Christina Aguilera made some star-spangled flubs singing America's national anthem at the Super Bowl. Did you catch her performance, or is that when you raced to the kitchen to replenish the guacamole? She mumbled some lines and moved others around to places in the song where they shouldn’t be.
One thing is sure: She was no Whitney Houston.
Remember Ms. Houston’s performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl in 1991? Back then, the US armed forces had not participated in major combat for many years – but the air-assault portion of the Gulf War had just started. The nation was in a highly patriotic mood. Houston, who has had her own challenges since then, gave an emotional rendition of the song, and it remains one of her career highlights.
So why didn’t the Christina Aguilera national anthem match Houston's? We’ve got two personal opinions as to what happened.
First, she was trying too hard. Way too hard. She appeared to be auditioning for the part of Aretha Franklin in a biopic. She was all gesture and tremolo, like an R & B diva. Which she isn’t.
Second, those lyrics are among the most difficult things any performer ever has to sing. “O’er the ramparts we watched ...”? Why are they singing about people looking at Dodge pickup accessories? (OK, that’s over the top, but you get our point.) Francis Scott Key was not exactly William Wordsworth. In the third stanza, he rhymed “battle’s confusion” with “foul footsteps’ pollution,” for instance. We figure he was running out of ideas at that point.
Aguilera’s mistakes may produce some good, however, if they bring more attention to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the fact that 2014 marks the bicentennial of its writing during the War of 1812.
In fact, on March 3 of this year, the National Park Service will open a brand-new visitor center at Fort McHenry – just in time for the undoubted flood of tourists the bicentennial will bring. (Maybe they can get you-know-who to sing you-know-what at the opening! She could make up for the Super Bowl performance that way.)
Down the Patapsco River from Fort McHenry, out toward the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, there is a star-spangled buoy that marks the place where Key was interned on a British ship and watched the rockets bursting in air that inspired the national anthem in the first place. It’s one of the least-visited historic sites in America, mostly because you have to hire a boat to get there.
It’s just under a bridge that carries an interstate highway over the river. That bridge is officially known as the Francis Scott Key Bridge. But locals call it The Car-Strangled Spanner.