With today being the Fourth of July and all, I feel it’s my civic duty to unite us, if but for a short time, with the one act of blind patriotism we can all get behind: counting down the most over-the-top, overwhelming renditions of the national anthem, as performed by Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and the rest of your favorite divas of pop music. (In no particular order, of course, so please don’t tweet me death threats. Thanks!)
To clarify, by national anthem I mean “The Star-Spangled Banner” only. (As in, the actual, official national anthem.) That means that neither Aretha Franklin singing “My Country, ’Tis Of Thee” at the 2009 presidential inauguration nor the bejeweled-bow hat she wore at said inauguration are on the list. Pour out a vial of eagle tears in mourning, and move past it. Your country needs you. Please rise.
1. Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV, 1991
There’s a reason we’ve invented the phrase “I CAN’T,” and this is it. Literally, the gold standard of national anthem performances.
2. Beyoncé at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show Press Conference, 2013
After being accused of lip-synching “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on January 21 of that year, Bey used her halftime show press conference to prove that she’s more than capable of vocally annihilating the song. She also demonstrated one of the unsung benefits of singing the national anthem: automatic standing ovation. B-b-b-bow down.
3. Mariah Carey at Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002
Hit those whistle notes. Hit them for America.
4. Christina Aguilera at Super Bowl XLV, 2011
Christina Aguilera totally left her mark all over the national anthem, and possibly even the nation, with this performance. Truly iconic, from now until the twilight’s last
5. Jennifer Hudson at Super Bowl XLIII, 2009
Stop talking. Did Jennifer Hudson say you could talk?
6. Lady Gaga at NYC Pride, 2013
YAAAAAAS. YAAAAAAS, AMERICA, YOU LOOK SO GOOD. OH MY GOD, YAAAAAAS. AMERICA YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL. YOU LOOK SO BEAUTIFUL.
7. The Dixie Chicks at Super Bowl XXXVII, 2003
A down-home alternative to the more pop/R&B stylings we usually hear, the Dixie Chicks’ twangy, bluegrass harmonies are so simple and arresting. Toby Keith was surely left gagging.
8. Patti LaBelle at the U.S. Open, 2000
YES, PATTI LABELLE. SEND THEM PACKING. ALL OF THEM.
9. Roseanne Barr at a Padres vs. Red game, 1990
OK, so Roseanne isn’t technically a pop diva by any stretch of the imagination, but, like, WHEN WILL YOUR FAVES.
10. Destiny’s Child at the NBA All-Star Game, 2006
You didn’t think Beyonce would only make this list once, did you? She joined her fellow children of Destiny, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, and a couple of jet-fueled wind machines for a rendition of the national anthem so powerfully flaw-free, that the force of it broke through the space-time continuum, traveled all the way back to 1777, and shivered its way up Betsy Ross’ spine, causing her to utter the fateful words: “The flag… It shall be spangled… with STARS.”*
11. Cyndi Lauper at a Mets vs Cubs game, 1994
Did Cyndi Lauper just turn the national anthem into some ambient, slow-drip of a New Romantic revival? Did the announcer just say that she was “Great as Ira’s ex-wife on ’Mad About You’?!” If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up.
12. The Cheetah Girls at a Pistons vs. Trail Blazers game, 2008
I love The Cheetah Girls’ rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” almost as much as I hate broken promises, promises.
13. Lana Del Rey’s “National Anthem,” 2012
Totally counts. Happy Independence Day!