Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I expected worse

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 :


Christy said...

I get the stage fright thing. What I don't get is her voice. That's why I didn't like her performance. Her "vocal calisthenics" (which is a great line, by the way!) are wholly unappealing to me, no matter what she's singing.

Dann said...

Hi Ruth,

This may be as close to blogging about this as I get!

- Agree - They need to do away with the celebrity singing. There are plenty of wonderfully qualified singers out there that would do a far better job with the national anthem. Karen Newman does a great job with the Anthem for the Red Wings. The Cactus Cuties would have been a great choice for a Dallas based Super Bowl.

- Agree - Missing a verse happens to the best of singers.

- Disagree - Ms. Aguilera attempted to make the Anthem "hers". Many celebrity singers make the same mistake. Singing the Anthem is not about the singer. It is about the Anthem. It has lyrics. It has a melody. Those are the foundation of the song. An individual performance might include some musical flourishes applied to that foundation. But Ms. Aguilera was all flourish and no foundation. If she wanted an opportunity to demonstrate the range of her "talent", then she should have signed up to be the half time show.

They could have played the music and invited the crowd to sing along and it would have provided a better experience, IMO.


Catherine said...

I very much like the idea of doing away with celebrity performances of the National Anthem! A sing-a-long would suit me perfectly.

("Vocal calisthenics" is a great phrase -- may I steal it sometime?)

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Thanks to all for your input! We may not all have the same taste, but yall have pretty good taste.

Just so you can bang your heads on your desks over my own taste, i like the Jimi Hendrix version too.

I even think that every generation has to make the anthem its own. It never used to be my favorite choice for a patriotic song and that's changing. The divisiveness in this country now has made me appreciate it like never before, for its theme of the basic American ideal surviving all the conflict.

As to "vocal calisthenics," I stole it from ... someone somewhere, so i have no claim to it! Steal it with my blessing! I latched onto it on some occasion when i needed a metaphor because i didn't - and still don't! - know what the official music term is, but i bet there is one for that sliding around above and below the note before finally landing on it.

Dann said...

I like the Hendrix version, too!

What I find most off-putting in this whole mess are the folks that want to replace the SSB with America The Beautiful or some other smarmy bilge.

Conflict exists in the world. It always will. The SSB is a song about bending under the load of conflict but not breaking. It is a song of stiff necked unity against oppression.

And it should...as you note...inspire us to join together despite our differences.


southernyankee said...

Okay, perhaps you’re expecting too much from football players. I mean these millionaires get their heads bashed in with weekly regularity. A charging linebacker is like brain-scramble Exlax on steroids. And hey, what’s with the white dude, number 99, with the full flowing beard? He’s either a wannabe Hagar the Horrible, badly needs a rest room, or thinks being disrespectful to the National Anthem is a required activity and he should lead the show.

Number 50 had a real time of it trying to recall exactly where his heart sits. "Is it at the base of my neck? No that’s some kind of gland thingie. Oh. darn, they caught me, better fake it for now. Coach will know, I’ll ask him later. Gee, should’ve done that sooner rather than later."

You see, one head blow too many, and this is what you get, the Donald Rumsfeld of sports.

But Christina? Well, I’ve never liked her hair. It looks like bleached straw, and honestly, black nail polish? What were you thinking girl? Jeez! And the black dress, blazing blood red lip gloss? Too much time spent reading about Vampire love if you ask me.

Okay, I’ve just finished a second viewing. Um, she hardly moved, was that the problem? She did not have a wardrobe malfunction (wink, wink) that revealed otherwise taboo, well, stuff. She flubbed the words. Me too the last time I sang it, but that was before the girls started throwing their Barbie dolls at me due to the obvious fact that I should give up any thought of even singing in the shower when I’m alone in the house. Kids, what a pain.

But I digress. What I’d really like to know is what about the Jimi Hendrix rendition is traditional? I mean his version is my favorite and I’m the combat veteran this blogger spoke of, but traditional? Really? Or was that tongue-in-cheek traditional?

I guess, like beauty, music appreciation is in the ears of the beholder. No pun intended, of course.