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Music

Demi Lovato will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Is that really a good idea?

Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato will take on “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl LIV.
(Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images)

Demi Lovato’s idea of taking it slow as she eases back into her career just took an interesting turn.

The singer, who’s been in self-care mode since her 2018 overdose, has announced she’ll be singing the national anthem at Super Bowl LIV next month.

That would be the same annual Super Bowl that Nielsen says drew an audience of 98.2 million people in the United States and sparked 32.3 million social media interactions last year.

No pressure.

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“It’s important to remember that I am so cautious this time around of jumping back into things. I’ve really decided to take my time with things,” Lovato said at the 2019 Teen Vogue Summit in November. “When the time is right, I will put it out there. I am dying to release new music ... but everything in due time.”

It looks like time is coming due.

Lovato will have a high-profile dry run Jan. 26 when she takes the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards, but she definitely won’t be singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at that show. That’s a big, big difference.

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The patriotic tune has bedeviled many, even before the song itself became a national issue in addition to a national anthem.

Gladys Knight knocked it out at last year’s big game, no problem, once she weathered a Colin Kaepernik-related storm, but Christina Aguilera’s performance back in 2011 still holds the title for worst Super Bowl anthem fail. Xtina jumbled the lyrics at the beginning of the song, instantly becoming America’s punching bag, then blamed it on being “caught up in the moment.”

Aaron Neville, the late Dr. John and the late Aretha Franklin — all serious talents — didn’t blow the lyrics, but their 2006 Super Bowl performance, which included a full gospel choir, was roundly trashed. "[T]hese elements added up to something that just didn’t leave us feeling good,” Billboard said. “Perplexed, maybe, and surely uncomfortable. But definitely not good.”

Screw-ups on smaller pro-sports stages have been just as egregious, or even worse.

Fergie turned it into a star-spangled burlesque soundtrack at 2018’s NBA All-Star Game. The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green went viral as his slack-jawed reaction evolved into laughter, and sportscaster Charles Barkley joked during TNT’s halftime show that he “needed a cigarette” after she sang.

The anthem is “incredibly hard to sing. It has an incredibly wide range. You need an incredibly strong low voice and an incredibly strong high voice as well,” said Brian Zeger, artistic director for vocal arts at the famed Juilliard School in New York City, speaking to The Times in 2012 after Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler had once again attempted the patriotic song.

Those requirements cover only the song’s challenging octave-and-a-half range. As for the often-blown lyrics, they were originally a poem. That poem was set to a popular British song. As a result, the words and music “don’t fit very well together,” Zeger said. Plus the language is more than 200 years old. Hence, awkward.

The Millennium 100: Britney shaves her head and kills teen pop is No. 9. Cucomania is No. 86. ‘Spicey’ Melissa McCarthy is No. 21. Did your favorite make the list?

The national anthem might be one reason pop singer Kat DeLuna (who?) never really caught on.

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Zooey Deschanel did an OK job with the anthem at the 2011 World Series but was slammed for leaving the game itself early (she had to catch a plane to get to work the next day, it turned out).

Then there was Roseanne Barr’s shrieking rendition at a random, non-televised 1990 San Diego Padres game, the fail by which all other fails are measured. What might have been an obscene gesture when she finished didn’t help things, and by the next day she was being trashed nationally by veterans groups, radio hosts and even the guy who sang the anthem for years before Yankees games.

“I sang about four notes and I thought I was OK,” Barr said at a press conference two days after the July 1990 incident. “And then everybody started booing me and I really went through this panic thing, and for a minute I thought about, ‘Well, can I just get out of here? Can I just turn around and just quit?’

“I knew I couldn’t and I knew I had to finish it,” she said. “So I just did the best I could. I’m not looking to apologize for doing it. It was the wrong choice for all of us. But nobody anticipated that it would be this negative.”

And on that note, we wish you lots of luck, Demi. Just take it slow.


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