Super Bowl 2013: Alicia Keys Sings the National Anthem -- What Did You Think?

alicia keys national anthem super bowlPerforming the National Anthem at a major arena or outdoor event has never been a cushy job, but it’s possibly even less so in the wake of Beyoncé’s LipsyncGate at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. Indeed, the scrutiny and criticism heaped on the Lady Knowles over the last week had to have put an added degree of pressure on Alicia Keys as she took the mic and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” just before Super Bowl XLVII.

Turns out the “Girl on Fire” singer had nothing to worry about. Keys proved a rock-solid choice to perform the National Anthem to kick off the San Francisco 49ers-Baltimore Ravens showdown.

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Keys, decked out in a sleeveless burgundy gown, looked relaxed and confident as she as she began her performance seated at a white piano, and for the most part, her vocals did not fail her on this occasion. She delivered the song in subdued, slowed-down fashion — with an unexpected rawness — her work at the keyboard (and a wobbly note or two toward the end) perhaps a way to underscore the message that this was 100 percent live, with no backing track.

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What did you think of Keys’ “Star Spangled Banner”? Take our poll below, share your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned to all night long for coverage of Super Bowl ads, halftime show, and more!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Kwapple says:

    “Performing the National Anthem at a major outdoor event has never been a cushy job”

    But they’re playing in a dome

  2. Tracy says:

    Her voice is amazing but that was way too slow.

  3. Ashley says:

    I love her and have since the getgo. I don’t know if it was me or the TV, but it just didn’t sound that good to me and I was really disappointed because I know how amazing she is.

  4. Meg says:

    Felt like a funeral dirge. More than usual.

  5. Kristi says:

    I think that might have been the slowest version of the national anthem I’ve ever heard.

  6. Beth says:

    Hate the way the American national anthem is turned into a pop song every time. If someone did that to my anthem (Ireland) it would be considered blasphemy.

    • Timmah says:

      Yeah, I really didn’t like that she felt compelled to make up her own ending.

    • lariet50 says:


    • bbl says:

      Try atheism, and you wouldn’t have to worry about that.

      All kidding aside, there is definitely merit to singing The Star-Spangled Banner in the traditional way, like when Jessica Sanchez sang it for the PBS National Memorial Day Concert. However, while some would say that keeping true to that version is a token of utmost respect to both song-writer and country, others would also say that putting your own spin on it embodies what the song stands for in the first place. The US is not only the land of the free, it’s also a melting pot of lots of different backgrounds, cultures and values.

    • Rose says:

      Good grief, the national anthem is a poem about the battle of Fort McHenry, part of the War of 1812, slapped together with a British drinking song. The tune doesn’t really fit the lyrics, and it’s difficult to sing.

      • Anne says:

        Rose, You’ve made the same point several times. Please stop. Anyway, regardless of the song’s origins it is now our national anthem. I think it’s lovely, and I wish singers would sing it the way it is traditionally sung out of respect for our country and the people in the audience. When I hear the song, I do not want to be distracted by the singer. I want to be able to focus on my own thoughts about the country and what it means to me.

  7. Jon says:

    She should have lip synched

  8. k says:

    It was too slow. It would have been better had she kept it at the appropriate speed, about a minute 30 seconds for the whole song. And I didn’t like that bit she did at the end.

    • Whatevah says:

      It’s like she didn’t want to leave. This was her moment in the sun and she was going to milk it for all it was worth.

  9. Linda says:

    I kept waiting for her to pick it up … it never happened. I like her, but this was disappointing.

  10. RodMod says:

    Alicia has never been the “backed-by-an-orchestra-and/or-choir” type of diva. Tonight she did “Alicia” the best way Alicia could do “Alicia.”

    It wasn’t great, nor was it bad. It was simply good.

    • Ann says:

      You’re absolutely right but the problem is that the song is not about “Alicia”. It’s the National Anthem and it’s supposed to be inspiring which this was not.

      • RodMod says:

        Maybe not to you. I’m sure the Footballers–you know, the guys who were pretty much in tears–would definitely disagree.

    • JDionne says:

      I thought it was a medium grade version. My real issue is you called her a Diva. That term gets used to liberally nowadays

  11. Karen Rice says:

    Performers seem to want to immortalize themselves rather than honor the National Anthem. They need to sing it like it was written, no extra notes, no moderizing, no bringing attention to themselves.

