7 Best Super Bowl National Anthem Performances Ever, According To Critics

“The Star Spangled Banner” sung at the Super Bowl always gives fans a chance to hear an amazing performer, but some artists in particular have made it even more memorable. From Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix, and Kelly Clarkson, there have been a lot of memorable moments at the big game. So, with the opening performance being an important event of gameday, we found the best Super Bowl national anthem performances of all time, according to the consensus of multiple experts.

The National Anthem is one of the most anticipated moments of the entire game, filled with tradition, patriotism, and often, powerful performances. Since the first Super Bowl in 1967, the National Anthem has been a staple of the pre-game festivities. It sets the tone for the event and brings a moment of unity and reflection before the competition kicks off. Every year, a renowned singer or artist is chosen to perform the anthem. Past performers include Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Hudson, just to name a few. Some performances become iconic, like Whitney Houston’s powerful rendition after 9/11 or Alicia Keys’ soulful version on a piano. Others spark conversation, like Demi Lovato’s kneeling during her performance.

For many, the football game itself is not even the most exciting thing about the Super Bowl. Some viewers are solely in it for the food, commercials, or musical performances, according to a recent study. In fact, 17 percent of Americans plan to watch less than 20 minutes of this year’s game between the Chiefs and 49ers. This means the rest of the time may be spent partying or chowing down on classic Super Bowl foods instead.

Super Bowl Sunday is practically a national holiday in the U.S. Whether it’s for the Super Bowl snacks or gambling on who will win, the big game is the one event that brings Americans together. So, we wanted to know: Who kicked it off with the best Super Bowl national anthem performances? Check out our list below to find out which performances were mentioned most among eight expert reviews! If you have a favorite, let us know in the comments below!

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he U.S. flag on white and red striped textile (Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

The List: Best Super Bowl National Anthems, According To Fans

1. Whitney Houston (1991)

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I mean, are you surprised? Our list of the best Super Bowl national anthems kicks off with this powerhouse in the music industry. This performance hit a special kind of heartstring as it took place during the Persian Gulf War. Houston wowed the audience, per usual, while fans proudly waved American flags in honor of the troops overseas. Ebony admits that this performance crowned her as the best to sing the anthem.

When you envision Whitney singing the national anthem, it’s easy to remember what she was wearing — the iconic white tracksuit with a matching headband. The NY Post points out that this rendition was written by Marvin Gaye in a gospel-influenced style.

Houston’s version of the anthem peaked at number six on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It was also certified platinum by the RIAA. Without question, Houston’s rendition is the best of all time. Parade boasts that “not only is hers the best performance of the national anthem ever at the Super Bowl, but it’s also, by a mile, hands-down the best performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ of all time.”

2. Luther Vandross (1997)

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Nothing like some soul food wrapped in the form of Vandross’s staple “velvet voice.” The audience was in a trance as he serenaded them in this smooth rendition of the anthem. Ebony admits that he “effortlessly controlled each note.”

Vandross was known for his superb performances. The NY Post says, “He came the closest to turning ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ into a quiet-storm slow jam in 1997. All it was missing was some incense.

The style that is so unmistakably Vandross was presented humbly, as he resisted showing off his star-worthy skills. Rolling Stone calls it the “smoothest National Anthem ever” with his own personal touch shining through.

3. Beyoncé (2004)

Another performer who proved her vocal chops was Beyoncé at Reliant Stadium. Back in her hometown, the Queen Bee brought down the house with an unsurprisingly flawless performance. Ebony even regards Beyoncé as one of the best performers, ever!

Beyonce was relatively in the early stages of her solo career, she performed the anthem nine years before her memorable halftime show. She actually grew so big (as if you didn’t know) that she performed in two halftime shows. Rolling Stone reminds us that Coldplay was the headliner, although Beyonce stole much of the show with her new hit, “Formation.”

Even though she performed the national anthem nine years prior to her halftime show, apparently she was offered the choice of singing the anthem or performing the halftime show, according to The NY Post. She humbly chose the one-song set and good thing. If she had chosen the halftime show, the world wouldn’t have Janet Jackson’s nip slip moment to remember.

4. Jennifer Hudson (2009)

Jennifer Hudson likely held an additional set of feelings while singing our prideful anthem. She sadly lost her mother, brother, and nephew in a terrible tragedy just a few months prior. She used her grief to express an emotional rendition belting it out with her powerful pipes. Ebony comments that showing up showed extreme determination alone. 

Channeling the likes of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and well, every star before her, Hudson added to the emotion the anthem already brings out of fans. Parade nails it on the head when they commend her for her tremendous resilience in the face of adversity.

Ranking just below her “Dreamgirls” co-star, Hudson knocked out notes harder than any of the players on the field could tackle. There was actually some controversy, according to Rolling Stone, that she lip-synched during her pre-recorded performance. She certainly proved the naysayers wrong during her live one. The nerve!

5. Mariah Carey (2002)

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The list continues to present non-surprises. Mariah didn’t disappoint in bringing at least one of her glass-shattering notes to the anthem. Fun fact: Parade points out that this was the year Tom Brady received his first, out of a million, Super Bowl rings.

The country needed this national anthem only a few months after 9/11. The U.S. is always proud to hear their anthem, but this one hit harder— especially as it was accompanied by the most powerful voices of our time. Ebony recalls Mariah capturing the spirit of the moment.

Being the superstar that she was for over a decade, it was surprising this was her first stint at singing at the Super Bowl. Even so, Rolling Stone calls her performance elegant.

6. Lady Gaga (2016)

Who can forget Gaga’s halftime show, where she recited the “Pledge of Allegiance”? She sang an equally impressive anthem at Super Bowl 50 in red glitter eyeshadow, but she kept it simple and heartfelt, with a typical Gaga explosion of an ending. Parade admits that Gaga’s best asset is her “powerhouse vocals.”

Gaga’s performance was accompanied by a gorgeous piano backing. She repeated the anthem five years later at the White House for Biden’s Inauguration. Billboard talks about what was going on professionally for her at that time. “In addition to various appearances to support ‘Cheek to Cheek,’ her jazz and standards album with Tony Bennett, she also won praise for a medley of songs from ‘The Sound of Music’ at the 87th Academy Awards.

This performance really highlighted Gagas’s vocal chops. While she is often pretty wild in her performances, she kept this one modest. CBS Sports says that the flare she added at the end emulated her high range. 

7. The Chicks (2003)

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If you are scratching your head as to who this is, they used to be known as The Dixie Chicks. Since 1995, The Chicks have been gracing our radio stations with modern country hits. The group consists of Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer. Billboard refers to them as “reigning country queens.” 

Despite a time they were disliked due to negative comments they made about President Bush, they still make lists like this highlighting their undeniable talent. Parade goes as far as to say that they were blacklisted after undergoing harassment for what they said about Bush. 

Controversies aside, this was the second time a group harmonized the national anthem. The first time was done by The Backstreet Boys in 2001. But The Chicks take the title as they performed this ear candy of an arrangement in perfect harmony. According to Rolling Stone, it’s challenging to harmonize at the Super Bowl, and we agree!


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