Let's ban pop stars from singing the national anthem

February 08, 2011

There ought to be a law. Pop/rock singers and other celebrities who think they can sing should not be allowed to sing the national anthem, especially at large nationally televised venues. The latest insult to our national anthem was at this year's Super Bowl. Time and time again, event promoters make the same mistake, and the performance becomes the subject of ridicule even before the final note is sung.

There are three basic reasons why this is not a good idea. First, celebrities all too often forget the words. What an embarrassment. Our national anthem has only eight lines, slightly more than 80 words. Please, memorize your lines and practice. If the artist shows up at game time with a 3x5 card cupped in their hand or tucked in their sleeve, I would begin to worry.

Second, many pop stars really do not have a good voice. They routinely sing off key and can't hold a note. Of those that do have a decent voice, many can not really sing. Singing is an art. Training and some knowledge of music theory can be extremely helpful, but more often than not it is lacking.

Third, pop singers almost always insist on injecting their own personal vocal touch into the performance. This usually comes in the form of extended notes, quick changes to a higher octave, and random key changes. The result usually sounds more like off-key wailing, yodeling or screeching. Experts will tell you that our national anthem is not easy to sing, and traditional arrangements always sound best. This is especially true when your voice or singing ability is suspect to begin with.

New York Metropolitan Opera star, Robert Merrill, is often considered to have provided the best and purest rendition of our national anthem. He would perform regularly at Yankee Stadium before games. He once said, "When you sing the anthem, there's a legitimacy to it. I'm extremely bothered by these different interpretations of it." Celebrities and wannabes alike should heed these words and maybe check him out on YouTube before they step in front of the microphone.

Manfred Owe

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