Super Bowl entertainment nearly is as important as the game, right? And we know the national anthem sets the tone.
When Kansas City and Tampa Bay kick off Super Bowl LV, the national anthem will be a duet, with country star Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan, an R&B and hip hop star. Also in pre-game — H.E.R. will sing “America The Beautiful.”
So, we started thinking about past Super Bowl national anthems. Who performed the song the best? We have so many thoughts on the matter.
Here’s our first thought — the best national anthem performance, probably of all-time, came on a dreary day in Tampa. The date is important, too. The Super Bowl was played on Jan. 27, 1991.
That was 10 days after the United States entered the first Gulf War. A military conflict provides extra red-white-and-blue pride to our national anthem. There were layers of extra security before Buffalo and the New York Giants met on the field.
So, do you remember where you were when a then 27-year-old Whitney Houston sang the national anthem? Her voice was perfect. Houston’s pride was palpable. The song was so well received that Houston’s record label released it as a single and donated all profits to help the troops.
A decade later, after 9-11, Arista records released Houston’s national anthem again. It peaked at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100. And once again, Houston and the record label donated all profits, this time to funds that helped the first responders and victims of the terrorist attacks.
So, take off your hat, put your hand over your heart and listen to the late Whitney Houston sing the national anthem. Then, on the other side, we’ll give you some more worthy Super Bowl performances.
Garth Brooks And The Super Bowl Drama
Two years after Houston sang in Tampa, Garth Brooks belted out a passionate national anthem at the Rose Bowl before the Buffalo Bills faced the Dallas Cowboys. However, Brooks threatened not to sing the anthem.
Here’s why: Brooks wanted NBC to show his music video for “We Shall Be Free.” NBC executives had deemed the song, which is about civil rights, too controversial. Brooks wrote the song after the LA Riots following the verdict in the Rodney King trial. Bon Jovi very nearly performed in Brooks’ place.
But NBC played the video and Brooks sang. And from that time forward, the NFL made it a requirement that all national anthem performers at the Super Bowl provide a backup track.
Faith Hill Rocks Anthem
When the Super Bowl spotlight was on Faith Hill back in 2000, Hill was brilliant. As fans at the Georgia Dome listened, Hill belted out the anthem, with her voice soaring on the final note. She was accompanied by a band of bagpipes and drummers.
Hill’s version of the anthem also was popular when the United States was coping with the immediate aftermath of 9-11. Although she didn’t release the song as a single, it hit the country charts in 2001. In 2009, Hill also sang “America The Beautiful.” She’s the only country singer to perform both at the Super Bowl.
So Perfect! Military Choirs Join Forces
In 2005, the NFL kept the national anthem classic and traditional at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. Rather than invite a big-name singer, the NFL used the combined choirs from the academies for the Navy, Army, Air Force and the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets also accompanied them.
Jennifer Hudson And A Run On American Idol Alums
Jennifer Hudson and her powerful voice are a natural match for the national anthem. Hudson, the Academy Award winner who got her start on American Idol, sang it in 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. She took the final chords higher than high. It probably was just a notch before Whitney Houston on the all-time list.
Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood also sang the anthem at the Super Bowl after Hudson scored an emphatic TD with her performance.
Billy Joel Proved Twice As Nice
Billy Joel is one of only two singers to perform the national anthem before the Super Bowl. Aaron Neville is the other.
Joel sang it in 1989 and 2007. And in 2007 at Dolphins Stadium outside Miami, he accompanied himself on the piano. Yes, he truly was the piano man.
Cher Is Super Fabulous
In 1999, Super Bowl fans at Miami’s Pro Players Stadium were treated to the fabulousness that is Cher. The pop icon toned down her usual flamboyant wardrobe. She wore a sparkly shirt and a pair of jeans. Her anthem was tremendous.
Here’s To You, New Orleans
Back in 2006, the Super Bowl used its pre-game at Ford Field in Detroit to salute New Orleans. The city was five months removed from Hurricane Katrina.
So who do you invite to the pre-game party? Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville and Dr. John — That’s who.
The soulful Franklin always had a unique take on the national anthem. On Thanksgiving, 2016, Franklin provided so much extra that the song took almost 5 minutes.
Opera Star Hits High Note With Anthem
Renee Fleming gave the Super Bowl its first taste of opera in 2014. And after her performance at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, maybe there should be more opera singers in football.
Fleming is the world-famous soprano who won four Grammys, with 17 nominations.
Carrie Underwood Stuns In 2010
Country star Carrie Underwood enjoys a nice relationship with the NFL. After all, she sings the theme song for NBC’s Sunday Night Football game.
She didn’t disappoint in Miami in 2010.