The Super Bowl is an enormous night for international television. Each year, more than 100 million people are estimated to watch the game, its advertisements and its halftime show. It all begins with the performance of the National Anthem, a tradition that has been carried out by some of the greatest voices in pop music history. The song isn’t easy to deliver — as Christina Aguilera discovered — but there have been some exceptional performances. Click through to see the best star-spangled renditions. Editor’s Note: While we have tried to supply embedded video for each of these iconic performances, many of them must be viewed on YouTube due to restrictions, so viewers may be directed to click out to the site.
Still the gold standard for all Super Bowl performances more than 20 years later, Whitney Houston’s prerecorded version of the National Anthem stands as one of the most stunning moments in American sports history.
The R&B star put a tiny bit of swing into “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXXI.
No one expected the Queen of Melisma, Mariah Carey, to perform a straightforward version of the National Anthem. Her version was comparatively restrained, however, and very elegant. Being Mariah, she did hit one glass-shattering note at the very top of her five-octave range.
The reigning superstar of country offered a solemn, mindful tribute in 1993. Actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, joined him to perform the song in sync via American Sign Language.
In a tribute to New Orleans, then recovering from Hurrican Katrina, the soul diva shared verses with the celebrated vocalist from the Neville Brothers, as his fellow New Orleans native, Dr. John, lent the anthem a jazz-tinged piano groove.
The Academy Award-winning star of Dreamgirls held nothing back in her 2009 performance, delivering a controlled yet astonishingly powerful take on the anthem. Like many performances, hers was allegedly pre-recorded.
Another American Idol alumnus, Carrie Underwood, kept up Hudson’s strong momentum at the next year’s game, offering one of the most country-tinged renditions to date.
She left the Bob Mackie headdress at home, but Cher’s throaty take on “The Star-Spangled Banner” still had the pop icon’s unmistakable style – not to mention some impressive notes.
Ms. Knowles gave the full symphonic treatment to the National Anthem, performing with an ensemble of woodwinds and brass. Her vocals were the perfect, respectful accompaniment.
One of the best Anthems in Super Bowl history was delivered by country star Faith Hill, who was also joined by sign language specialists. Her traditional delivery was moving and sophisticated.
As only the second pop group in recent memory to deliver the anthem (the Backstreet Boys did it in 2001), the country trio hit some truly ethereal harmonies in 2003.