    • lariet50 says:

      ^ This

    • RodMod says:


    • DeviousDaniD says:

      If that’s the case then you might as well just find any old Joe Schmo off the street to sing it. When you get Whitney, Mariah, Beyonce, Alicia etc to sing the national anthem it’s because you want to hear how they would interpret the song vocally. If you don’t like it change the channel!

    • Nurie says:

      And if you’re going to sing the national anthem and your are physically capable of standing up..then you should be standing up. There are plenty of capable pianists who can accompany.

      I like Alicia K as a songwriter. Singer she’s great too but tonight’s performance was abougt her not about the song. At least she sang and not lip synched.

  12. Jane says:

    I like Alicia, but she sang the anthem way too slow. I wish that they would just sing it as it is written…and why wear a formal dress to the Superbowl? She and Jennifer Hudson…

  13. strachpa says:

    She went over 2 minutes and 10 seconds, so i won a hundred dollards!

  14. bentley1530 says:

    Some of those notes were a little shaky and I did not like the arrangement so this will not rank as better national anthems in my opinion.

  15. Kat says:

    I’m guessing Alicia Keys and co. didn’t want to follow the Sandy Hook/Jennifer Hudson piece with a bombastic version of the national anthem. However, I think “America the Beautiful” came off more joyful than anticipated due to the smiling students, so Alicia’s stripped down anthem didn’t exactly work.

  16. TMW says:

    Just. sing. the. song. as. it. was. written.

    I’m sick of these “improvements,” especially to the national anthem. It’s incredibly disrespectful.

  17. Ashley says:

    I thought it was pretty good. Hated her little remix at the end, but she didn’t overdo it as I expected her to. And I wasn’t sure if she slowed it down to make sure the feedback didn’t mess her up or what, but either way, it didn’t bother me too much.

  18. Jay says:

    Is it over yet? Too slow too drawn out too Alicia Keys….

  19. Katie says:

    I was looking forward to Alicia signing, but she sang it way too slow. The crowd was trying to get her to speed it up. Sing it like it is written, without putting your own spin on it. And come dressed for a sporting event, not an award ceremony.

  20. Alex says:

    Can we just please have JHud sing everything from now on?

  21. Josh says:

    Who are you guys to judge she sings it better than any of you do or I

  22. I liked that she didn’t use a whole lot of vocal gymnastics, nor did she try to compete with J Hudson and the CT Choir. Just her and a beautiful white piano.

  23. TV Gord says:

    I thought she did a great job. I just came here to laugh at all of the armchair critics who would never say a positive word about anything. So, I wasn’t disappointed on either count. :-)

  24. Elise Clark says:

    totally agree. sing a song like it was supposed to be sung! How the composer composed it! why is that so difficult. anyway end result….it was horrid!

    • Rose says:

      Well, here’s the deal with that last statement. The poet didn’t write the music. Yes, the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” is a poem about a particular battle in the War of 1812. The music/tune is an old British drinking song written by a Brit named John Stafford Smith. So, ya know, get over it.

    • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

      It was composed for something else and the lyrics are longer than the short version that is often sung.

  25. monroe says:

    It was absolutely beautiful. Alicia brought it….made me proud to hear a voice like that sing for our country!

  26. MTB says:

    It sucked. Sing the song and get done. She screwed up the ending too.

  27. liddad says:

    I liked how she managed to keep it incredibly simplistic while – in keeping with the whole ideology of America – she put her own interpretation on it and made it her own. More people should do it like this.

  28. mm says:

    This game is being played in New Orleans. People come from literally all over the world to hear New Orleans music. The city is filled with world-class musicians and vocalists who would have been more appropriate choices and in all likelihood done a better job. Frankly I think the St. Aug Purple Knights would have been better. To use Simon Cowell’s phrise, that was self-indulgent, especially that little ‘extra’ at the end. The audience thought she had finished at the usual pont and started talking and cheering, but, no, she had to keep going to indulge in her own ‘spin.’ Not good.

    BTW I wouldn’t worry about being disrespectful to the composer. The tune dates from the mid-18th century when it was composed as an anthem for a men’s amateur music society, and the original lyrics were about drinking. The patriotic lyrics were written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and were later set to what had become a popular tune. The original composer had no idea his tune would be drafted much later to be the national anthem of the United States (which did not even exist at the time the tune was composed).

  29. Lynn says:

    She was awful. This was not a lounge. It was the national anthem. She has a beautiful voice. But her rendition was terrible, as was her changing the ending. It’s as disrespectful as Christina forgetting the words.

    I hope she gets soundly thrashed for her performance so we never have to suffer through another “artist” trying this garbage.

