ESPN Wisconsin

Francis Scott Off-Key

Jan 23, 2012 -- 3:35pm

by Bill Johnson (


Steven Tyler sang the National Anthem prior to the Ravens/Patriots AFC Championship game on Sunday.


It wasn't great. Yes, I cringed.


I love Aerosmith, especially the pre 1980 stuff. Tyler is a fabulous rock front man.


He shouldn't sing the National Anthem. Neither should Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmeister, or Kris Kristopherson. 


Who should? 




Martina McBride= Great Anthem

Whitney Houston (pre meth)= Great Anthem

Wayne Messmer= Great Anthem

Huey Lewis= Great Anthem


Some other guidelines:


1. Just sing it, stupid- It's a challenging melody as it's written. Why do singers have to "make it their own?" My favorite anthem is when a singer with a powerful voice just gets up and belts it out. My least favorite is a rendition that sounds like a bad Cab Calloway imitation. Keep the bee boppin and scattin for the speakeasy, OK hep cat?


2. The crowd should be able to sing along- Some people like to put their hand on their heart and belt out the "Banner," and not just Lutherans. If you, the singer, turn it into a free form Jazz exploration, how can anyone sing along?


3. Keep it brief- I hate to break it to you, but they really aren't there to see you. There is likely a major sporting event that is waiting for your adaptation of Francis Scott Key to end so it can get underway. As soon as an anthem rendition reaches 1:45, the singer should get hit with a low level electrical shock which will increase in voltage every five second until they wrap it up. Bet that'll make you forget the words!!! On that topic.....


4. Learn the damned words- I love Christina Aguilera's voice and was stoked to see her do the anthem. All of it, ruined by her lack of preparation. There really aren't that many words, and if you were born here you should know them. Close is not good enough. GET IT RIGHT!!!


5. No cheesy octave jump on the last free. I repeat NO CHEESY OCTAVE JUMP ON THE LAST FREE!!!!! Unless you are Ella Fitzgerald and you're trying to break a glass (look it up, Mitch), you should NEVER do the cheesy octave jump. Where in the original sheets music is there an awful octave jump that's held for 15 seconds? STOP IT!!!


6. Finally, practice makes perfect. After years of listening to the anthem, live and on television and radio, I am convinced that sometimes the singer has not practiced the Anthem. If they had, wouldn't they know that they are starting way to high or way to low? Wouldn't they notice that there was an entire segment of the song where they didn't know the words. Practice. Practice at least twice. Practice in front of someone you trust. Get it right. You're only singing in front of millions of people


As I work a lot of college games, I think the best option in that atmosphere is always the pep band. It's loud. It's quick. It drowns out the Lutherans. (just kidding, Ole!!!)

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