[artist id="1933910"]Carrie Underwood[/artist] excels no matter what the context. Fresh off her headline-grabbing contribution to the Michael Jackson tribute at this year's Grammy Awards (where she adroitly weaved her way through Jackson's "Earth Song"), Underwood took the microphone in front of a sold-out Sun Life Stadium in Miami to deliver a killer rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the kickoff to Super Bowl XLIV.
Before Underwood performed, Queen Latifah sang "America the Beautiful" flanked by a children's choir. Latifah broke it down during the tune's finale for a jazz-inflected, gospel-tinged capper.
Then it was time for Underwood. Following the presentation of the colors, the "American Idol" alum took the stage wearing a white jumpsuit accented with silver chains and a silver belt. During her performance, the broadcast cut to scenes of soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan, standing at attention. At the song's climax, the crowd was treated to fireworks and — in a Super Bowl tradition — a flyover by a quartet of fighter jets. Players, coaches and fans were visibly moved by Underwood's stellar performance.
The singer is the latest in a long line of blockbuster stars who've started the Super Bowl with the national anthem. At last year's game, fellow "American Idol" contestant [artist id="1604035"]Jennifer Hudson performed the song[/artist] before the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals. Other recent notable "Star-Spangled Banner" crooners include Jordin Sparks (another "Idol" alum), Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and Mariah Carey.
Underwood also joins a number of musical guests at this year's face-off between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. The Who will take the stage for the annual half-time show, where they will showcase some of their greatest hits, including "Who Are You," "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." On Saturday night, fans were treated to Super Saturday performances from Barenaked Ladies, O.A.R. and Robert Randolph. And the weekend got started on the right note with the 2010 version of VH1's "Super Bowl Fan Jam," which provided performances by Rihanna, Young Jeezy, Timbaland and Justin Bieber.