  30. Rachel says:

    I thought it was amazing. I liked that it was slower, it felt really emotional and heartfelt to me. I LOVED that she didn’t do too much vocal styling, but it was still so “her”, and that little bit at the end really fit well.

  31. gayla says:

    I believe that the national anthem should be about the song and not the singer. For some unknown reason, singers in this day and age feel like they need to put “their” stamp on it. Since it is the national anthem, it should be sung in the style that it was written.

  32. carrie says:

    She was sitting during the National Anthem. It was way too long, I really dislike it and find it extremely disrespectful when singers change the National Anthem.

    • bbl says:

      I was sitting, too. And my hand wasn’t on my heart. And I had a hat on. Sorry!

      They really need to choose a singer (and band?) that will perform the song “as it should be” performed, record it, then just play that recording at the start of all the violent gladiator sports games. It just makes things loads easier when everybody looks, sounds and thinks the same.

  33. John Grose says:

    Just sing the song. It’s amazing withou embellishment. Sing it simply and with heart and America will remember it forever.

  34. Matt says:

    The anthem is meant to be sung in an upbeat pace. Too many artists drag it out for no reason other than they want to make a show of it.

  35. Coryrox says:

    Let’s just get rid of the National Anthem and replace with something a little more updated. I’m thinking a cover of Neil Diamond’s “America”.

  36. Jack says:

    I dont know which was longer…her singing the national anthem, or the 34 minute blackout.

  37. Jay says:

    Many of the People commenting dont know the complete Star Spangled Banner:

    Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
    O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
    Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
    Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
    What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
    Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
    In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
    ‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
    A home and a country should leave us no more!
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  38. S says:

    United States Code 36-301 states The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem. Meaning that the actual composition as written is the National Anthem not one that is changed by riffs, vocal gymnastics or additions to the way it is played. I think that often people who use such vocal means are simply covering the fact that they are unable to cover the octave and a fifth range that the song itself covers.
    When people ask why do you get big name stars to sing if you don’t want to hear this stuff. Well A. because one would believe that they are able to sing it well and with due respect and honor and B. they would feel honored in being chosen to sing, in such a public place and time, the song that means so much to so many.
    With all that being said, I don’t think she actually attempted to dishonor the song. In fact I believe she was showing it respect in her way. Unlike others who have come before, she clearly put effort into learning the lyrics and performed the music and accompaniment herself. This takes talent.
    If you would like to be concerned with dishonoring this song (which by the way was only chosen in 1931 as the National Anthem for those that don’t know) maybe you should watch the people behind her in the video. Those people who could not be bothered for 2 minutes and 30 seconds of their lives to stand still, cover their hearts and not talk. Working for a major university and attending many major sporting events tied to it, I have found that very few if any really stop (unless it is requested by the loud speakers) to stop, even fewer remove their hats. fewer still cover their hearts. You can not imagine how many times I have had to ask people to stop talking during the National Anthem.
    While this is just a song, and this is a free country to do what you wish, this is also a country where many have died in order for that freedom to be preserved. Many people have given their lives so people can choose to NOT do all those things, But I would ask that if you don’t care about the song…take the minute and 30 seconds or 2.5 minutes in Alicia Keys case, and pause for all those people who are protecting all of those freedoms we all hold for granted. If you don’t do it for any other reason, do it for THAT.

    • bbl says:

      Why do you think non-uniformed people should cover their hearts? Why should they use their right hand? Why should men remove their “headdresses”, and why are women exempt from this? Why are the words “silent”, “respect” or “honor” not mentioned anywhere in the section regarding the National Anthem? Why are you interpreting that section to disallow modifications and/or additions? The language of 36-301 reads more like something from Nazi Germany than a modern open-minded society rooted in freedom.

      Life must adapt or it will die. US culture is ever so slowly starting to not only understand and accept the differences within, but more importantly to embrace and celebrate them. What better way to demonstrate this than giving artists the opportunity to showcase their hard work and natural talent by making the song of their country their own? I agree with you that Alicia showed much respect for the Anthem, and I think it’s one of the more beautiful renditions I’ve heard in a while. But that’s just our opinion; there is no line in the sand that determines how breathy a singer can sing it, how often and to what intensity vibrato is employed, etc., etc.

      In my opinion, you do honor to the song if you perform at your best. You do honor to the audience if you take their tastes into account as well. This was the Super Bowl. What percentage of the audience was buzzed, drunk or otherwise inebriated by the time she started singing?

