Carrie Underwood's Super Bowl 'National Anthem': Another touchdown for the country powerhouse!

You want your National Anthem sung right? You call an American Idol alum. At least that seems to be the consistent (and, to be honest, correct) message brought to you by the good folks of the NFL. Last year’s Super Bowl found Jennifer Hudson singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” while this year’s NFC and AFC conference championship games brought Kris Allen and Jordin Sparks to the mic to get in touch with their inner patriots (national, not New England). And for tonight’s all-eyes-are-locked-on-it game, we got Idol‘s season 4 champ and ubiquitous country queen Carrie Underwood offering her own (not-surprisingly) exquisite twist on the National Anthem.

Clad in a dazzling white pantsuit, a top that looked like it was made from the scales of a silver reptile, and a pair of “whoa, mama!” platform heels (in other words, your basic Storm Trooper chic), Carrie stepped up to the mic without a hint of nervousness and delivered the goods under pressure. This wasn’t a make-it-your-own “Star-Spangled Banner,” but rather, a traditional rendition that was clear, powerful, and heartfelt. But honestly, when it comes to the National Anthem, do we really want singers taking liberties with the melody? For the love of Francis Scott Key, I would like to offer my own resounding answer to that question: “Heck, no!” And so, The Lady Underwood keeps intact a record of vocal spotlessness* that would be the envy of even an Indianapolis fan. In other words…well played, Ms. Underwood, well played.

As for Queen Latifah’s “America the Beautiful,” I’ll offer slightly less enthusiastic props, with the caveat that the Queen was clearly struggling with a wonky earpiece from the get-go. And so while the opening few lines seemed plagued by nerves/frustration, the Oscar-nominated singer/rapper/actress recovered nicely, getting her riff on with an “I love America” ad-lib that meshed nicely with a full children’s chorus. (The pre-show’s funniest moment? That little boy in the front row who gave a legendary side-eye to the camera while waiting for his part to kick in. Oh-em-gee indeed!)

What did you think of Carrie’s “Star-Spangled Banner”? The Queen’s “America the Beautiful”? Sound off in the comments below, and don’t miss EW’s live-blog of Super Bowl XLIV (everything but the game!) happening over at our PopWatch blog! (Also, if you’re not already, you ought to do your civic duty and follow EW’s Music Mix blog @EWMusicMix, and your resident Idoloonie @EWMichaelSlezak!)

*No, I am not counting that final note — which found a cacophonous match in the crowd’s enthusiastic roar — against our gal.

Related: Check out our brand-new, three-part Q&A with Idol’s season 7 champ (and Carrie collaborator) David Cook!

Comments (555 total) Add your comment
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  • sara

    Loved it, so great to hear some really good singing after the Taylor Swift screeching.

    • Lindsay

      I completely agree. After that mess at the Grammys, it was nice to see a country princess truly sing and do America proud. Though she could have lost the outfit.
      As for Queen, dear God that was terrible! Technical problems maybe?

      • Sydney

        Carrie sang it great! But you know what American Idol Alumni gives me the chills and sings it even better, David Cook! now that guy can sing the national anthem!!!!

      • dani

        Also agreed. The AI alum have definitely done the anthem well in every performance I’ve seen. Also worth mentioning (and sounding great in a pregame show performance) was Chris Daughtry, who I almost didn’t recognize as he is growing his hair back!

      • Jennifer

        Dear ddfgdg, I was so thrilled to see your note. You see, I am a fat, poor, unattractive and uneducated woman who is just stupid enough to believe that your post is real, and not a pathetically misdirected piece of spam. Can’t wait to meet you!

    • Bernadette

      Both ladies presented proudly and very classy!

    • USA

      The problem with most young performers and this song is that they don’t think about what they’re singing and are more worried about their “performance” than delivering the message of the song.

      The song is about men fighting in war who are reminded of what they’re fighting for, and that their “flag is still there” among the bombs going off around them.

      I wish people would learn to just deliver the message of the song instead of making it about hitting their big notes and runs…she even slipped on her notes at the end.

      • Judy

        Carrie, did a traditional rendition of the National Anthem, and when they had the camera on her, which was very little I might add, she even looked up in the sky when the part of “and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”. How would we know for sure, unless you were right there in front of her watching her how she really delivered the song since the camera was on her very little. I thought she sounded absolutely amazing and did a wonderful job and tribute to our fighting men in war!!!! Just because she is a powerful singer doesn’t mean she didn’t have feelings. She is one of the nicest young women you will ever see.

