Super Bowl 2014: Renée Fleming Sings the National Anthem — What Did You Think?

Super Bowl National AnthemBone-crushing, meet soul-stirring.

Yep, America’s biggest, baddest sporting event just received a twist of elegance thanks to opera diva Renée Fleming‘s stunning rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XLVIII.

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Clad in a simple black dress with a structured white wrap-thingie (that’s the technical term), Fleming confidently took to the mic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, and delivered the National Anthem in the kind of muscular, straightforward fashion you’d expect from a classically trained diva. This isn’t to imply that Fleming skimped on her trademark vocal horsepower (that last note — whoa!), but rather that she emphasized restraint — choosing to focus on the famous melody and to avoid an excess of ad-libs and runs.

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Compared to last year’s slowed-down, keyboard-heavy National Anthem by Alicia Keys, Fleming’s was undoubtedly more traditional — and arguably more stirring. In other words, the first opera star to perform “The Star Spangled Banner” in Super Bowl history did her profession proud.

Queen Latifah, meanwhile, preceded Fleming in singing “America the Beautiful” — with a little help from the New Jersey Youth Chorus. The rapper-Oscar nominee-vocalist, who made headlines when she officiated a mass wedding celebration at last Sunday’s Grammy Awards, took a few liberties with the chorus, but seemed to be having a blast while she did it.

What did you think of Fleming and Latifah’s performances? Take the polls below, then hit the comments and expand on your thoughts! And follow TVLine on Twitter for all of our Super Bowl XLVIII coverage — including review of the ads, the halftime show, ratings 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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97 Comments
  1. yankeesrj12 says:

    National Anthem was superb!!

    Queen Latifah did not do well with America the Beautiful. I hate when people try to make the song their own. It was pitchy, and just not good.

  2. Guest says:

    The National Anthem was just breathtaking…Renee Fleming was mesmerizing!

  3. A. D. says:

    She was horrid!

    • Mike Hanna says:

      Guess you’d like Rosanne Barr better? Listen, the youth of America has no taste, music understanding or class. This woman has everything the others lack. Perhaps the arrangement was not entirely appropriate or up to her standards but to say she was horrid is an indication of a viewpoint of major ignorance.

      • Angela says:

        …wow, that’s a lot of assumptions to be making in response to a three-word comment. For one thing, how do you know they’re part of “the youth of America” (and thanks for making assumptions about and insulting every young person’s musical tastes in the process)?
        It’s called an opinion. They’re entitled to have one. Chill.

    • Sharon says:

      Ms. Flemmings voice was pure and beautiful. she hit the note perfectly. Any sluggishness probably due to background music and vocals from sound system calming back at her from the whole stadium.
      Queen’s performance was ok, but trying to rest on the sentimental and patriotic renditions rather than better vocals.
      Bruno Mars was fun. His dance moves were very enjoyable.

    • Jenn says:

      yes…and i suppose you have a degree from the Julliard School that helps you to make that judgement…oh…you’ve probably never heard of the Julliard School…sorry

    • chistosa says:

      @A.D. Horrid? That was one of the best renditions of the National Anthem that I have heard. She was absolutely amazing. Fabulous. I was at a Super Bowl party and everyone was mesmerized.

    • maary says:

      I agree, No goose bumps at all! Whitney was the best . They need to find someone maybe a man next time with a strong voice that stays true to the song and you get goose bumps! She was terrible

  4. mattty says:

    That anthem wad terrible. She’s a superb voice, but that arrangement did not suit her voice at all, she also lost her place a couple of times and had to rush to catch up. Simply awful. I don’t know how anyone can say otherwise. But to each their own I guess.

    • Irving says:

      It’s called phrasing, you moron. Learn something about music before ripping on someone.

    • jrsolomon03 says:

      ummm….she was not rushing to catch up…it’s taking creative liberties and interpretation w/ the music…if she sang it completely straight it would be devoid of emotion…you’d probably prefer some pop singer that lip syncs it and occasionally lands on the right pitch, thanks to auto-tune

    • Patrice says:

      Slowing down & rushing to catch up is a technique known as rubato…I am sure it was intentional, not that she lost her place. I am a musician/music teacher who found Ms. Fleming’s performance to be flawless. Of course, you are entitled to your own opinion.

