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07.01.09

15 Best and Worst Celebrity National Anthem Performances

The pre-Super Bowl “Star-Spangled Banner” puts pop stars in one of the biggest, brightest spotlights on the planet. Which is great if you’re Whitney Houston, who delivered one of the all-time best renditions of America’s hymn before the 1991 game in Miami. But if you forget the words, like Christina Aguilera did before Super Bowl XLV last night, football fans may never let you forget. Watch the good, the bad, and the most ear-splitting celebrity renditions of the national anthem.

Christina Aguilera Fumbles

The Steelers weren't the only ones whose Super Bowl performance didn’t go according to plan: Christina Aguilera surprised football fans with new anthem lyrics Sunday, singing “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming," instead of "O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming.” Still, she recovered in time to belt out the final lines and turn the stadium’s embarrassed hush into roaring applause.

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Roseanne Sets the Bar for Musical Treason

Call it the Titanic of anthem disasters: Roseanne Barr’s 1990 performance at a San Diego Padres game left no note unmolested, no stanza unshrieked, no enemy of America uncomforted. The comedienne even finished it off with a hocked loogie and a groin grab. Who does she think she is, a baseball player?

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Whitney Houston, We Will Always Love You

Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl was so inspiring, such a reminder of what is great about our anthem (and Whitney when she’s not on-camera with Bobby Brown), that it was released as a single and actually hit the charts, reaching No. 20 on the Billboard 100.

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Memo to Carl Lewis: Run, Don’t Sing

He may have won nine gold medals, but that doesn’t mean he should be holding a microphone. Not for singing, anyway. At least he tells the booing crowd he’ll “make it up” to them—too bad he didn’t keep that promise.

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Anita Baker Fouls National Anthem

While the Celtics and Lakers battled it out in the 2010 NBA finals, the Twitterati took shots at Grammy-winning R&B singer Anita Baker for her shaky rendition of the national anthem.

Hillary Clinton Fails to Recall the ‘Hot Mic’ Rule

You have to sympathize with the secretary of state. Yes, her singing is a bit cringe-inducing, but how well would any of us do if we didn’t know we were being recorded?

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Michael Bolton Forgets Lyrics, His Dignity

The Michael Bolton from Office Space would have done a better job than this. Well, maybe not, but at least he would have had the song memorized, a feat one of the biggest recording stars in the world was unable to accomplish.

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Marvin Gaye Makes the Anthem a Song by Marvin Gaye

While there was no debate here at The Daily Beast about whether this was a best or a worst, it’s worth recalling that when the late, great R&B genius performed it at 1983 NBA All-Star Game, many at the time called it massacre of the anthem. We call it a masterpiece.

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R. Kelly: Only Interesting When Trapped in a Closet

At a 2005 Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor boxing match, R&B star R. Kelly gave a funkified rendition of the anthem that was meant to evoke the aforementioned Marvin Gaye but instead evoked only pity and revulsion as he strangled the song and prodded the crowd to clap— clap!—to the anthem. Couldn’t he just stick to (allegedly) peeing on people?

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Taylor Swift’s Down Home Anthem

At the 2008 World Series, country music ingénue Taylor Swift accompanied her simple, sweet, and bluesy interpretation of the anthem on a glittering guitar.

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Beyoncé

Beyoncé lays out her phenomenal vocals before the 2004 Super Bowl. Kind of like Janet Jackson lays out her breast during the halftime show, which is probably all anyone remembers from that Super Bowl.

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Denise Richards: No Joy, or Pitch, in Mudville

Okay, it’s not the national anthem, but it is the anthem for the national pastime—at least, we think it is. Denise Richards allegedly sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a Chicago Cubs game in May 2009, though the normally cheerful song sounded more like an outtake from the Exorcist soundtrack than anything you’d want to hear at a baseball game.

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Robert Downey Jr.’s Got Heart and Souls

Proof that not all wannabe rock-star actors suck: Robert Downey Jr.’s crooney version of the anthem in the 1993 movie Heart and Souls.

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Kat DeLunacy

Me- ouch—she aimed for Whitney but landed somewhere between R. Kelly and Roseanne. At a September 2008 Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles football game, Kat DeLuna gave an overwrought, pitchy rendition of the anthem that got the pop tartlet booed by the entire stadium.

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Jimi Hendrix Owns It Like No Else, Ever

Woodstock, 1969. The greatest guitarist in rock n’ roll history turns the national anthem into searing, wordless song of protest. God bless America.

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