      • S. says:

        To answer your questions, even though I am not certain you will see any of this, I have done a little research to make sure that I was able to provide the most accurate response possible.
        Your first question about covering the heart; while some countries do not require this, it is a common gesture by many Nations as a form of saluting or showing respect. Why the right hand? I would say this comes from a centuries old gesture again of saluting and respect, not to mention that most people are right handed. (it is also a little heart to cover your heart which is located slightly to the left of enter in your chest with your left hand)
        Why men and not women( or children for that matter) are typically exempt from removing hats would be because of centuries of traditions relating to ways respect has been show and believe it or not fashion. Men typically wore hats as an accessory piece while women’s headpieces were often attached to hairstyles or their clothing itself. Does that mean that today women in ball caps shouldn’t take it off? No I would say not. But there is your answer on that one.
        Why are the words “Silent” “respect” and “honor” never mentioned? Because I doubt those who wrote the code thought that they needed to be. Take the Canadian National Anthem etiquette which states “As a matter of respect and tradition it is proper to stand during the National Anthem…There is no law or behaviour governing the playing of the national anthem; it is left to the good citizenship of individuals.”
        While other countries actually do have such laws, it is a matter or tradition and most of all respect. Why do you need to make a law actually demanding the word respect for your own country’s National Anthem?
        Some countries also allow for the melody to be the primary basis of the National Anthem while the overall arrangement is allowed to be changed by the artist performing the piece. While the U.S. does not specifically say this, it does mention “composition” I take that to mean “arrangement” however it could be argued either way.
        The language in that code doesn’t read like that of Nazi Germany where people were forced into jails, killed, forced labor camps etc for not following rules and regulations set by its government. This is a code set to protect the dignity of the emblems of the United States. Almost all countries from A-Z have similar codes. Today I think we simply find that our “freedoms” allow us to be so “free” that we can forget how much those emblems meant to our forefathers.
        It was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt that stopped an interview during the Olympics for the UNITED STATES national anthem and requested the interviewer remain quiet while he showed respect for OUR anthem that I found so wonderful during the Olympics. I hate to say it but how many U.S. athletes would have done the same for the Jamaican anthem or even our own?
        Life must adapt or die, so must the United States, you are correct. But as soon as we forget all that made us great, and the symbols that represent all that we hold dear…what is the point of worrying about adapting?

        She did a good job. Like this response she was a bit long winded and it took too long. But all being said and done, it was good and a worthy, respectful rendition.

        Off Soapbox…

        • bbl says:

          “Why do you need to make a law actually demanding the word respect for your own country’s National Anthem?”
          This is what I was getting at with my questions. The code doesn’t use the word “respect”, but rather lists a few — arbitrary, to non-historians — actions that seemingly work to represent the same thing. This seems backwards; if you want people to show respect then say so, otherwise it becomes even more likely that the meaning of these gestures will be forgotten or misinterpreted as, inevitably, culture progresses and evolves to create new symbols for “respect”. Instead of asking for or even demanding respect, it dictates what respect is and how it’s shown. I went overboard comparing it to something from Nazi Germany, but it’s clearly not very flexible or forward-thinking.

          “Today I think we simply find that our “freedoms” allow us to be so “free” that we can forget how much those emblems meant to our forefathers.”
          To put it simply: this isn’t our forefathers’ country anymore. It’s the idea of “respect” that’s important, not how I show it. While I would say that someone talking loudly during the anthem — and thus possibly disturbing the experience for those around them — may be seen as disrespectful, I wouldn’t say the same about another just because they’re wearing a hat or not striking a pose with their hands on their heart.

          And I believe the same ideas apply to the performer. The Anthem is not only a celebration of how this country came to be great in the past, but it should also be a celebration of its greatness in the present as well, with artists demonstrating skill, talent and creativity that this country has helped mature and allow to bloom. Go Alicia!

          • S. says:

            bbl I think that we can both agree that Alicia did a very good job (though very slow) at respecting the National Anthem.
            I guess this discussion could go on for days, so this will be my last reply. Thanks for the respectful conversation I have to say because so often people can get so mean on these things.

            I believe that this country is still the country of my grandfather. I know many WWII veterans and have heard the most amazing stories of their experiences, including everything from a POW that was shot down over Germany, a flight crew member of a b25 whose plane was damaged so badly that they had to crash land in Belgium miraculously which was only freed hours before (unknown to them), to a soldier who spent over 500 days in combat and a man who helped liberate Paris. I have had the opportunity to meet veterans from the Korean war, men who survived the POW camps in Vietnam, and then had to share the horrible news to friends that someone we knew had been killed in Afghanistan.