    • S says:

      Apparently, you don’t know anything about real music or talent.

    • Musician says:

      The arrangement was just horrible (too Disney saccharine sweet). And whoever just said she didn’t get lost in the middle section is obviously not a trained musician. She did get “lost.” Plus, why she decided to try and sound “pop” in the beginning was just plain weird. Her straight singing is bad. Just be the opera diva that you are! The Super Bowl should just play Whitney’s rendition every year… pure perfection!

  5. Singing teacher says:

    Thank you Super Bowl committee for choosing an outstanding vocalist and not the latest popstar to do our beautiful national anthem justice. So nice to hear the song sung correctly with power and emotion instead of a vocal gymnastic display that loses the melody and drama of the nation’s song.

  6. Nick says:

    I don’t get why they didn’t have Candice Glover sing it. I mean she was on Idol & it would be great promotion for her & the show too.

    • HTGR says:

      Candice sang it for MLB, I think it was the ALl-Star game. It started out very good, she does have a great voice, but she just couldn’t help herself again and by half way through I honestly didn’t know whether she was singing the national anthem of the United States or Zimbabwe anymore, she went so insane with the runs and change ups. She has a great voice, but she has no clue when enough is enough and to just sing the melody already.

      Plus as great as her Candice’s voice is, fact is her vocals are MILES behind Fleming. I mean miles beyond. Not that it’s a fair comparison since I don’t know what pop/R&B singer can handle a pure song that doesn’t need to be done in a pop or rock style like a true top classically trained opera singer (it is true that such singers often muck up pure pop rock type songs though and sound ridiculous and bad doing those though).

      Why not give an opera great a chance to shine again for once? And especially for a NJ Super Bowl and so close to NYC?

  7. P. Myers says:

    She was superb. Finally someone sang it like it was meant to be sung.

  8. kate'shomesick says:

    I’m sorry but her style of singing is SO old-fashioned…no singer with proper classical technique has those bad habits anymore: the sighing, the breathy nasally tone…not enough body, the strained-out-of -control- vibrato…in addition the arrangement really was horrible and her timing completely off….

    • EvilRegal says:

      Uhmmm…my dear, I do so think that it’s called CLASSIC! And at least she’s singing with class and style instead of wearing a one piece dress, trying to impress more people about the size of her breast rather than the quality of her voice!

      • kate'shomesick says:

        That’s interesting :D. I’m a classically trained singer (I studied it)…and I was talking about her classical technique! Trust me, there are lots of singers that have way better technique (which has changed over time…that’s what I was trying to say). Nowhere did I ask for more skin or anything like that…And might I also add, dear ;-), that Jordin Sparks and the Dixie Chicks both did lovely renditions of the anthem without baring too much…?!

      • justsaying says:

        Man, people like you annoy the crap out of me. You have a complete inability to critique a performance without comparing it to someone else’s. Hence, why you are not a professional critic. Kate is giving an informed opinion of the style of the song. She doesn’t insinuate that it should have been popified. I find most people that complain about “class” and “overdoing” the anthem have some idea that nothing in the world should change from when they were a child. That and the fact that you don’t seem to have any idea of musical terminology or any kind of actual critique other than she was “classic” (code word for she would have been acceptable to people in 1950s america). I also have had training, albeit for musical theater and not for this kind of legit singing and it was personally not my cup of tea. Yes, even “classical” technique has changed over the years.

    • Max says:

      No, “old-fashioned,” as you call it, is a classic technique and never goes out of style; like classic clothing, food preparation, etc. Today’s popular vocalists (and, here I’m being generous) are little more than loud, crass improvisational noise, meant to incite youth and excite the animal instincts in the un- and under-educated. This is not to categorically put down the “modern” musicians, but in many cases, they are not well versed in their craft and only years of practice and study will correct that deficiency.