      • wakeforce

        Maybe we should just let them read the lyrics aloud? I want to hear how someone interprets the song, not just hear the words.

      • rich

        It would be nice to hear the song sung and not shouted. A song sung beautifully with a sense of its meaning is much more powerful than shouting it out.

      • Whah?

        Slezak is nuts. She shouted the entire song, and it was painful to listen to. I usually love Carrie’s voice, but yowwwwwwwwwwww…..

      • Racine

        AMEN! Finally someone who’s telling the truth and her performance was just okay, nothing to write home about. Sing it from the heart and it will come out in the vocals.

      • D. Green

        She did not slip on her notes at the end. She fell flat on her rumpuss.

      • Christy

        I agree. I love Carrie, but the National Anthem is not supposed to be “interpreted.” It’s supposed to be sung with reverence, as written. It’s about the words, not showing off that you can hit five notes on one beat. Usually, I love Carrie’s performances, but not this one. And yes, she was very flat at the end, as well as at a few points in the song. However, I usually let that go when someone’s singing live in a stadium, with reverb and a lot of other issues.

      • Baylee

        okay dear USA or whatever your freakin name is carrie underwood is a great performer and singer unlike taylor swift who sucks and she didn’t try to make the performance all about her she never does she cares greatly about this country and love the people the that fight for us everyday to make it free she’s even performed in iraq for the troops so shutup about her not caring about the anthem

    • TS

      I’d rather listen to Taylor screeching than a Hollywood sellout like carrie, she was boring as usual.

      • jared4ever

        So you admit that Taylor screeches. Glad we agree on that.

      • Shelley

        Taylor isn’t even a singer–can’t sing one note in tune. She needs to stick to songwriting.

    • nancyd

      Carrie wasn’t at the top of her form, but she’s a great singer! Queen Latifa was fine. I don’t know where Taylor Swift comes into any of this.Love Carrie! Give her a break! People can be so mean.

    • wino

      agree. nice to hear real singing. none of the autotune or lypsynch crap.

    • Tani

      so true

      Carrie rocked it…BUT I have to admit the last note was flat..but it wasnt all her fault…due to the crowd and firewors going on

    • willie

      I am no expert, but as a Carrie Underwood fan, I was disappointed. It just wasn’t her day. I was hoping to hear her beautiful voice, but it all seam strained.

    • cindy

      WOW, you people must not have heard the same Carrie Underwood as I did. Did you not hear the notes that she just missed, ya know, the ones that were FLAT? I think she did a poor job, and that’s being polite. The Queen was so much better. Just because you like somebody, doesn’t mean they did a good job.

      • Q

        I thought Carrie was a little rough. Latifah embarrassed herself.

  • Janet

    Taylor has lowered the bar so even with the last note she did a great job.

  • gigi

    I prefer Queen either acting or rapping…I don’t like when she sings. She did okay. Sucks that she had some technical problems. As for Carrie…I thought she did great. A little pitchy at the end, but pretty good. Better than Taylor Swift would have done.

    • pat

      are we the only ones that heard her screw up the ending ?

      • suzi

        no, you’re right, she totally screwed it up!!

      • kms

        nope – you heard right

      • msp

        Very, very off key. It was painful to watch.

      • Amanda

        Carrie REALLY screwed up the ending. My ears were bleeding….

      • mare

        Oh my goodness, I thought the glass in my television was going to break from the bad note she hit.

      • kacey

        Oh no, everyone heard it. It was awful. What do they say? “She couldn’t carry a tune in a box”. Yeah, that’s it.

      • Suzanne

        She was quite sharp on the last note. But it was one note and the crowd was roaring by then. Cut some slack, eh?

      • anon

        Seriously, kacey?!? One bad note and you’re claiming Ms. Underwood can’t “carry a tune in a box”? Her track record proves you very, very wrong.

      • charley

        i thought the whole thing sucked. She was shouty and out of tune for most of it.

      • lana

        I thought she was off-pitch too! Sure, we don’t want to be too hard on her, but she did accept the gig so she better be ready for the critcism –and praise– coming her way. For an on-pitch rendition check out Whitney Houston…you really can hear the difference!

      • Matthew

        I am a big Carrie fan, and I will admit the last note was off. But as a singer who sang inside a college football stadium on several occasions, it is insanely hard to sing live within a stadium. The echo of your voice is enough to mess up your timing and sense of pitch. So, I agree with Suzanne, cut her some slack.

      • Vick

        That last note was excruciating. Simon should have been pissed off. Unfortunately, when certain people screw up they always get a pass.

