Sure, the halftime show gets most of the shine, but belting the national anthem at the Super Bowl is no joke.
The game already has a rich history of iconic performances, from Whitney Houston’s towering rendition in 1991 to Mariah Carey’s elegant 2002 take and Jennifer Hudson’s moving 2009 version. Divas (including halftime performer Beyoncé) have frequently remade “The Star-Spangled Banner” in their image over the years.
Alicia Keys promised to make the song her own at Super Bowl XLVII and the 14-time Grammy winner delivered. Her hair slicked down in a short bob, Keys, dressed in an elegant floor-length sleeveless maroon dress, sat a silver Yamaha piano and opened with a little run across the black and whites. Her voice just above a breathy whisper, she took her time, giving the nation’s song a midnight cocktail jazz feel.
The nightclub vibe was heightened by her proximity to the microphone, which caught her every inhale and exhale, seemingly providing concrete evidence that the song was being performed live. (Though, as we’ve learned time and again, nothing is certain when it comes to the national anthem at the Super Bowl.)
The crowd erupted in cheers when she hit the “perilous fight” lyric and an image of troops at Camp Courage in Afghanistan was beamed in live. With an insistent left hand piano figure throbbing beneath, Keys reached up into her higher register to sing about the bombs bursting in air, cementing her performance as one that belongs in the Hall of Fame.
The camera cut to legendary Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as she hit the lyrics about the “land of the free,” with Lewis urgently mouthing along as Keys lifted her hands up above her head for emphasis. By the time she got to the “home of the brave,” Keys was in full voice, ending the song with one her signature soulful runs.
Less than an hour before taking the stage, a confident Keys tweeted a photo of herself backstage in her body-hugging dress. Staring into a mirror with a calm smile on her face, she wrote, “Almost ready to sing at the @Superbowl! Is this football appropriate? Heels are my version of cleets!
The performance lived up to exactly what she had promised when MTV News caught up with her last month in Park City, Utah at Sundance. At the time she said she was “crazy excited” about the opportunity. “It’s a historical moment, that day, so I’m looking forward to really doing it my style and my way, and I’m looking forward to really making it great.”
What did you think of Alicia Keys’ rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl? Let us know in comments below!