Following Mickey Guyton in 2022 and Eric Church’s rendition of the National Anthem in a duet with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan the year before, Chris Stapleton’s performance of the National Anthem at Super Bowl LVII marked the third consecutive year that a country artist has performed all or a portion of the pre-game song. Stapleton, though, reaffirmed what many of his fans already believed to be true: that he is at least as much a traditional blues vocalist as a country musician.
Cameras were able to cut to openly tearful reaction shots among the game’s participants despite or perhaps because of Stapleton’s exceptionally rough rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the last performer to shamelessly exploit a song for sentimentality.
Both coach Nick Sirianni, who was saving the battling for the battlefield, and Eagles lineman Jason Kelce, who appeared to be holding back tears, were in full spigot mode.
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Before a game (and perhaps a Rihanna performance) focused far more on the concept of collaboration, the sight of Stapleton standing by himself at centre field with nothing but a Fender Telecaster, a little mic-ed amp, and a few of monitors was a symbol of American individuality. Even though there have been many excellent renditions of this song over the years, Stapleton’s delivery of it as something solitary and internal stood in creative contrast to the sturm und drang with which it is frequently performed.
Before kickoff, the other two musical acts offered a fascinating contrast analysis. Babyface sang the song while playing an acoustic guitar with a full, pre-recorded background track. He was even less ostentatious than Stapleton, though less rugged. Attempting a quiet-storm kind of patriotism, this rendition of “America the Beautiful” is the least belt-y in recent memory. In contrast, Sheryl Lee Ralph gave “Lift Every Voice and Sing” a very expressive performance that even included instances when she marched in place while she sang.
This song has now become recognised as the Black national anthem. Ralph was the most gorgeously and colourfully dressed performer in recent Super Bowl history, with a crimson train behind her on the white platform that apparently was not intended to intentionally suggest any favouritism for the Chiefs. Stapleton and Babyface both wore black for the event. This was the third consecutive year that “Lift Every Voice” was introduced to the pre-Bowl festivities. Even though it has been a part of certain NFL games for years before that, the lineup for a musical triple play.
The Black national song is now a steadfast tradition, despite the fact that some right-wing voices may have started paying attention because the game was on Fox and the network’s website played up the controversy around it.
The song’s performance was labelled “racist” towards white people by conservative outlaw Kevin Sorbo, while Lauren Boebert tweeted, “America only has ONE National Anthem. Why is the NFL playing numerous games to try to split us apart? Play football, not mindfulness. Boebert probably holds “America the Beautiful” with equal resentment for drawing attention away from Frances Scott.
Key’s work, but has not yet gotten around to criticising it.
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Stapleton’s rendition of the National Anthem sounds like it was inspired by a great American Black music artform, which is a win for most of non-troll America regardless of how Rihanna’s halftime show is received. Stapleton is a unifier rather than a divider.
The performances by Eric Church and H.E.R in more recent years, as well as Babyface and Stapleton today, make it appear as though, despite all odds, guitars are destined to keep flocking towards the Super Bowl each year. And for anyone who wonders where guitars ever gone in the pop landscape.