      • Sabre says:

        I believe what Kate meant about “old-fashioned” is more to an older form of classical training. As we have learned things about our vocal anatomy, so has classical training shifted for the betterment of the vocal health of the performer as well as current tastes and interpretations. If you listen to older recordings, you can hear this change progress over the 100+ years we’ve had recordings of classically trained singers. So saying that she felt it sounded “old-fashioned” in relation to current classical technique just means that to her it sounded like something from an earlier method. I don’t understand how your mini-rant about popular music, under-education, etc, had anything to do with her comment.

    • hcbs says:

      I agree!! I really didn’t like this performance, and I thought the tone of Rene’s voice was irritating. I LOVE a beautiful soprano voice singing opera, but this was not beautiful. It was throaty and old fashioned, and I dare say a little pitchy, a very little, but still….not perfect by any stretch. She looked beautiful though.

    • Bennie says:

      You are so right on the money. The key was too low also.

      • Jeffrey says:

        Hey Bennie, so what key should it be sung in? I’ll tell you, it was written in A major and it was sung in A major and Ms. Flemming toped out in a glorious high A. She could of chosen to sing it in B flat major or for that matter C major (that would have topped out at super spectacular C above high C but the risk was unnecessary, especially in an outdoor setting with the temperature in the 40s.

    • Lewis says:

      Ok so her techniques got a little jaded over time as she’s in her 50’s now. You tell me then, which sopranos now and in the last 2 decades were technically superior to Fleming of the 90’s and early 2000’s? (I’m gonna laugh at every answer you give me) Also, this comparison between Fleming and Houston is crap; Fleming is way past the prime of her vocal prowess (her Rusalka this January was ok at best). In 1994, pre-glam Fleming would blow every single rendition of SSB in the history and future out of the water.

  9. Marci says:

    Well, it takes a first-class soprano to hit those high notes properly. I found the tempo too draggy, however. I missed Queen Latifah singing “America the Beautiful,” the song that should be the National Anthem.

    • Jj says:

      I disagree. She wasn’t singing that high. For a soprano that is still low. Any half decent soprano can hit those notes. Renee has never been my favourite soprano, but I think she did a better job of the anthem than anyone before her.

  10. Waste says:

    National Anthem was excellent.
    M&M, Radio Shack & Steven Colbert Commercials great but the rest of the commercials worst and a waste of money.

  11. Claudia says:

    Most people have only heard modernistic renditions of The National Anthem, so they aren’t aware of how the piece, written in the early 19th century was originally scored, so they think the timing or phrasing of Ms. Fleming’s rendition had to be off. Rest assured, she was spot on, and even if you didn’t like it, this is how the Anthem was meant to be sung. It was magnificent (but then, I’m a 19th century relic).

    • Rob says:

      Actually, the original song was in 3/4. Originally a popular DRINKING song… not meant to be sung in the grand halls by classically-trained singers, but by the common man. Also…she the modulation up in “free” exists nowhere in the original composition. So, wanna try that again?

  12. Brad says:

    Renée Fleming added so much class and finally some one to sing our National Anthem correctly without a lot of personalization.
    Queen Latifah did good but think she could have done better but she is still good.

  13. rdpiamone says:

    people keep talking about the rendition…the national anthem is not some song that people should be allowed to sit back and take pot shot attempts at different “renditions”. that woman can’t sing and should be shot…

    • Gwen says:

      I don’t understand why you could not just say you didn’t like her singing without saying “she can’t sing and should be shot.” You should be ashamed to show your ignorance with a comment like that. If you knew anything at all about music, especially a classically-trained voice, you’d know that she can, in fact, sing and has had a wonderful career doing it. This reminds me of the saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t make snarky comments on the Internet.”

    • jrsolomon03 says:

      seriously?…can’t sing…that “woman” has sung for presidents, kings, and queens…that “woman” has honorary doctorates from every big name music institute there is, and that “woman” is the reigning diva of the Metropolitan Opera…maybe you should learn something about music before you make a judgement like that

    • HTGR says:

      can’t sing??? She is one of the few people we’ve heard sing it who didn’t even have to try to hit any of the notes. It was utterly effortless!

