It seems odd that relaxed-khaki rockers the Fray would inspire acrimony of any sort (unless you hate “Grey’s Anatomy”), but that’s exactly what’s happened following their performance of the national anthem at Monday night’s NCAA national championship basketball game.
To be honest, we didn’t think it was that bad, but critics have been savaging the band for their jangly spin on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” calling it everything from “dreadful” to “acoustic, emo and mercifully quick” ( two assessments that could equally have been applied to the actual championship game, now that we think of it).
And while they may not be fair, those criticisms automatically add the Fray to the rather lengthy list of truly terrible national anthem performances. From crotch-grabbing comediennes to winded, warbling sprinters, here’s a look at some of the all-time worst. For the record, we don’t think the Fray’s version belongs anywhere on this list, but, hey, anytime you find yourself included alongside Steven Tyler and R. Kelly, you’ve got to be doing something right … right?
A performance so putrid we’re still talking about it 20 years after the fact. In a move that was either inspired or completely insane (probably both), the San Diego Padres invited the foul-mouthed comedienne to sing the national anthem before a game, and, well, they got everything they could’ve expected … and more. After screeching her way through the song, Barr was showered with boos and showed her gratitude by grabbing her crotch and spitting. Amazingly, this was a huge deal, and she was vilified in the press. Sort of makes you miss the simpler times of H.W. Bush America, doesn’t it?
Hey, he’s an Olympic champion — surely he can sing, right? Wrong. Lewis’ gloriously off-key rendition of the anthem was so bad, people were asking him to give his medals back. As the 20th anniversary of his anthem approaches, it’s difficult to pick the worst (i.e. greatest) moment: His Crayola-colored suit? The part where he cracks a note and, as the crowd jeers, declares “Uh oh! I’mma make up for it now”? Watching members of the Chicago Bulls trying (and failing) to stifle fits of laughter? Nah, you know what? We’re going to go with the New Jersey Nets’ 1993 warm-ups. Those things are still hilarious.
Call it the Massacre at Mandalay Bay. Before a big-ticket Vegas boxing match, Mr. Robert Kelly strode to the center of the ring and delivered a delirious, step-show-ready version of the anthem. Sure, he sings it well (since R. Kelly is amazing), but as a sheer stylistic choice, well, this one was a total bomb. Not surprisingly, despite Kelly’s repeated insistences, no one in the audience clapped their hands. Instead, they just booed.
Performing the anthem at Fenway Park, before the Red Sox and the Yankees met for a pivotal 2003 American League Championship game, Bolton made two key errors: One, he totally forgot the lyrics and was forced to read them off the palm of his hand (the crowd lustily booed him for the move), and two, he was Michael Bolton. In Boston. Before a Yankees game. Being from Connecticut wasn’t enough to save him or this performance.
Poor Xtina. Performing before an audience of millions at Super Bowl XLV, she fumbled pretty much everything: missing notes and screwing up lyrics (we like the part where she goes “the twilight’s last reaming”). She was “devastated” by the mistakes, and since she’s done the anthem so well — and so often — before, we’re willing to forgive this one. Also, we love her on “The Voice.”
Yowch. Tyler delivered a cringe-worthy version of the anthem before the Patriots/Ravens AFC Championship game in January, and not even his sparkly Pats scarf could save him from getting booed. It was wobbly, shouty and even a tad pitchy, dawg. Good thing he’s not responsible for judging a singing competition or anything.
Which do you think is the worst anthem? Let us know in the comments!