Mary J. Blige belted out a gorgeous version of the national anthem at the 2012 Kentucky Derby, proving emphatically that she was the perfect choice for the job.
Dressed in red from head to toe, the nine-time Grammy Award winner let loose with a beautiful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." She took a few liberties with the classic American song, turning it into a soulful spiritual.
Although it was a bit of a risky move, she absolutely crushed it. There was a crowd of approximately 150,000 on hand, and I'd be shocked if a single person was left without goosebumps.
It was a great moment for Blige, who was performing her second national anthem at a major sporting event this year. The 2012 NBA All-Star Game was the other.
Although it wasn't a traditional rendition, Blige was the perfect selection to kick off the 138th Kentucky Derby. In her prolific career, she has racked up an insane 29 Grammy nominations, to go along with four American Music Awards and eight multi-platinum albums since her 1992 debut.
Although she's the most successful R&B singer of the past quarter century, she's also got amazing vocal versatility. She's the only artist in history to win a Grammy in R&B, pop, rap and gospel.
Her gospel background was on full display at the Derby, as she put a unique spiritual flair on the anthem. It was an excellent version, and should rank near the top in best national anthems in Derby history.
If the Derby ever brings her back for another go, I doubt anyone would object.