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The most memorable national anthems from past Super Bowls

The most memorable national anthems from past Super Bowls
Posted at 8:30 AM, Feb 07, 2024

Reba McEntire will sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, Feb. 11, and she’s not the first country crooner to have the illustrious role. In recent years, country stars including Chris Stapleton, Mickey Guyton and Eric Church also performed before the big game.

But artists of all genres have been chosen to usher in the Super Bowl over the years, and some of them put on performances that are still noteworthy, all these years later. The halftime show tends to snag a lot of attention and spur a lot of conversation, but when you look back, you’ll find performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that are singularly iconic.

Are you ready for the high note, land of the free? Here are some of the most memorable performances of the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton gave us a soulful, twangy version of the national anthem in 2023. His performance at Super Bowl LVII offered the perfect combo of raw emotion and gravelly tone, and it caught some people off guard as tears unexpectedly sprung to their eyes. It was so powerful that a few players even showed signs of tearing up, including Jason Kelce.

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Cher’s voice is almost instantly recognizable, and when Cher performed the national anthem in 1999 at the Super Bowl XXXIII, her signature low tone gave the song new life. She made the song her own: And she looked simply ethereal while doing it.

Mickey Guyton

Mickey Guyton’s version of the national anthem at Super Bowl LVI in 2022 inspired chills in the audience. Clad in a deep blue dress with a full choir behind her, her performance was poised and relied on no vocal tricks. Guyton had been speaking up about her experiences as a Black singer in country music prior to the Super Bowl that year, and her resilience and strength shone through when she claimed the stage.

“I set my intentions with singing the national anthem,” she told the New York Post at the time. “I was like, ‘OK, togetherness is what I really want.’”

Faith Hill

When Faith Hill was invited to sing the national anthem in at the 2000 Super Bowl, she already owned the airwaves with hits like “Breathe” and “The Way You Love Me.” But it was Hills’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXXIV that proved her talent was unshakable — in part because she later told Stephen Colbert in a “The Late Show” interview that the experience was “terrifying.” At a previous performance, Hill had forgotten the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she told Colbert, and her panic over remembering the lyrics at the Super Bowl led her to practice with a boom box in the restroom at the stadium.

MORE: Listen to Neil Patrick Harris sing the national anthem at the Yankees game

Mariah Carey

It’s hard to top Mariah Carey. She has a stunning five-octave range, making her a perfect instrument for a song like the national anthem with its wide range of notes. Her 2002 performance at Super Bowl XXXVI was nothing short of angelic, and when she hit that final “free,” she gave the audience one of her signature whistle notes.

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s vocal talent was unparalleled. At 27 years old, she put her pipes on full display at the Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Her performance was so popular that it was released as a single two times — once shortly after her Super Bowl performance, and again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Houston donated the proceeds to charity). YouTube fan channel Whitney Houston Remastered shared her performance, and it’s easy to hear why her timeless rendition is one to be remembered.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin performing
AP/Gene J. Puskar

The Queen of Soul joined Dr. John and Aaron Neville on stage at Super Bowl XL in 2006. Accompanied by a large gospel choir, the memorable performance felt like a piece of American history. Aretha Franklin went on to perform the national anthem at a Detroit Lions game in 2016, singing for a full five minutes and creating national headlines for the way she made “The Star-Spangled Banner” her song for all time.

U.S. Military Academy Choirs

Members of U.S. Naval Academy singing
AP/M. Spencer Green

If you’re looking for patriotic splendor, look no further than Super Bowl XXXIX. The combined choirs of the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy came together in 2005, accompanied by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, to give us one of the most beautifully touching performances of the national anthem of all time.

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Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight performing
AP/David J. Phillip

The Empress of Soul returned to her hometown of Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII in 2019. Her performance proved her timeless talent and her commitment to social change. It was a contentious year for the NFL and some singers refused the honor, but Knight accepted for a significant reason.

“I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good — I have been in the forefront of this battle longer than most of those voicing their opinions to win the right to sing our country’s anthem on a stage as large as the Super Bowl LIII,” Knight told Variety.

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood performing
AP/Mark Humphrey

“The Star Spangled Banner” is considered one of the most difficult songs to perform. The high F notes can be nearly impossible to hit, especially for altos and basses. But for a soprano like Underwood, the high notes are a breeze, as she proved at her performance of the national anthem at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.

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