My general rule of thumb when it comes to snark or out-and-out ridicule is that kids are off-limits. I have three kids of my own, and they're not perfect. I get it. However, there are rare exceptions, and on those occasions, what you'll usually find is that any derision of young people doing offensive or stupid things is actually an indictment of their parents.
I'm making this preface because not too long ago, I wrote a post innocently poking fun at a "good job, good effort" kid in Miami, and I had a few commenters talking about what a bad, awful person I am. In the end, that kid had the last laugh because (a) the Miami Heat ended up winning the NBA title, and (b) more people know he is than know who I am.
However, I felt my post on GJGE Kid was in bounds because once his parents green-lighted a television feature about him on the nightly news, then you deserve whatever comes your way. Similarly, if you green-light your kid singing the national anthem at a professional sporting event, and promote her with a pretentious "musical act" Web site, then...well, let's just say you better hope she hits every note when she sings the anthem.
To that end, meet Harper Gruzins, an 11-year-old "singer/songwriter" from Coppell, Texas. Even better, allow her vainglorious Web site bio to introduce her!
Harper Gruzins, a 10-year-old (sic) singer/songwriter from Coppell, Texas, has been singing for as long as she has been walking! Having learned to play the guitar and piano, Harper is able to write songs that seem amazingly deep for her age--yet still reflect her youthful outlook on life. The amount of emotion that she portrays in her performances has a convincing familiarity that causes her audiences to forget that she is only a child!
Harper's keen ear and ability to learn quickly have given her a vast arsenal of genres to feel comfortable with---from contemporary Christian to country to indie pop, and everything in between! Harper's captivating performances, soulful voice, and ability to write good music will eventually land her next in line to superstardom!
Okay, good to see Harper's parents (who I presume are the brains behind the campaign to turn her into the next Taylor Swift) setting the bar at the always reasonable "next in line to superstardom" level. How could she possibly disappoint with the bar set so low?
So why are we discussing Harper Gruzins? Well, at Saturday night's Dallas-Los Angeles MLS match, Harper
butchered screamed wailed sang the national anthem. How did it go? Well, go ahead and assume she wouldn't be getting a post devoted to her here if it went well.
Take a listen:
0:02 -- The public address announcer introduces her as a "11-year-old singer/songwriter." I know that if I were in charge of these decisions for a major league sports team (or Dallas's MLS team) and I was introduced to an 11-year-old who billed herself as a "songwriter," I'd immediately ask for examples of her "song writing." Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'm guessing the "songwriter" designation is some sort of parental exaggeration. As we will soon find out, the "singer" part definitely is, too.
0:10 -- "Oh say can you see?" Sing those words to yourself at a normal national anthem pace and if you have a stopwatch, time yourself. I did, and it took me 4.9 seconds. I timed Harper Gruzins, and it took her 12.6 goddamned seconds! Any age-related immunity from ridicule for Gruzins was gone as soon she screeched the words "by the dawn's early light." She is butchering the anthem, which means she is butchering 'MERICA!!!
0:30 -- Players are shown either lightly chuckling, squinting like the Goodyear blimp just dropped a nasal piercing fart gas on the whole stadium, or staring into space pondering citizenship in another country.
0:39 -- Crowd shot shows some of Gruzins' fellow Dallas-area citizens wondering if this is some sort of joke, including a woman wearing shades and smiling with huge horse teeth. From there, they show a shot of the Dallas players, who begin doing some stretching exercises in their line so they don't tighten up in what, at this pace, will be about a ten-minute anthem.
0:50 -- At exactly this point in the song, I want you to notice the pause between stanzas of the song. Notice the dead silence, which is exactly how it should be. The crowd is being appropriately respectful of the song itself, even if they're all thinking about the hideous pitch at which it is being sung. I bring this up because Harper had this to say in defending her performance in a Fox News interview:
"It wasn't my best performance because I couldn't hear myself and the blowhorns got me off key," Harper told FoxNews.com. "But God allowed this to happen, so I know it's what he wants. So I wouldn't change it. Next time I hope there's no blowhorns."
The blowhorns apparently are built like dog whistles because I heard nothing.
1:03 -- "THHHRRROOOOOWWWW THE PERILOUS FIGHT..." Stop screaming, Harper!
1:23 -- It appears as though one of the Los Angeles players turns to his goalie and says something, probably asking him if he wanted a drink, knowing full well that he could go get a couple cold ones at the concession stand and still make it back for the grand finale "land of the free, and the home of the brave."
1:55 -- They zoom in on a row of young children who now all have aspirations of singing the national anthem because all you have to do is scream really loud, call yourself a singer/songwriter and have a kick-ass ReverbNation Web site. By the way, we're now officially past the point where, if you bet on the length of the anthem at the Super Bowl (I do every year, don't judge me), you would be in "OVER" territory. We're not even to the point where we find out that our flag was "still there." At this rate, this goddamn version of the anthem is going to be longer than Stairway to Heaven.
2:07 -- The young girl with the long hair in the middle of this shot is priceless. She is looking around clearly wondering if it's okay to laugh out loud at this abortion of an anthem attempt. Seriously, if a thought bubble existed over her head, she'd be wondering if she was the only crazy one.
2:25 -- "IN the land of the free...." Yep, Harper butchered the words, too. That was a lock. Had to be all that vuvuzela noise distracting her.
2:28 -- She is literally wailing out the final lyrics with a gravelly pitch that makes her sound like she's channeling Joe Cocker.
2:49 -- Mercifully, it ends. Two minutes and 39 seconds of eardrum-pulverizing, albeit patriotic, howling.
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Harper Gruzins, and more so your parents who tout you as music's next super duper star, I think I speak for all of us right thinking Americans when I say, GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.