Watch Leon Bridges’ Soulful National Anthem Interpretation
Leon Bridges delivers a soulful and understated rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a new series on the National Anthem from ESPN and The Undefeated.
Rather than putting his own spin on the anthem’s classic fireworks and bombast, Bridges tweaks the song into 6/8ths time allowing him to deliver the familiar lyrics with a uniquely syncopated croon. Accompanied by just an organ in a smokey studio, the Texas singer moves delicately through his hymn-like rendition, reaching an end that’s free of over-the-top flourishes but no less moving.
“I felt that the original version is a little bit too straightforward musically,” Bridges said in an interview about his take on the Anthem. “I felt it was kind of dope to give a little 6/8, groovy feel to it. Something that felt comfortable for me to sing. I felt that the National Anthem needed a little bit of soul.”
Along with Bridges’ performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” ESPN’s new series features stories on two legendary Anthem performances, José Feliciano’s rendition at Game 5 of the 1968 World Series and Whitney Houston’s at Super Bowl XXV in 1991. “The Anthem” also includes an examination of the song’s origins, as well as two stories about youth sports teams grappling with protests inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who decided to kneel during the song last season.