Hitting the high notes, the low notes, and just about all of the right notes is what it’s all about
when singing the national anthem on the NFL’s grandest stage. It’s one of the event’s biggest
moments and it occurs before a whistle is blown or a tackle is made. If the song is sung just
right, it will be the stuff of legend, but if not, it can be a disastrous career decision. There is
always plenty of excitement sprinkled with a healthy dose of anxiety when the camera turns to
the performer and “Oh, say can you see…” follows.
But one peculiar thing about that is the attention paid to the NFL lines offered on the durationof the national anthem. Yes, it’s true, you can bet over or under the oddsmaker’s total on the
length of the song. It’s just one of many outrageous Super Bowl wagers that can be made that
has nothing to do with the game itself. There are odds on what color the Gatorade will be that
is poured over the winning coach’s head or the halftime costume worn by the musical artist.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Super Bowl prop bets and those are just a few examples.
Nevertheless, there are more opportunities to steal the limelight at the Super Bowl than the
singing of the national anthem. The halftime show is always a major attraction and often
garners as much attention as the game itself. And with that, let’s go to the way-back machine
and find the top five R&B artists who stole the Super Bowl show and became a larger-than-life
story due to their extraordinary vocals and stunning performances.
5. Diana Ross (1996) – If you’re looking for a positively sublime, old-school choice then Ms.
Diana Ross fits the bill, and if you insist she should be higher than No. 5, you will get no debate
at this address. It was Super Bowl XXX but this was hardly an X-rated performance as it was
Ross’s soulful, nostalgic sounds that captured everyone’s attention and kept the millions of
viewers snapping their fingers and tapping their feet. The tuxedoed background singers were
eventually joined by the sequined female dancers with smiles for miles. Probably a bit too
goody-goody for today’s generation but a standout show, nonetheless, that has stood the test
4. Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child (2013) – If Beyonce is involved in a project, small or large, you
know it will be a winner and this 2013 offering was no different as she brought the old group
back together for a one-night stand. Unlike many of her contemporaries who try mightily to
shock the audience at the risk of sacrificing the merits of their music, Queen Bey treated this
performance as an elegant and intimate soiree between her, her friends, and about a hundred
million invited guests.
3. Jennifer Hudson (2009) – Only months before the Grammy-winning sensation took the main
stage at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Florida, her mother and brother were found shot to death.
It was a triumph of the human spirit for her to even muster the strength to appear but the
vocals she rained down in singing the national anthem showered millions upon millions of
viewers with a soulful, sweeping, and historic version that will not soon be forgotten.
2. Prince (2007) – Hours before Prince was to perform at the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show in
Miami, the palm trees were bending and the rain was unceasing. The forecast was not likely to
change when halftime rolled around and Prince was asked if he knew it was raining, inferring
that an abbreviated version of his performance was imminently doable, to which Prince
responded, “Can you make it rain harder?”
Dressed in a teal suit, His Royal Badness was on point with an ultra-tight band, all seemingly
oblivious to the merciless conditions. Dancing and singing inside a stage shaped as the “Artist
Formerly Known As Prince” symbol, Prince was using four separate, live electric guitars in the
middle of a rainstorm. The long-legged twins who performed as Prince’s backup dancers were
dressed in eight-inch heels and the slick stage didn’t see any of them stumble or miss a beat.
Prince showcased his exceptional musical ability and vocal range by singing everything from
“Baby I’m a Star” to Jimi Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower”, to Queen’s iconic anthem, “We
Will Rock You” and wrapped it all up in a fitting end with “Purple Rain”. In the end, instead of
the weather being a detriment, it was as though Prince summoned the heavens, and the
1. Whitney Houston (1991) – You might call it the lazy choice, or the easy choice, but
ultimately, it is indeed the right choice. The nation was in the midst of the Gulf War and
Houston’s tone and tenor resonated perfectly. There was no one better than Whitney to deliver
the right song at what proved to be an ideal time. There were few dry eyes when she made her
exit and of all her musical triumphs, this remains at or near the top of every list.