Super Bowl

Alicia Keys National Anthem: Breaking Down Singer's Performance

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Musician Alicia Keys performs the National Anthem prior to the start of Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

I loved Alicia Keys' rendition of the national anthem. I just didn't necessarily love it as the rendition done before the Super Bowl.

There was a mixed reception to Keys' version of the song. There was the crowd that thought it was quite lovely—a somewhat sultry yet melancholy version of the song that really complemented Keys' strengths and will be remembered for being a far more unique rendition than we normally get.

That crowd is correct.

There was also the crowd that thought Keys really milked every last second out of the performance. It was simply too long and even a little self-indulgent. And, honestly, she really didn't need to add that last little bit at the end.

And guess what? That crowd is also correct.

My overall impression was that I really liked what she did with the song. She gave it a little touch of moodiness, which felt totally appropriate with the host city being New Orleans.

And I loved the piano. It's always nice when performers, you know, play an instrument.

But c'mon, Alicia, this is the Super Bowl, not a jazz fest. These are football fans waiting for the biggest game of the year watching, not art critics.

You could practically feel the players for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers crawling out of their skin, waiting for the song to be over and the game to begin.

The only thing that lasted longer than the national anthem was the blackout.

I'm not saying she should have changed the style. I really, really loved her version of the song. I'm just saying she didn't need to perform the song at quite the leisurely pace she employed. A slightly livelier beat would have been appreciated.

I'm a believer in knowing your crowd and making small tweaks to suit that crowd, especially when you're performing a song like the national anthem that isn't your original material. 

I'll give Keys this—I will remember her rendition. It was truly memorable, even if it took too long. And I don't remember many performances of the national anthem. The last one that truly stands out for me is that earth-shattering version from Whitney Houston:

Yes, I have goosebumps as well.

Keys knew she couldn't bring the goosebumps, so she brought a thoughtful, deep version to the table instead. And it truly worked.

It just didn't end until the dawn's early light.

 

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