To prep for the high-profile task of singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl 51, Luke Bryan said he committed himself to an intense regimen of singing around the house, from in the shower to the stairwell. “I know it sounds like a sports reference,” he tells Rolling Stone Country, “but I [got] a lot of reps in.”
The work paid off. Bryan delivered a slow and steady version of the National Anthem on the field of Houston’s NRG stadium, prior to kickoff between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. As an enormous American flag unfurled behind him and New England quarterback Tom Brady sang along on the sidelines, the George native lingered over notes with a tasteful warble. It was a decidedly understated performance of a song that can often be overblown.
Bryan was adamant about placing country over self while on such a grand stage and wasn’t worried about muffing the performance. (He was criticized for writing the lyrics to the Anthem on his hand when he sang it at the 2012 MLB All-Star game.)
“I didn’t want the risk of not singing it great or negative criticism to outweigh my love for the ability to get up there to honor my country and my veterans,” he says. “That’s the way you have to go at it.”
Bryan’s rendition of the National Anthem was preceded by a dazzling performance of “America the Beautiful” by Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who originated the role of the Schuyler Sisters in the Broadway smash Hamilton.
From Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks to Billy Joel, here are the best Super Bowl national anthems. Watch here.