Keys Shines In Low-Key Anthem; Hudson, Sandy Hook Kids Provide Moving Moment
Alicia Keys delivered a "dramatically different version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner'" prior to kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII, and her version was the "polar opposite of some of the high-flying vocal affairs of past Super Bowls," according to Jim Harrington of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. The rendition was "sweet, soft and breathy, exuding a relaxed vibe that seemed nearly impossible for the occasion." It was, "without a doubt, one of the more memorable national anthems of recent years" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 2/4). In New Orleans, Keith Spera noted Keys gave an "elegant take on the National Anthem." She took "her time, easing into the arrangement studiously but not indulgent." She then "ratcheted up for the right words -- 'stars,' etc. -- but otherwise maintained an even keel, her voice strong and clear." Overall, she "managed to be true to both the anthem and herself" (NOLA.com, 2/3). In Phoenix, Ed Masley wrote Keys "took the National Anthem to a cozy little jazz club." That part she "tacked on at the end about living in the home of the brave was another bold decision that helped her make the song her own" (AZCENTRAL.com, 2/3). In Tampa, Sean Daly notes Keys "sat behind a white baby grand and delivered a somber, slightly jazzy version." Not the "best of all time, but still pretty darn good" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/4). In Detroit, Adam Graham writes Keys "didn't go for vocal fireworks; she took a more restrained approach to the anthem." It "won't go down as a game changer like Whitney Houston's classic version, but it was a tasteful, deliberate and strong rendition that worked to her strengths" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/4). In Milwaukee, Piet Levy writes Keys "avoided melodramatic embellishments, delivering a restrained but stirring version that brought multiple football players to tears" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/4).
A SOMBER MOMENT: In Charlotte, Joseph Person writes the NFL "doesn't always get it right," but having "students from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., sing 'America the Beautiful' with Jennifer Hudson was touching." Even "more so when CBS cameras showed" Ravens coach John Harbaugh "standing and watching with his daughter" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/4). ESPN.com's Greg Garber wrote Keys was "soulful and put her own unique stamp on the national anthem, but the Sandy Hook Elementary School chorus struck the perfect note" (ESPN.com, 2/3). The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Daly writes, "That sound you heard after was thousands of manly men sobbing into the bean dip." Daly: "What a nice, unexpected moment" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/4). In Hartford, Stagis & Marbella note some players on the field "appeared emotional as the smiling kids swayed in time behind Hudson and sang background vocals." U.S. Rep. (R-Conn.) Dan Carter said that he was "impressed by what the NFL has done to keep Newtown in the spotlight" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/4). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes the "kids were so much more than backup singers for Hudson -- they were the headliners." Lupica: "Less than two months after a madman shot up their school in Connecticut and killed so many of their friends, they weren't just making the country cheer; they were making the whole world cheer" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/4). In New Orleans, Ramon Antonio Vargas wrote the performance "moved many spectators." The reaction on social media "was equally complimentary" (NOLA.com, 2/3). The TIMES-PICAYUNE's Spera wrote "America the Beautiful" was as "affecting as the song can be" (NOLA.com, 2/3). SPORTS ON EARTH's Mike Tanier wrote "hearing and seeing the performance, even when we were emotionally steeled for it, induced something primal, a grief for the whole human condition" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/3).