    • brooke says:

      it’s hard enough to get through reading some of these comments without having to be subjected to just plain stupidity, which is you.

  14. Austin says:

    Renee Fleming sucked. I’ve heard better Opera singers sing this song. The worst part of it was when the commentator said “I’ve never heard it any better.” Well obviously he hasn’t heard Whitney’s rendition which blows every performer out of the park. *end rant*

    I give Queen Latifah a D. It was pretty cheesy and way over the top.

    • Jj says:

      Of course there are better opera singers. But Renee did a better job of the anthem than those before her at the Superbowl. Including Whitney. Whitney was good, but Renee was better.

      • LadyAddams says:

        Let’s not jump off the handle now dear…no one has ever outdone Whitney Houston at the anthem…Renee is just the second best performer of the song, and under her is Pia Toscano

        • Jj says:

          No handle jumping here. This is a difference of genre preference. Therefore Renee is number one. Whitney is number two. Pia is number 3…

        • kate'shomesick says:

          Musically I’d have to say that Jordin Sparks and the Dixie Chicks have been superior peformers of the national anthem…

        • Max says:

          Whitney was okay (by today’s standards) but did not have the class of Renee (by most other standards) and unless you have spent a good part of your adult life studying and learning from the masters, the point is moot. Admittedly, we all have opinions, but the test of enduring excellence is shown throughout the ages of he’s body of work, not merely “studying” a subject for a while. I am, for instance, 60-years into my career and craft, and am still learning and do not consider myself an expert. Maybe someday . . .

        • Andy says:

          Wrong. Whitney did not sing the national anthem before that Super Bowl. She taped it several days earlier, then lip synched it. The mic in her hand was connected to nothing. That alone should settle the matter. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/02/whitney-houstons-star-spangled-secret/

          • The Beach says:

            Thank you. I was hoping someone would bring up the fact that Whitney was not singing live but was lip syching that performance from a studio version that had all the advantages of editing and tweaking. Had she sung it live we might or might not be having this discussion.

        • Ethel says:

          I totally agree. No one has come close to Whitney Houston’s version of the National Anthem. I think she is the only performer who later recorded the song.

    • brooke says:

      HA! Absolutely! Whitney’s rendition has to be one of the, if not, the Best Ever versions! I think you saying Renee Fleming sucked is pretty harsh. I think she “stuck the landing”, but would have been better suited for some non-sporting event venue. I thought she was much better than the sleep inducing version Alicia Keys sang last year (now that sucked!), but this just didn’t have enough gut wrenching emotion it in for my taste. Do appreciate though that she didn’t mess with the song like too many do. If you can’t hit the notes as written, don’t sing the song.

  15. Tom Charles says:

    Yeah, I’d say the best anthem was The Dixie Chicks whenever it was they did it. But this woman was quite good.

  16. radioredrafts says:

    I cannot imagine Fleming ever having a “wardrobe malfunction”. There is something about calss that speaks for itself.

    Also: ENCORE! ENCORE!

    • Lewis says:

      OMG go look up Fleming’s duets with Pavarotti and Giordani. She sang like an angel but I kid you not, she was wearing an orange cape with a side ponytail. Oh how I love her

  17. radioredrafts says:

    The only way it could’ve been better would be if it was Anna Moffo at her prime singing it.

  18. Terry says:

    For all you idiots who think this woman sang the anthem better than Whitney have serious issues how can anyone listen to Whitney and Renee and feel the latter sang it better? It’s absolutely insane. Whitney’s legacy is still CLEARLY safe!

    • Mary says:

      Umm you do realize Whitney’s version was pre-taped, right?

    • HTGR says:

      Even on sports talk radio I heard a lot of discussion and debate about which version was better. Sport talk radio where you might not even find the highest percentage of opera types and yet they seemed to appreciate it all the same and most seemed to considered it in the running with Whitney’s and a good number even ranked it ahead.

