When did the United States national anthem become more about the performer and not the song? When did it become more about “How many notes can I add” and not about “what is this song actually about?”
Tonight at the NBA finals another upstart young singer belted the national anthem, hoping to garner as many hoots and hollers as she possibly could for her elaborate and virtuosic singing. (and I’ll admit, for a ten year old, the girl sounds like she will grow up to have an impressive voice) And to be honest, if those were her goals, then fantastic. The audience cheered (but let’s be honest. Even if she had botched it, cried, needed to start over, the crowd would’ve been supportive; The national anthem is the one time in sporting events that everyone turns into actual good people)
But this is the issue. Almost every singer who sings the national anthem seems to care much more about what people will think of their performance more than whether people appreciate the point of singing the Star Spangled Banner in the first place.
Recently I was at a professional baseball game. The singer of the national anthem was obviously an older guy – not the aspiring teen heart-throb type by any stretch. I don’t know the guy, but I knew he and I were on the same page. He stood up, sang the anthem perfectly in tune, clearly enunciated every word, and didn’t compose a single extra note in effort to produce that “LOOK AT ME!!!” Moment. I thought it was the best performance of that song that I had heard in years. Because for the first time in forever (Oh please Frozen fans don’t break into song) it felt like the singer actually knew: The singing of the national anthem is not an opportunity to show off. It’s not about you getting noticed. It’s about remembering the great things about the nation we live in (and despite what doomsday pundits might lead you to believe, we still do live in a great nation!)
So here’s my plea to those of you running the NBA finals (And I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS!): In game 2, can you invite a singer who “gets it” to stand up and just sing the Star Spangled Banner with the attitude with which it was meant to be sung.
Oh… please and thank you!
So now I’m going to get back to watching the finals. This is an awesome game. Go Lebron!