Monday, February 19, 2018

Revisitng What the Hail?

Fergie's faux pas rendition of the National Anthem at the 2018 NBA All Star Game revived a simmering controversy about performing the Star Spangled Banner. Wags on social media contend that Fergie's sultry stylings declared war against the National Anthem and was the worst ever. 

Obviously they have forgotten Roseanne Barr’s 1990 San Diego Padre’s atrocity of an anthem, which was more unfunny performance art than honoring our Nation.

Christina Aguilera’s performance of the National Anthem at Superbowl XLV was marred by a lyric malfunction. The pop star botched the ramparts verse and instead sang “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last gleaming”.  This echoed a prior line, which she also flubbed. 

Aside from the lyrical miscued, Aguilera tried switching up the melodies a couple of time, to less successful effect than Whitney Houston at Superbowl XXV. Houston managed to put the Star Spangled Banner back on the Billboard charts. 


Personally, I was watching in a boisterous space where viewers were more capable of witnessing how adeptly Aguilera’s wardrobe covered her tattoos. One can surmise that  Aguilera was quite nervous, as some of her prior renditions of the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events were outstanding.  And it seems that she was concentrated more on changing the melody than on the lyrics.

Our crowd cheered along with the crowd in Dallas when the video feed switched to our troops serving in Afghanistan.  As I rewatched the video, I noticed the shot of Pittsburg Steelers Cornerback William Gay chocked up with emotion during the National Anthem.

Even spirited and heart felt renditions of the National Anthem can cause controversy, as Jose Feliciano’s rendition during game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit did, or Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar version at Woodstock in 1969.

Lyrically, Francis Scott Key’s poetic magnus opus is poignant, but he conveniently set it to “To Anacreon in Heaven”, an English pub song used as a sobriety test. For me, the only more testing melodic line in America's songbook standard is the genius who set Happy Birthday to the children's song  "Good Morning to All" from 1893.

Nevertheless, the Star Spangled Banner means something for most Americans. That explains egregious expressions and politicizing of the National Anthem seems to strike such deep chords. The NFL television ratings are markedly down as players Taking a Knee during the National Anthem, which many link to patriotic fans protesting and the League repeatedly allowed this perceived disrespect. 

[This piece was originally published on DCBarroco.US but updated after aesthetic outrages]

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