      • Vick

        Cut her some slack? Because….get real. And for the bufoon who said she can sing just listen to her track. Any studio could make my dogs hold a tune. Wake up.

      • Jeff

        It wasn’t just the last note. She was having pitch issues throughout the whole song. The last note was the worst, though… VERY sharp.

      • AMO

        No, but I thought the whole thing wasn’t good. She was yelling the song, and yes butchered the end. I can’t believe so many people didn’t pick up on that

      • Barb

        I thought she was handling it fairly well, with the huge echo problem they sometimes have with hearing themselves in the stadium, until that last note. I wondered if they had changed the key.

      • jay

        Very very very off-key — no doubt about it. Nice person tho…..

      • Emmy

        I love how all you losers are judging her. Like any of you can come close to her abilities, and you judge like you are a bunch of experts. Her last note was off, but the rest was fine. She singing outside in an echo-y stadium. Not exactly the same as an inside climate-controlled area with specific acoustics. But since all you loser/haters seem to know everything, I guess you have to be right!

      • Danny

        Most Super Bowl national anthem’s are pre-recorded. Yes, even Whitney and Jennifer Hudson and Dixie Chicks. So let’s first give her credit for having the guts to go out there and sing acapella, LIVE!

        The last note was pitchy, and that’s what I loved about it. It wasn’t perfect. In the days of autotune, it’s refreshing to hear a REAL performance from a very talented vocalist.

        I also didn’t think she was shouting. It was rather low-key for most of what you’d hear for this performance.

    • DE

      I agree totally. She started ok but bombed at the end.

  • Shirley Taylor

    You are so right Carrie delivered a traditional and powerful song again. She is always awesome. I did not care for Queen Latifah…

  • VinceNoir

    Really?! I thought Carrie Underwood’s Star Spangled Banner was pretty bad! It started nice, then she missed sooo many notes. Especially the last one, which sounded like a quarter-note off. Ugh. Why are we praising this performance?

    • Chichi

      I thought it went downhill really quickly, as well.

    • JerseyGirl

      I totally agree. She started off ok, but that ending was painful.

    • lunchboxx

      I totally agree! I thought she was awful through the entire song. And who told her that Elvis’s jumpsuit would look cute???

      • Jackie

        Yes!! All white on TV? What are you DOING? She is much smaller than that outfit made her look.

    • JeanneH

      I think her performance was not anything outstanding. Not subpar, but not really inspiring or touching either. And talking about her technique, I think she really lacked in that department too. Whitney Houston set the bar for Superbowl Anthem performances for me. So maybe I am just a harsh critic.

      • Rich

        In Carrie’s defense, she didn’t prerecord her national anthem in a studio beforehand like Whitney did.

      • Team autotune & playback singing

        Shall we make excuses everytime a “singer” screws up his or her performance?
        Nobody asked her to sing live. We already knew she can sing. Madonna sings with playback all the time and nobody cares. In a few years, we won’t remember Carrie sang it live, but we’ll always remember her performance wasn’t good.

    • huckleberry

      Hated, it…hated it. Not all singers are made to sing the Star Spangled Banner. I usually love her, but this was not her song. As Simon would say, it is all about song choice!

    • Zach

      the last note may have been off, but she did everything better. Whitney? really? whitney lip synced you know. to huckleberry, check her other performances of the star spangled banner, this one wasn’t her best, but that’s where nerves come in. Elvis jumpsuit? you calling carrie a cross-dresser? wow. if you guys have nothing good to say, then don’t say it! comments are only good when you don’t look stupid.

    • fish

      Because I’m going to trust the opinion of someone who doesn’t even know what an actual quarter note is.

    • Miguel

      I thought she screwed up… especially the last note! The best one was still Whitney Houston’s followed by Jennifer Hudson.

      • Justin

        True, she did mess up the last note. But, what she didn’t mess up was the meaning of the song. Keeping it traditional, Carrie sang a great performance and with nerves the last note was a little shaky. We also have to take into account her performance was a cappela unlike the majority of the previous Super Bowl performers, creating a much harder situation.

        I think she did wonderful, and made America proud!

      • tootsiepop

        Both WHITNEY and jennifer hudson lipped sung it!
        CARRIE SANG IT AWESOME!NO LIP SYNCING!

      • Vick

        to tootsie pop. SO who were the smart ones here. Whitney/Jennifer or Carrie? The girls got some learning to do. Amateur

      • Are You Serious?

        To everyone saying that Whitney and Jennifer Hudson didn’t sing live…have you ever seen their performances? They both clearly sung live, AND executed it perfectly. Carrie is a great singer and I think she did a good job, especially considering that she sang it acapella, however, Whitney and Jennifer were phenomenal and again..100% LIVE.

