The unexpected passing of Whitney Houston has long-time fans and newbies alike scouring the web for her all-time greatest hits and performances. While chart-toppers like “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” are certainly the cream of the crop for showcasing Whitney’s impeccable vocal talent and control, as far as live performances go, it’s really hard to beat her Super Bowl XXV rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”.
The Super Bowl has a way of bringing out the best, or worst, of a singer. It’s the biggest stage, with more people watching than at any other point in his or her life. It’s where the casual football observer stops midway through a mini hot dog and feels those shivers that come only by witnessing greatness. Whitney had that effect on people, but she isn’t the only one who came up big on the largest stage.
Here is a completely nonscientific list of the top five Super Bowl performances of all time:
5. Neil Diamond – XXI (1987)
Not the best vocal performance ever, not even close. I decided to start my list off with what I consider to be the best example of how the national anthem should be sung: get on the stage, honor the USA with a respectful (yet heartfelt) rendition of the anthem, wave to the crowd, and get off the stage. I find it incredibly aggravating when (usually less talented) singers decide to take this honor and make it into their personal showcase. I love how Neil literally runs on and off the stage–it’s not about him. And he really does give a rousing performance in his unique style.
OK, enough with procedure, here are the heavy-hitters…
4. Cher – XXXIII (1999)
Maybe it’s the jeans. Or maybe it’s the fact that she walks to the stage with a child. Whatever it is, I wasn’t expecting this great performance from Cher. It’s so simple, but I think it proves the point that in order to have a moving rendition of the anthem, it has to be sung by a singer who possesses the vocal strength that corresponds with the powerful words of the song.
3. Faith Hill – XXXIV (2000)
The fact that this is still routinely played on the radio goes to show the effect it continues to have on people. And she’s so serious throughout–not so much as cracking a smile until the very end. It’s a powerful rendition that has even Faith herself pumping her fist and shouting, as if saying “Wow! That was really great!” And it was.
2. U.S. Naval/Air Force/Military/Coast Guard Academy Choirs w/ US Army Herald Trumpet Corps – XXXIX (2005)
It really doesn’t get any more meaningful than this–hearing the anthem sung by the brave men and women that the song embodies. The crowd gets extremely jacked up by this. Me too.
1. Whitney Houston w/ the Florida Orchestra – XXV (1991)
Head and shoulders above the rest. No other solo rendition holds a candle to Whitney’s. She seems so happy to be there, as if this moment was handcrafted for her at birth. The world has lost a person whose voice had the ability to transfix and transform people emotionally.