Getting booked to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a major event is an honor for any artist. Many will try anything -- whether it's fiddling with the arrangement or striving for the glory notes that only five-octive powerhouses like Whitney could hit -- to put their own memorable stamp on the national anthem. Alas, not everyone -- in fact, almost no one -- reaches a level of true greatness. With that in mind and the Fourth of July afoot, cover your heart and hold your ears as Billboard brings you the 10 worst national anthem performances ever.
Keri Hilson has the vocal chops to make "The Star-Spangled Banner" soar, but unfortunately, the R&B star's performance at an NBA Lakers vs. Hawks game in 2010 did just the opposite. Why? Hilson committed the sin of all sins: forgetting the lyrics. Let the grumbling commence!
Josh Groban and Flea
Back in January 2010, we asked whether this unlikely coupling at the BCS championship game was the "weirdest national anthem ever," and with good reason. Josh Groban and Flea may be friends in real life, but their musical inclinations -- he's a popera star who cameos on "Glee," he's a funk-punk bassist who plays with Thom Yorke -- don't exactly scream "hot collabo."
No one is saying that Christina Aguilera, with her powerhouse glory notes, couldn't totally kill "The Star-Spangled Banner." But did she at the 2011 Super Bowl? Nope. Aguilera changed the words in the song's fourth line, merging the lyrics with the song's second line. And that final note? Yesh.
Notoriously excellent at turning ordinary performances into logic-defying moments, R. Kelly must have been trying to channel the great Marvin Gaye when he decided to go with a soul arrangement of the national anthem for a boxing bout. The results got people talking, but for all the wrong reasons, from the unnecessary use of handclaps to the even more unnecessary use of Chicago step dancers.
2001 & 2012
The Aerosmith frontman's one-of-a-kind voice is perfectly suited to howling choruses like "Love in an elevatuhhh," "What did her daddy doooo," or, "Dream until you're dreams come truuue." "O'er the land of the freeeee," however? Not so much. And he just won't stop singing it, most recently botching the words at the 2012 AFC Championship Game.
Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin & Dr. John
It had all the makings of a potentially great national anthem performance. Super Bowl XL was the first since Hurricane Katrina, and two New Orleans heroes -- Aaron Neville and Dr. John -- were there to proudly represent their hometown, along with Detroit soul queen Aretha Franklin. Also, a gospel choir! But sadly, these elements added up to something that just didn't leave us feeling good. Perplexed, maybe, and surely uncomfortable. But definitely not good.
The Grammy Award-winning voice of Creed has bungled the national anthem on several occasions, but a 2005 performance from the NASCAR Ford 400 best demonstrates why this man should never sing this song. Severed notes and brooding growls do not a good "Star-Spangled Banner" make.
Before there was Sarah Palin reading notes from her hand, there was Michael Bolton. At a Red Sox vs. Yankees baseball game in 2003, the crooner invited the wrath of fans when he dared to peek at the lyrics scrawled on his palm. Between that and the bizarre echo following his every line, Bolton's performance was an epic fail.
Even the most thick-skinned Americans had their feathers ruffled by Roseanne Barr's national anthem performance at a 1990 San Diego Padres game. She wanted to be obnoxious, in a number of ways -- by shouting the lyrics totally off-key, grabbing her crotch, and spitting on the pitcher's mound -- and it worked. The best part of this particular video, though, is that it serves to remind us that Madonna not only felt honored by Barr's performance but spoke with an entirely different accent two decades ago.
Once a pop newcomer with a bright future, the Dominican singer never quite recovered from this national anthem performance at a 2008 Dallas Cowboys game. Any way you look at it, it's a spectacular failure. She tries too hard to hit the notes that only a rarefied circle of divas can, then takes us on a painfully bumpy roller coaster ride of vocal runs. She half-forgets the lyrics. She completely botches the last note. And she does it all with the swagger of something who believes she's positively killing it. When a chorus of boos erupts at the end, it's far too little, too late.