  19. Terry says:

    Unfortunately this is typical ranting I hear from the opera community very very disrespectful and stuck up to other singers and thinking they are the greatest vocalist in the world. There are many types of singers and with different voices that in their own right are very beautiful singers. Sorry it’s a more diverse musical community than just opera.

  20. Terry says:

    Umm you do realize that still was Whitney’s voice? and has sung it previously just as great!

  21. Mike says:

    All your favorite professional singers worship Renee Fleming. The Anthem is an 18th century piece. You know who were around in the 18th century and loved opera? Their names are on the Declaration of Indepedence.

    • Mark Peterson says:

      It’s actually a 19th century piece, written with the image of the assault of Fort McHenry in mind, during the war of 1812

    • classless says:

      And where did those good folks come from?. £ Jolly Old England of course. She sang as an English woman would have…Not as an American woman should have….Off with her head.

  22. Terry says:

    I have ears it’s not that complicated Whitney sounds better! And I know for a fact every great singer doesn’t place opera at the top. But to each his/her own but these comments are typical from the opera community disrespectful to others I’ve heard Whitney sing opera very well I’ve heard opera singers butcher her songs. I like opera a lot but I’m aware enough to realize there are other talented types of singers in this vast world.

    • HTGR says:

      Of course there are others who are talented, but Fleming IS damn talented and that was a pretty amazing rendition. You seem to be the one closed minded about it all.

  23. Diz says:

    She sucked. This is America. Sing it the right way in normal English or be gone.

  24. HTGR says:

    Truly astonishing!

    I’ve never heard anyone made it sound like a piece of cake before. She didn’t even seem to have to try to hit either the lowest or highest notes, heck she even added some new notes to extend the range and still didn’t really begin to break a sweat!

    Never heard it done so utterly effortless before. Hit the notes perfectly, didn’t even need to change timbre or give a hint of strain on any notes, ever. Great drama too it.

    That’s what you get from a true top opera singer. Nobody else can really compare in that sense.

  25. Bennie says:

    I thought it was in too low a key for her voice. She had a few pitch problems. It reminded me of Sandi Patty with all the orchestration. I wish she had sung it an octave higher and just left off the high note. She really has pretty high notes. Where were they?

    • Jeffrey says:

      Once again Bennie, I would suggest you stick to what you know, ’cause clearly music ain’t your trainin’. Sing it an OCTAVE higher. Do you have the slightest idea what you are suggesting? Please do everyone a favor and stop discussing this, you are just embarrassing yourself.

  26. NYCer4Life says:

    Beautifully done, Renee Fleming! What an effortless and sublime rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner!”

  27. Donnez says:

    A+ for Renée Fleming. The Star Spangled Banner is perfectly designed for such a singer and Madame Renée Fleming proved that on Sunday evening. Unlike so many who have gone before her she delivered with poise and grace. I love Queen Latifah, but she is just not that great of a singer(It is what it is). She would have been better served creating an America The Beautiful rap, but I give her an E for effort.

  28. Matt says:

    I was under the impression “phrasing” and “rubato” pertained to notes, not entire words. I have no doubt Ms. Fleming is a phenomenal vocalist, and I never said otherwise. I also did not attack her personally or blame her for the performance being subpar. It just didn’t work. I don’t believe it was intentional, I believe either they played too fast or she was singing slow, but there were definitely moments where she fell behind the music and all of a sudden picked up the pace to catch up. If it were intentional it would have sounded better. I have nothing against opera or opera singers, assuming that based on my negative opinion of this performance is asinine . I don’t care who sings the national anthem as long as they can sing and do it justice. I wouldn’t wanna see another Christina Aguilera, but there have been many pop divas who have done a phenomenal job with the anthem.

    • Andy says:

      It worked just fine. In fact, the argument that Fleming’s was the best performance ever is a hard one to top if by “performance,” we are talking about actually performing something at the time the audience is listening to it.