            When I talked about working at a major university, I can share that I find it utterly painful to watch older generations standing proudly during the song that represents so much to them, while watching a group continue to play flag football right beside a ceremony. It pains me to see memorial ceremonies dishonored by people yelling. And yes, even at football games, when you have Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, or Sailors on the field with those flags it would be nice to know that people were willing to just stand still for 1.5 minutes.

            I don’t really care about hats, or crossing your hearts, you mentioned what is disrespectful to your neighbors…well being respectful to your neighbors is kind of what this is all about for so many people.

            My last question to pose is, if it is such an issue for so many to show a minimum of respectful decorum (let’s just say it that way in lieu of respect alone which has a different connotation) for a song being played/sung to honor the representation ( the flag) of our Nation, then why should the tradition of it being done at the beginning of gaming events be continued at all?

            People stand respectfully to honor a bride as she walks down the isle.
            People stand respectfully for a judge to enter a courtroom
            People stand respectfully and sing hymns during church services
            Most (at least in the area in the south where I am) will stand and bow their heads and take off their hats as a coffin makes its way past
            They stand for the President
            Is it too much to ask the same for the flag and anthem to get the same?

            Have a great weekend bbl. thanks for the conversation.

          • bbl says:

            S., I missed hearing it live, and I had read several comments on here regarding the slow pace before I watched it — including Slezak’s remark about a bum couple of notes. So, I was expecting to be disappointed. But it turned out I wasn’t at all. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, I love Alicia and she’s usually solid live. It feels like she was pouring a ton of passion into the performance, which I guess is why I don’t see any problems with the tempo.

            It’s probably my fault that we’ve drifted so far off-topic, but I’ll just say this about social decorum. I’m white, and not a religious person, but I had the pleasure of attending mass at a black church a few years ago. The murmurs, the praises, the shouts, the singing.. these things seemed to be the cause of a palpable energy moving throughout the room, and at the same time be a side-effect of it. This was in stark contrast to the masses I’d been used to growing up, with most of the congregation looking and sounding mechanical, if not bored. I can’t say which behavior is most appropriate for mass at a catholic church, but I can certainly say that that black preacher not only had everyone’s attention, but it seemed to me that people were taking it in and “listening”, deriving meaning from the words being said — even if they weren’t being silent about it. At least, that’s what it seemed like on the surface of things. I remember reading about professional mourners who would be hired to wail loudly at funerals — a token of honor or tacky and disrespectful?

            If the conviction in Alicia’s voice when singing “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” inspires a sense of pride in you so strong that you feel compelled to scream and applaud before the song is over, who’s to say that’s wrong? Or is Alicia just one hell of a performer? Take care.

  39. HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

    Liked it. Liked the pacing. Made it more haunting and deeply felt in a way. Nothing says it has to be done like a march. Wasn’t crazy about the little thing at the end, but whatever, rest was great.

  40. NCSouthernBelle says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how many people disliked it. I thought she did an amazing job, showing our anthem the respect it deserves. It brought me to tears.

  41. Staci says:

    Whitney Houston had LIFE in her version. It was exciting and made ME want to get out there on the field and play. This version sucked. Not inspiring at all…it’s the Superbowl, not a funeral! And yes, stand up. She has a beautiful voice and did a great job, but not for the Superbowl. This is always one of my favorite parts of any sports event and it was just laaaaaaame. What the hell was she thinking? Get up there and bolt the song out!

  42. CodeNinja says:

    Although she sings well, it was unrecognizable as the national anthem. Because of that I have to say it was terrible.

  43. John says:

    Is it the web, reality tv, or sampled music that has made American’s less demanding??? The truth is the PERFORMANCE was AWFUL!! She started off key—did you all not notice that? Are you tone deaf?? Contrary to what you people are saying, she is NOT a great singer. Never has been. She’s an accomplished PIANIST. Calling her a singer is like that clown calling Steven Seagal an actor–it’s generous!!
    I respect the difficulty of the task she took on–it’s a difficult, rangy melody, and she tried to do it with no reinforcement. I applaud that, but that doesn’t change the FACT that she did not pull it off. And that horrible ad lib at the end was to cover up her stumbling down the stretch– or at least I hope so because if not it was the worst composition ever.
    Personally I didn’t care for the RENDITION to begin with, but the execution was lousy. And anyone stating otherwise WATCHED her performance instead of LISTENING to it!