Leave it alone, don’t make it ‘your own’

People say it is hard to sing. The pressure might get to you. Whatever the excuse: Lady Antebellum joined the club of famous folks flubbing a flag-waving song.

In the clip that has now gone viral, the country-music trio attempted a stylized a cappella rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the Nashville Predators-Winnipeg Jets game last weekend. It started rolling along nicely but soon the wheels came off. At one point each of the three started singing a different line of the American national anthem.

They quickly got back on track as hockey players, fans and of course social media audiences, had a laugh at the scandalous moment. Even Canadians watching said, “That’s not how the song goes, right?”

But here’s the deal: This is not a song to make “your own.” Why? Because it is not your own. This is not an American Idol performance that you need to wow us with your own take on a historical piece. Why? Because it is a song everybody should be able to sing along to. This is for a moment of patriotism and not Ryan Seacrest telling them they’re moving onto the next round of the competition.

This is one of those tunes, much like O Canada (despite its recent society-is-too-sensitive rewording), that should just be left alone. The purpose is for everyone there and/or watching to feel unified and be as one. This is not a performance or a concert where everybody sits and hopes to hear magnificent runs to experience melodic delight.

We should be able to sing along because we know what is coming. It is a song we have heard hundreds of times before. As spectators we should not get lost or thrown off by the performer taking the song somewhere that it has never been before.

I understand the need for seasoned performers to try give their fresh take on it but that is seemingly when blunders happen. Everybody remembers Fergie’s recent sultry smoke-filled lounge version of the anthem at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. It failed. It failed hard. Granted she did not forget the words but Fergie arranged it in a way that looked like she wanted people to walk by and throw a dollar in her tip jar.

My advice to anyone performing this song in the future: Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it traditional. Keep it sing-along-able. That is what people want when they stand and join you – yes, remember, we join you in singing it.

You want this performance to be added to your resumé, not your blooper reel.

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