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Beyonce vs. Whitney: Battle of the "Banner"

"The Star-Spangled Banner," our nation's national anthem, is a notoriously difficult song to sing. Often arranged in an unforgiving key for vocalists, the melody is full of tricky intervals that make it even more precarious. This is a major reason most of the people around you at Astros and Texans game are only mouthing the words. The other reason is that no one can ever quite seem to remember exactly what Francis Scott Key's lyrics are. [Thanks to Ramon Medina for the fix.]

But sung correctly, it can be profoundly stirring and inspiring, like a national anthem should be.

And it must be sung -- often by very famous and talented singers who manage not to butcher it so badly -- at important ceremonial events such as football games and presidential inagurations, one of which happened yesterday in Washington, D.C. Rocks Off thought we'd take Houston-born Beyoncé's inaugural "Banner" from Monday and put it side by side with another famous renditon, perhaps the most famous recent version, the late Whitney Houston singing the anthem before Super Bowl XXV in January 1991.

Bonus Trivia: What two teams played in the Super Bowl the year Houston sang the anthem, and who won the game?

BEYONCE

  • Age: 31
  • Accessory: green earrings
  • Historical Context: Obama's second inauguration
  • Arrangement: Symphonic
  • Accompaniment: Orchestra
  • Lyrical Accuracy: 100 percent
  • Phrasing: Normal
  • Dynamics: Starts soft, builds to robust volume
  • Percentage on Key: 90-95 percent
  • Mistakes: Voice breaks on "proof"
  • Controversy: Supposed difficulty with vocal monitor; lip-syncing allegations
  • Crescendo (glasses shattered out of possible five): three
  • Aftermath: Happened yesterday

 

WHITNEY

  • Age: 27
  • Accessory: Headband
  • Historical Context: Super Bowl XXV; first Gulf War
  • Arrangement: Symphonic
  • Accompaniment: Live orchestra
  • Lyrical Accuracy: 100 percent
  • Phrasing: More deliberate than anthem is usually sung
  • Dynamics: Less range than Beyoncé, but still pronounced
  • Percentage on Key: 100 percent
  • Mistakes: None
  • Controversy: Did she lip-sync?
  • Crescendo (glasses shattered out of possible five): Four
  • Aftermath: Houston's label, Arista Records, rushed the live recording of "Banner" into stores after the game as a single. Her rendition reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and today is widely considered the definitive version of the anthem.

Winner: Sorry, B. Whitney still owns the national anthem. In your heart, you know it's true.

Trivia Answer: The New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, in the closest game in Super Bowl history. Bills placekicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal as time ran out.



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