I'm going to go against the tide here. Admittedly, I'm not a football person, and I'm not an any-sport person when the game becomes like an Oscar ceremony that has to be dragged out for a gazillion hours of sponsor time.
But I kept hearing about this performance and so I finally pulled up the video. And thought, "Um, OK, bungled the words." That's both a not-uncommon problem, and, yes, you bet, something to strongly criticize. She's a professional singer and it's not too much to ask for her to learn the words.
Stage brain-failure can happen to anyone. I'll never forget Alan Sherman forgetting the words to his own song ("Return to Camp Granada") on live TV (Yes, that's how old I am.) Anyway, i'm skeptical as to whether Aguilera's flub was stage fright rather than laziness, so, yes, flubbing the words is criticism-worthy.
But the performance? I liked it. If she had not bungled that line, I can't help but wonder if anyone would care.
She did literally perform it, with some vocal calisthenics and emotion.
But I was expecting outright disrespectful histrionics, and all I saw was typical singer-acting to convey the strong emotion of spotting the flag after a hellacious battle. It seemed in keeping with the song.
The idea that the National Anthem has to be sung like a hymn and never "performed" bothers me. It is not a hymn.
I love my country, I live with a combat veteran who knows and feels what the flag means, but in my opinion, patriotism is not on the level with worship of God. And an anthem that grew out of a dramatic event can be, not just sung reverentially, but performed with drama.
That's just me. Her styling and her voice quality came within my parameters for dignity. Close to the edge but not over it.
I'll add that it would suit me fine if the whole celebrity National Anthem thing ended. What a fabulous opportunity it would be for some talented unknown to get this job every year. Half-time has plenty of celebrities. Enough with the celebrities.
Expectations have a lot to do with perception. Something can seem "better" when you were expecting "worse," Everything I've read had me ready for "Let's Do the Time-Warp Again," so that could affect my feeling.
On the other hand, I can't help but feel that viewer perception that the anthem was being treated disrespectfully was also affected by cutaways to players, some of whom were mugging, looking like it was wasting their time, and generally being disrespectful during it.
Anyway, for those who missed it, here it is :