceful” at the time, while opera star Robert Merrill called it “a national disgrace.” Roseanne, though, thinks she did even better than Fergie. She tweeted, “I think mine was better lowkey.” The shade.
2. Steven Tyler
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (and his harmonica) will probably never be invited back to the Indianapolis 500 after his goat-screaming rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” back in 2001. ”I got in trouble my whole life for having a big mouth,” Tyler said after his controversial performance, in which he changed the anthem’s closing words. ”I’m very proud to be an American, and live in the home of the brave.”
“While we are certainly sorry that some were offended, it was neither our intention nor that of Mr. Tyler to be disrespectful,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George said in a statement. ”All of us have the utmost respect for the sacrifice our veterans have made for us.”
1. Carl Lewis
The version widely recognized as the worst anthem rendition was the one delivered by Carl Lewis before a 1993 regular season NBA game. “An unintentionally comical rendition,” the Chicago Sun-Times called it, writing that Lewis was “failing miserably to hit several high notes.”
“Memo to Carl Lewis: Don’t quit your day job,” the AP wrote after that performance, which has now been discussed for more than a quarter-century.
The 5 best national anthem performances
5. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl national anthem performance in 2016 was fabulous in many respects. Not only was her outfit, makeup and hair a drag queen’s patriotic dream, but her vocals were effortless. From airy high notes in her falsetto to a brazen belt at the end, the pop superstar rocked her national anthem performance proving she was more than game to do the halftime show one year later.
4. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson offered a soul-tinged interpretation on the country’s standard song at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, complete with an angelic backing choir. A decade after her American Idol crowning, the original Idol proved she still had the chops needed to deliver a stirring rendition of this classic.
In 2004, NFL organizers offered Beyoncé a choice for a Super Bowl performance in her native Houston: the halftime show or the national anthem. She elected to fulfill a childhood dream and chose the anthem — a smart move. Thankfully for us, she got to deliver a halftime show eight years later.
2. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson sighed heavily as the first notes filled the stadium and proceeded to blow the crowd away. The Oscar-winner’s take — backed by an orchestra — continually improves on itself, growing from its opening faintness to the final knockout notes, courtesy of Hudson’s trademark powerhouse belt.
1. Whitney Houston
Obviously the top spot belongs to Whitney Houston. In 1991 she belted through a rousing rendition, widely considered the gold standard. The superstar’s rendition suited the wave of patriotism flooding the United States at the height of the Persian Gulf War, and public demand for her rendition led Arista Records to release the recording as a commercial single.
Honorable Mention: Maya Rudolph
Maya Rudolph’s performance on Saturday Night Live as contest winner Pamela Bell ranks as the best worst performance ever. In the sketch, she absolutely destroys the national anthem at the 2006 World Series while sportscasters Tim McCarver (Bill Hader) and Joe Buck (Jason Sudeikis) look on in shock and awe.
Honestly, we see and hear a lot of Fergie’s performance in Rudolph’s parody, making us wonder if Fergie didn’t accidentally use the SNL clip as reference for her own performance. Somebody else agreed with us, and they already combined their two clips in one split screen video (above).