Top 10 American Anthem Performances That Will Make You Cry

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Top 10 American Anthem Performances That Will Make You Cry

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Spencer Sher
Does anybody have a tissue we can borrow? For this list, we're taking a look at the most emotional, passionate, and moving American anthem performances of all time. Our countdown includes Whitney Houston, Faith Hill, Kelly Clarkson, and more!
Transcript
Script Written by Spencer Sher

Top 10 American Anthem Performances That Will Make You Cry


Does anybody have a tissue we can borrow? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 American Anthem Performances That Will Make You Cry.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the most emotional, passionate, and moving American anthem performances of all time. However, we’ll only be including performances that were positively received. So, Rosanne Barr’s infamous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" – which undoubtedly drove many to tears – will not be considered.

#10: Jimi Hendrix

Woodstock

By the time Jimi Hendrix took the stage at Woodstock, the once mighty crowd of 400,000 had shrunk to a paltry 30,000. The last to perform at the multi-day festival, Hendrix delivered one of its most memorable performances; with his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" widely considered to be one of the cultural watersheds of the 1960s. In his biography of Hendrix, Room Full of Mirrors, Charles R. Cross labeled the psychedelic version of the national anthem “part of the sixties zeitgeist”. Armed only with a guitar, Hendrix took the most famous song in American history and made it his own - and if that’s not the mark of a truly great artist we don’t know what is.

#9: Luther Vandross

Super Bowl XXXI

Legendary R&B, soul, and pop singer Luther Vandross was tapped to sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXXI, which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. Often referred to as "The Velvet Voice" thanks to his silky-smooth delivery, Vandross’ performance is often considered one of the best in Super Bowl history. The winner eschewed theatrics in favor of a stripped-down performance that highlighted his delicate vocal style. While an exciting game between eventual winners the Green Bay Packers and their opponents, the New England Patriots, dominated the sports headlines the following day, music aficionados were still reeling from Luther Vandross’ poignant rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner".

#8: Faith Hill

Super Bowl XXXIV

Country music icon Faith Hill knew she’d just completed one of the best American anthem performances of all time when she raised her fist in the air and let out a triumphant “whoo!” From the moment the camera settles in on Hill’s face it’s clear the Mississippi native is locked in, with the ensuing rendition leaving little doubt that she had prepared for this exact moment for years. Hill’s performance may have been overshadowed by one of the greatest Super Bowl finishes of all time, but looking back it’s clear this was as close to a perfect anthem as you are likely to find. Seriously, we dare you to find a single misstep.

#7: Dixie Chicks

Super Bowl XXXVII

In a twist of irony that was truly stranger than fiction, the Dixie Chicks went from performing the American national anthem at Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, to being boycotted by the American public and blacklisted by the media in only a matter of weeks. The result of comments made by lead singer Natalie Maines, who criticized then President George W. Bush for his proposed invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks became the most hated band in America seemingly overnight. As such, few remember just how impactful and unabashedly patriotic their Super Bowl performance was. The Grammy winners captivated the crowd with their flawlessly intertwined harmonies and left throngs of grown men weeping in the process.

#6: Kelly Clarkson

Super Bowl XLVI

A decade removed from her star-making turn on “American Idol”, Kelly Clarkson once again found herself front and center on one of the biggest stages in the world: The Super Bowl. Before the New York Giants and the New England Patriots could duke it out for football supremacy for the second time in four years, they first had to come together to listen to Clarkson’s rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" – and what a rendition it was! The Grammy winner, who was supported by a line of drummers and a choir, picked up steam throughout the performance, culminating in a final note that is sure to bring a tear to your eye!

#5: Lady Gaga

Super Bowl 50

Super Bowl 50 was so important to the NFL that they eschewed their long-standing tradition of using Roman numerals in favor of a simple 5-0. Their desire to make this Super Bowl stand out from the rest of the pack didn’t stop there however, as evidenced by their decision to have Lady Gaga sing the national anthem. We can think of few artists better equipped to deliver a standout performance than Gaga, whose impressive vocal range has netted her universal acclaim and pretty much all the awards. Dressed in a sparkly red suit and accompanied by Alex Smith on piano, Gaga belted out a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner" that was entirely her own. If this performance doesn’t send shivers down your spine, you might just be a robot.

#4: Mariah Carey

Super Bowl XXXVI

Super Bowl XXXVI took place less than six months after the horrific September 11th terrorist attacks. As such, there were no shortage of passionate performances during the pre-game and halftime shows. From Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony’s moving rendition of "America the Beautiful", to Paul McCartney’s “Freedom”, and of course, the epic and emotionally charged halftime show by U2. However, no performance galvanized the crowd quite like the one Mariah Carey delivered. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Carey took to the stage to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner". For one brief, shining moment, Carey, with the help of the Boston Pops Orchestra, made America forget about 9/11, and instead invited its citizens to bask in the beauty of her voice.

#3: Jennifer Hudson

Super Bowl XLIII

In the fall of 2008 Jennifer Hudson’s world was turned upside down when her mother, her brother, and her 7-year-old nephew were murdered. In the wake of the tragedy, Hudson withdrew from the public eye for months. So, when she decided to make her first public appearance since the shooting at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay, Florida, the crowd and everyone watching from home were well aware of what she had been through. The knowledge of Hudson’s recent pain and the power of her vocal performance was enough to send a shiver down the spine of her most ardent critic. Today, Hudson’s performance is widely considered to be one of the greatest in Super Bowl history.

#2: Beyoncé

Super Bowl XXXVIII

Winner of 24 Grammy Awards and one of the best-selling musicians of all time, Beyoncé could sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl every year and no one would bat an eye. While her delicate rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony is nothing to scoff at, we decided to go with a performance that hit a little closer to home for the superstar. In 2004, the Super Bowl was held in Beyoncé’s hometown of Houston, Texas, making her an ideal candidate to sing the pregame anthem. Queen B’s distinctive voice reverberated throughout the stadium, enveloping the crowd with its soulful tones. With her impressive vocal range on full display, Beyoncé knocked this performance out of the park, err, we mean stadium.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Aretha Franklin
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings (Thanksgiving Day 2016)

Marvin Gaye
1983 NBA All-Star Game

Choirs of the Armed Forces
Super Bowl XXXIX

Jordin Sparks
Super Bowl XLII

Alicia Keys
Super Bowl XLVII

#1: Whitney Houston

Super Bowl XXV

The gold standard when it comes to American anthem performances, Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” will go down in history as the greatest ever. Period. Accompanied by The Florida Orchestra, Houston captivated the crowd with her dramatic and heartfelt vocal performance. The country was engaged in the Gulf War at the time, so patriotic sentiment was at an all-time high. As such, Houston’s flawless performance struck a strong chord with Americans and the song was later released as a single. It was so popular in fact that it would go on to crack the Billboard Hot 100’s top 20. Simply put, in the pantheon of national anthem performances, Whitney Houston’s stands alone.


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She can sing without a microphone
Lady Gaga is a star rated vocalist in my opinion