      • Vickie

        To Are You Serious?

        Jennifer Hudson did not sing it live. Both she and Faith Hill used tracks for their performances at the Super Bowl. Look it up, it is a FACT. And I am not dissing on Jennifer, love her, think she is great. There is no reason to put someone down by lifting someone else up.

    • Bill

      As a musician it was painful to hear that last note. Absolutely awful!

    • Karin

      I agree! She was way off key for most of it…

      • mare

        Clunk!

    • Charlie Almeida

      Well, she wasn’t pre-recorded like everyone else. So artists are faced two choices.
      1.) Give an amazing pre-recorded/lip-synced performance (just to face a wave of criticism)
      or
      2.) Give a live performance and mess it up.

      The Star-Spangled Banner is one the hardest songs to sing. I thought it was rather laudable of her to go up there and give a completely raw performance.

    • bme

      Yeah, not good at all. Painful to hear.

    • sara

      you are absolutely right VinceNoir. She was flat and screetchy. Not a praise worthy performance AT ALL.

    • sara

      I see all the Taylor-bots are out in force. It won’t work, she will never sound as bad as Taylor Swift sounds on every awards show performance she’s ever done.

      • Snowbird

        I was thinking the same thing. The Taylor bots don’t even know a key if it hits them on the head. They are so unhappy about their little princess being criticized (rightly so) for being off-key and scratchy that they had to take it out on Carrie. All I know is Taylor would never make to Hollywood on AI, whereas Carrie is one of the best AI winners.

      • Jennifer

        No she isn’t, the best AI singers can sing circles around her. As for Taylor.. at she can sell albums without using her looks and/or body.

      • Chichi

        I agree with you Jennifer. Underwood’s voice doesn’t have any power/emotion to it at all. AI has produced some wonderful singers and Underwood is nowhere near the top of the heap.

      • 4rocket

        “As for Taylor.. at she can sell albums without using her looks and/or body.”

        I don’t recall Carrie using sex appeal to sell records, either. Still, there is no excusing the fact that Taylor is bereft of any vocal talent, and her songwriting is generic and mediocre. So while she did not use sex to sell records, she didn’t exactly get by on talent, either. It’s her clean cut, good-role-model-for-Middle-America image that made her so popular. Watch when she makes a mistake in public, and you’ll see her die-hard fans won’t be so supportive of her anymore. Anytime you have a career built solely on image, whatever that image may be, instead of talent, then you’re gonna have a very short career. And Carrie may have had an off night (though I found her performance fine), but she IS one of the best AI winners. Did you see her perform at the Grammys as part of the Michael Jackson tribute? She totally held her own.

    • LP

      Probably because you are one of those dudes who goes on American Idol and thinks you can sing when you can’t. You don’t know music.

  • Lynda

    Carrie did us proud.

  • sandy angie

    Exquisite is perfect word for Carrie’s performance. Watch and learn, Taylor. Watch and learn.

  • Sally in Chicago

    Can we sing something other than the Natl Anthem at games? I’m so sick of hearing it; how about God Bless America instead?

    • PLD

      MOVE TO IRAQ THEN IF YOU DONT LIKE IT IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY I CANT BELIEVE ANONE WOULD EVEN SAY WHAT YOU SAID WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HEAR?? THIS IS OUR SONG AND I PRAY IT ALWAYS IS .. QUEEN LATIFIA WAS TERRIBLE ..

    • beb

      forgot to add dumba*s to my comment. sorry, what the f*ck are you on???

    • rmb

      This is a remarkably absurd statement. The national anthem is sung because, um, it’s our nation’s anthem. God Bless America is not. Thank goodness.

      • Regivaldo

        Janet – I just want to start off by saying THANK YOU to Jennifer and Chris. This Video is BEAUTIFUL!! My seistr, Carrie and my Brother in law, Ryan picked the right people to film their wedding. I’ve been waiting for this extended version and once again you have accomplished in making it memorable. Can’t wait to show this to the rest of my family and friends. =D

    • bme

      wow, that is a really idiotic thing to say. how drunk are you?

    • tred

      Are you kidding me? MOVE if you don’t appreciate our National Anthem!

    • Amanda

      I hope that was a joke…the National Anthem has been sung for YEARS at everything from little league to professional level sports! If you were paying attention, the anthem of our NATION brought tears to 6 and a half foot tall 250 lb men getting ready to put on a beatdown. It is a powerful song and that will never change. Perhaps you should move to Canada?