  29. Matt says:

    Plenty of people have performed it live. It was always my understanding the NFL insisted that the song always be pre-recorded in case something were to happen that prevented the live version from going smoothly. This could be any number of things from weather, to a performer taking ill, or even a woman’s monthly cycle (a fact that this does and can impact a female singers voice). I don’t think that whether or not the performance was pre-recorded is an issue here. If the anthem were performed by Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears, or Selena Gomez…then I’d say it’s a factor. But looking at who has sang the anthem in the past, from Renee last night to Whitney, Mariah, Beyoncé Jordan sparks and many others, there is no doubt that these women can sing live and have all have proven it time and time again. I also don’t believe the style of singer has an impact . What I mean to say is that a pop singer vs. an opera singer. A talented voice is a talented voice. It’s a question of style and taste. In this case I don’t doubt the singing ability of Renee Fleming , I just don’t think the arrangement worked. The backing music didn’t work well with her vocal and I didn’t like the way the was paced. I think there’s more of a story behind the choice of ms. Fleming than we think anyway. The anthem has always been sung by a big start, for better to for worse, for obvious reasons. Person was also announced much earlier than Renee was announced . Usually September or October . Renee was only announced less than two weeks before the Super Bowl. It leads me to think that this deal may have come together late. Giving her limited time to rehearse her rendition of the song with the musicians who accompanied her.

  30. Dave says:

    I thought her voice was great, however, it seemed a little too slow and then the end flare was bad: “o’er the land of the freeeee- OOOHH, and the home of the brave.” last time I looked, there was no “oh” after free.

  31. Bozo says:

    I dislike pretty much any version that is not how the song was written. I can’t stand when people put their own spin on it and changes note length and pitches.

  32. Terry says:

    She didn’t strain? And sung effortless last night? WHAT? she is a great singer but she didn’t sing this better than Whitney you people can talk about her classical training ect the bottom line is Whitney version was clearly better it’s not even close.please people stop all this buffoonery!

    • HTGR says:

      that wasn’t effortless and she strained?? you are utterly clueless. you don’t have to love it but to claim she strained to get through, get real

  33. Draven says:

    Well to all posters here at least she knew the lyrics unlike some pop stars

  34. Jason Burton says:

    Renee Fleming was horrible! The cadence and timing of the vocal was extremely distracting and felt sluggish at times. Rather than vocal gymnastics, she did something worse! And her vibrato was clearly wavering the few couple of stanzas.

    Though untrained musician’s and musician’s are alike thrilled that this diva sang it to a new crowd, exposing them to opera… we should all listen to the performance and honestly grade it on the actual performance:

    Whitney Houston 1, Renee Fleming 0.

  35. DJ says:

    Kelly Clarkson’s was better.
    Bow down to the queen.

  36. Smarty Pants says:

    State-of-the-Art Performance…this is how it should ALWAYS be done.

    Gonna be REAL hard to top this in the years to come…nobody’s done it better…EXCEPT
    The Great Ms. Whitney Houston…now that was WORLD CHANGING!!!

    • classless says:

      That had to be the most classless rendition of our National Anthem ever. I was a huge SB party and you should have heard the comments. I know there a few people commenting on here who like to make people think they know anything about music, but, the fact is the woman sucks at singing the national anthem. And to the clown, yes I mean clown, who claims the National Anthem was written as opera is the stupidest person in the world. When the National Anthem was written we were just coming out of British rule. I guess in a way we can blame the brits for this one…

  37. Andy says:

    How can it possibly not matter in comparing two performances — one done in the comfort of a studio in front of three people (who can edit or have you do it over at any point), the other live and with the game on the line? That’s line saying a home run in batting practice is just as impressive as in a game.

  38. hater says:

    I was actually offended as soon as she opened her mouth. She was so off key i turned the sound down and just watched. It looked like her chins were almost colliding What an ugly voiceless person she is. I feel sorry for her. This may well have ended her career.

  39. Andy says:

    Nice job, hater. For a second I actually thought you were serious.

  40. Terry says:

    Thanks to all the people who actually heard what I did. Sorry all you Renee fans this didn’t even come close to beating Whitney’s version. I can’t even believe this is even a debate honestly lol

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