Oh, Say, Can She Sing...
OH, SAY, CAN SHE SING
By BILLY HELLER
January 31, 2004 -- Most eyes may be on the Patriots and
Panthers leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, Beyoncé is facing as much
pressure as any player: She's singing the national anthem before the game.
No, she doesn't have to weigh punting or going for the
first down with the championship on the line, but she has until just before
kickoff to decide whether to sing live or lip-sync.
Because a performer went blank - pregame show executive producer Bob Best
won't name names - during the commercial break right before the anthem, "We
make a 'protection copy,' " explains Best.
So Beyoncé cut a recording a couple of weeks back at the 20th Century Fox
scoring stage in Los Angeles with a 65-piece orchestra.
"We always check with the artist the day of the performance, and basically
say, 'What are you comfortable with?' " says Best.
"Some artists feel that they may have achieved - in their mind - perfection
on the performance copy and perhaps they would not be able to reach that
level in the rather stressful, rather rushed, busy environment they find
So what advice do past performers have for Beyoncé?
Kathie Lee Gifford, who sang the anthem nine years ago at
Super Bowl XXIX, offers Beyoncé the same words of wisdom she says she got
from Barry Manilow (Super Bowl XVII):
"No matter what, do not look up at the scoreboard telling you how many
billions of people are watching the broadcast."
Cheryl Ladd (Super Bowl XIV) says Beyoncé doesn't need singing advice from
her, but concedes "the song is a challenge because of its huge range."
Beyoncé should just, she says, "enjoy every second of the experience and let
Of course, just like the game itself, things don't always go smoothly in the
"Star-Spangled Banner" department.
Garth Brooks left the stadium just 45 minutes before he was scheduled to
sing at Super Bowl XXVII, at Pasadena's Rose Bowl, in a dispute over his
music video, which he wanted NBC to play in the pregame show.
That left NFL execs scrambling like a desperate quarterback - until one
spotted Jon Bon Jovi in the stands and was ready to draft him into anthem
duty, when Brooks was coaxed back.
Another year, Julio Iglesias was going to sing the anthem, "but bowed out,"
"He made an attempt to do it in advance and he was concerned that his
English pronunciation was not sufficient to be able to do it justice." That
was the year Manilow stepped up to the mike.
The humid conditions in Tampa in 1991 contributed to Whitney Houston's
decision to go with the recording, and it's that performance that remains
"the benchmark," notes producer Rickey Minor, who's working with Beyoncé.
"Singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl was one of the highlights of
my career," says Houston.
"Beyoncé told me she remembers listening to Whitney's version over and over
and over again," says Minor, "and I believe that there will be definitely
some similarities based on where we are as a country, being at war. And like
Whitney, Beyoncé has an incredible voice."
When Beyoncé was rehearsing with Minor, she told him when she got to "the
land of the free and the home of the brave" she wanted "all of the families
who have lost loved ones [in the war] to feel that she feels passion and
appreciation of their sacrifice."
The first time Beyoncé sang the anthem in the studio, it was almost 31/2
"Generally they [the NFL] like it in the 2-, 21/2-minute range," says Minor,
"and it was too slow for my taste too. I was falling asleep," he laughs.
But the recording session wasn't all serious all the time.
"At one point," says Minor, "instead of singing 'whose broad stripes and
bright stars,' she sang 'whose broad stripes and broad stars,' so I told her
there was one too many broads in the room.'"
Vanessa Williams (Super Bowl XXX) says Beyoncé has nothing to worry about.
"I know she's from Houston," says Williams, "so she'll have the whole
hometown girl factor, which will give her a lot of support."
Among her supporters is Rudy Rasmus, the pastor of Beyoncé's hometown
church, where she sang in the choir at age 12.
"I was proud to hear that she was selected," says Rasmus. But, he adds, "I
actually would have preferred to have seen her perform during halftime."
What's in a name? It might mean a win.
Financial analysts have noted that which conference wins the Super Bowl
affects the stock market.
And a close study of the last 10 national anthem singers reveals that every
time a single-named singer has performed (Cher, Jewel), an AFC team has won.
So The Post predicts that Beyoncé will sing the AFC's New England Patriots
2003//Dixie Chicks//Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC)
2002//Mariah Carey//New England Patriots (AFC)
2001//Backstreet Boys//Baltimore Ravens (AFC)
2000//Faith Hill//St. Louis Rams (AFC)
1999//Cher//Denver Broncos (AFC)
1998//Jewel//Denver Broncos (AFC)
1997//Luther Vandross//Green Bay Packers (NFC)
1996//Vanessa Williams//Dallas Cowboys (NFC)
1995//Kathie Lee Gifford//San Francisco 49ers (NFC)
1994//Natalie Cole//Dallas Cowboys (NFC)
31 JANUARY 2004