      • Pamela

        Sorry, but we don’t need your idiots in Canada.

    • leigh

      Seriously Sally in Chicago!! Wow

      • Vick

        In sort of defense of Sally. I personally think it is STUPID to sing the national anthem during a game. What the *ell does our country and wars and death have to do with a stupid footbal game or any other stupid game. Oh, I get it. People died so a bunch of grown ss men can play a kids sport and make millions while a few million more idiots watch while drunk. Sally – I personally prefer nothing be sung, just play the stupid game. Keeping it real! Wake up! Move to another country – working on it, this one is fading fast.

    • Lynn

      How about…if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. My husband and I both served in the military for 6 years and it’s because of people like us that you can even make dumbass comments like that. You’re welcome.

  • Vada

    Slezak, I love you. Carrie did great. Kris did great. Jordin did great. They all could have cheated and used a recording, but they didn’t need to. They sang the c*ap out of it live.

    • Mike

      Actually, NO ONE sings it live anymore. The NFL policy since 1993 has been that ALL sing into a dead mic to a pre-recorded version, usually recorded in the stadium that Friday. It’s a fact, just look it up.

      • call it true

        Look it up where? Hmm, doesn’t seem to be NFL policy. Reference?

      • Mark

        It usually is, and has been for a long time. Whitney’s was. But Carrie’s was live.

  • Sally in Chicago

    Can we sing something other than the Natl Anthem at games? I’m so sick of hearing it; how about God Bless America instead? As for the Queen’s singing, she is just meh. Great personality, meh voice.

    • beb

      um..no we can’t.

    • Snowbird

      I see you’ve been drinking the Kool-aid from the same Chicago waterhole as our President.

      • steph

        what does that have to do with anything? has the President said he was tired of the national anthem as well? dumb comment.

  • wombat

    are you kidding me? i came here for the scathing truth and got carrie was good??? she was pitchy thru the entire thing and the last note made my ears bleed! michael, do you have an avocado stuck in each ear???

    • Rich

      Pretty sure he stuffs his ears with the recycled remains of thrown-out CDs from former American Idol winners. Taylor Hicks in the left, Ruben Studdard for the right…

    • McFudge

      She was pitchy on one note. Unfortunately it was the last one. Singers always say, if the first note and the last note are right, people tend to forget whatever happened in the middle.

      • Jon

        Yeah, McFudge, “people” will forget everything in the middle, but singers themselves listen to the whole thing, and if you think she was only pitchy on one note, you are obviously not a singer.

      • McFudge

        Actually, my dear, I am the Antonio Salieri of singers. In spite of the fact that I sometimes even sing for money, I can only admire and envy what the really good ones do from afar. I do admit that I’m quite sure I wouldn’t make it to the chorus of the lowliest regional opera company…..heck, probably not to the Hollywood round on Idol. So yes, yes, some of her low notes could have been better, and who knows, maybe other ones as well, but no, I haven’t listened to it over and over to dissect every little blip (I listened exactly once, like most of the, you know, little “people” did), and no, I didn’t fly off to my piano to check and see if she landed in the right key or not (last note excepted). So I stick to my comment that the only truly egregious mistake in her performance was the last note, which is really the only reason anybody’s getting all hyped up about this at all. I do give her props for singing live and not putting 400 extra notes in every bar until the melody is completely unrecognizable. People who do that are only in love with their own voices, not interested in the integrity of the song.

  • Elie

    Carrie Underwood was breathtaking. She never disappoints!

    • Carrie Underwear

      Until today……

      • Tani

        and what re you on?? seriously at;least she can sing HEAPS better than Swift

        Carrie did a good job but yes being a die hard fan-it wasnt her best…BUT you have to give her props for doing that in fron of millions of people

    • sara

      “breathtaking”?? You impress waaaaaaay too easily.

    • jay

      get real — breath taking!!!!! NOT

  • psiSTARpsi

    Not getting the love for Carrie. Sure, she was better than tons of people would have been. but it was so off key i was disappointed.

    Also, are we even going to pretend that Taylor Swift is country? She’s as vanilla pop as Britney.

  • Patrick

    So nice to hear it sung from the heart. Plan and simple. But with the guts of an american partiot.
    Great Job Underwood!

  • Vada

    Singing a difficult song like the anthem live, in front of 100k fans and a tv audience of millions is not for the weak and timid.
    A few pitchy notes live, is much better than lip syncing a recording, IMO

    • Vick

      Spot on – its not for the weak and timid. That’s what we got, weak and timid.

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