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Getting booked to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a major event is an honor for any artist. Many will try anything — whether it’s fiddling with the arrangement or striving for the glory notes that only five-octive powerhouses like Whitney Houston could hit — to put their own memorable stamp on the national anthem.
Alas, not everyone — in fact, almost no one — reaches a level of true greatness.
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With that in mind and the Fourth of July afoot, cover your heart and hold your ears with this list of the five worst national anthem performances ever.
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5. Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin & Dr. John (2006)
It had all the makings of a potentially great national anthem performance. Super Bowl XL was the first since Hurricane Katrina, and two New Orleans heroes — Aaron Neville and Dr. John — were there to proudly represent their hometown, along with Detroit soul queen Aretha Franklin. Also, a gospel choir! But sadly, these elements added up to something that just didn’t leave us feeling good — perplexed maybe and surely uncomfortable but definitely not good.
4. Scott Stapp (2005)
The Grammy Award-winning voice of Creed has bungled the national anthem on several occasions, but a 2005 performance from the NASCAR Ford 400 best demonstrates why this man should never sing this song. Severed notes and brooding growls do not a good “Star-Spangled Banner” make.
3. Michael Bolton (2003)
Before there was Sarah Palin reading notes from her hand, there was Michael Bolton. At a Red Sox vs. Yankees baseball game in 2003, the crooner invited the wrath of fans when he dared to peek at the lyrics scrawled on his palm. Between that and the bizarre echo following his every line, Bolton’s performance was an epic fail.
2. Roseanne Barr (1990)
Even the most thick-skinned Americans had their feathers ruffled by Roseanne Barr’s national anthem performance at a 1990 San Diego Padres game. She wanted to be obnoxious, in a number of ways — by shouting the lyrics totally off-key, grabbing her crotch, and spitting on the pitcher’s mound — and it worked. The best part of this particular video, though, is that it serves to remind us that Madonna not only felt honored by Barr’s performance but spoke with an entirely different accent two decades ago.
1. Kat DeLuna (2008)
Once a pop newcomer with a bright future, the Dominican singer never quite recovered from this national anthem performance at a 2008 Dallas Cowboys game. Any way you look at it, it’s a spectacular failure. She tries too hard to hit the notes that only a rarefied circle of divas can, then takes us on a painfully bumpy roller-coaster ride of vocal runs. She half-forgets the lyrics. She completely botches the last note. And she does it all with the swagger of someone who believes she’s positively killing it. When a chorus of boos erupts at the end, it’s far too little, too late.
For five more terrible performances, including renditions by Christina Aguilera and R. Kelly, visit Billboard.com.
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