*A high-profile performance of the National Anthem is the source of controversy for a second straight month.
Just as the Beyonce lip-synching uproar at the Inauguration begins to fade, here comes Alicia Keys and her jazzy rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl – a performance that was overwhelmingly well received.
“Yes lawd,” gushed Spike Lee of her slowed down take. “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson declared, Keys “killed it.”
But not everyone was impressed. Reader responses to Yahoo! Music’s initial positive coverage of Keys’ anthem were more dismissive, or angry, than laudatory.
“Stop trying to make the national anthem ‘your own’,” said one of the most popular reactions on the site. “It’s not yours. It’s ours collectively. Sing it the way it’s supposed to be sung.”
Later, the same user added, “I never meant to imply she wasn’t a great musician or that she butchered the song in any way. I just feel the National Anthem is one song that should be performed the way it was written and artists shouldn’t try and use it as an opportunity to top the iTunes charts the next morning.”
Within five hours, that diss had 1,098 thumbs-ups on Yahoo!, and only 225 thumbs-down.
Another reader wrote: “One of the worst anthem renditions I have ever seen or heard. What a funeral durge. Too slow.” Hours later, this slam had a similarly imbalanced ratio of 1,058 thumbs in agreement and 248 in opposition.
Dissenting pro-Keys commenters responded in kind: “So…you are basically saying, ‘The song belongs to all of us— now do it the way I want.’”
But some would just as soon take the anthem out of the hands of celebrities in general, to end the alleged showboating. “Forget having all these music industry celebrities sing the national anthem from now on,” wrote a commenter. “Let’s have our military personnel sing it. They will sing it the proper way, and not with all the other b.s. added to it.”
Meanwhile, another contingent of haters had a problem with Keys sitting during the Anthem, even though it was at the piano as she played the song.
“It was disrespectful,” one morning show producer told The Huffington Post. “They had enough time and manpower to think of this before the performance. They could have had her stand at her piano keyboard and sing. To me and a lot of my friends, she sounded great but the visual was wrong.”
“Alicia is a proud American and was honored to perform at the event,” says a publicist who has worked with Keys. “Her slow version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was her own arrangement, accompanying herself on the piano, adding ‘living in the home of the brave’ at the end of the song. It’s silly to see how that was being disrespectful.”
Some have assumed this is why the NFL is blocking video of Alicia singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The NFL, however, says the performance has been removed on copyright grounds. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is in the public domain, as it was written before copyright laws existed. However, artists can copyright their own arrangements of it. Whitney Houston did just that in 1991 after she performed a pre-recorded version of the song in the Super Bowl that year.
This has “nothing to do with the content of the performance but a rights issue,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who added that NFL.com plans to post the video shortly.
USA Today is reporting that Keys’ piano rendition was the longest in Super Bowl history, clocking in at 156.4 seconds. Her version surpassed Natalie Cole’s milestone 152-second salute to the Stars and Stripes at the 1994 Super Bowl.