Sunday, February 6, 2011


Tonight, was Super Bowl XLV! Yea, yea, I confess, I really don't care much for football...I care about it as much as it cares about me. But I deinitely watched one of the singers I admire, Christina Aguilera, sing the National Anthem. So many things come to mind whenever the National Anthem is even mentioned. Firstly, it is a brilliantly written song! And if you pay close attention to it, it gives an intense visual of the sights of war: "...and the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air..." And if you really listen to how the melody rises perfectly with the right words, it should ALWAYS deliver chills to the listener. Our National Anthem, to me, is one of the greatest ones written; although I'm sure every person feels that way about their own national anthem - no matter what country they are from.

Another thing that comes to mind is how difficult it can be to memorize the American National Anthem. Have YOU ever personally tried to memorize it? Not the easiest song. One of the reasons most songs written actually rhyme is to make it easier for the listener to remember the words. Not true with the National Anthem. When I was attending Aquinas High School in the Bronx (Class of '85), my choir director and mentor, Mr. Roman, literally went insane when someone, anyone forgot the lyrics to the anthem. I mean his face would turn red, his blue eyes went black (at least that's what it looked like from my standpoint) and his voice went to such volume that one could hear him from the principal's office...and his classroom was in the basement! I remember him saying, "Dammit!!! You are an American...EVERY American should know the national anthem! What kind of American are you??? Jesus!!" Then with his veins popping through the side of his temple, he would sit down in defeat and throw anything within his reach onto the floor. And then...

I never forgot that for some reason. His words rang in my head for years. And thank God it did. Four years after graduating, 1989, there I was performing in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens for World's Fair. The Gipsy Kings were headlining, and I had the fortunate blessing of being introduced to them. I didn't understand one word they said...I can tell you it wasn't Spanish. It was a mix of Spanish, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Oh, sorry...back to the story. All of a sudden, Al Bandiero, one of the dj's for HOT 103, came screaming out, "Does anyone know the National Anthem? The person who was supposed to do it never showed up and the show can't start until the National Anthem is done." I was a little hesitant but I raised my hand. There I was onstage, music, no lyric sheet and Mr. Roman's face bursting in my head. "Oh, say can you see..."

Fast forward to 1993 or so. I found out that the NJ Nets were holding auditions for National Anthem singers. I wanted to be one of them so bad. I had already been singing professional for years, and Iknew all the words. I auditioned and it was harder than expected. As you sing, you hear the line you already sang come right back at you while you're still singing. It gets very confusing...and you basically hear your own echoes delayed for a second or two. It is not just confusing' it's annoying! I was finished. I felt pretty good about the whole thing. Then I got the letter: "Dear Ms. Torres, we regret to inform you that you have not been chosen for this season..." WHAT?!! Do they know who I am?? LOL...Yes, for a second I was full of myself. Sad, but true.

This is what was written about Christina Aguilera's performance tonight of the National Anthem at the opening of the Super Bowl (link: " Perhaps she was too concerned with breaking Patti LaBelle's record for turning single-syllable words into entire paragraphs during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," but noted ex-teen queen Christina Aguilera botched the national anthem something fierce before the Super Bowl. Aguilera started out all right, but she had a problem with the ramparts -- specifically, the "O'er the ramparts we watched" line, which she left out altogether.Aguilera tried to make up for it by combining two lines -- "What so proudly we watched," instead of "What so proudly we hailed", but let's just say that it was too late to reverse the error. Twitter blew up, and all Aguilera could do was to oversing every word from there on out, which she most certainly did."

My point?

Leave Christina alone!!! Oh, my goodness, have YOU ever tried singing it in front of over 100,000 people....acapella...I'm sorry but I have here what I call "singer's compassion." As a fellow singer, let me just tell is a FREAKING TERRIFYING experience to sing at a stadium. It's not the same as when you sing for a concert. Yu sing your own music, with your own tracks or band in the background and everyone in the audience PAID to see you because they are ALL fans!! Not so in this situation...All eyes are on you. She's singing acapella which means she has to stay on key no matter what she does. Not too many people are very good at doing that. Take another look at American Idol auditions and you will see that some pretty good singers lose out on their chance because they're "all over the place" with the key of the song. Then she's got to worry about all that echo coming back, which can throw off almost anyone. Who knows what was happening in her head. Yes, she's a pro. Yes, she's a seasoned performer. Yes, she's great and level of expectation from us is far greater!! But that's my point, we ALWAYS expect greatness from her...and God forbid she doesn't deliver EVERY...SINGLE...TIME! And sure, one could argue that it might be nice to hear her sing the melody without all the runs and rifts and screams, etc...but that's her style and you know it. Why would she sing any differently. Actually I was impressed that she did all those runs and didn't forget what key she was in to begin with. LOL.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just a nice person. Perhaps it's that I realize that there has been a rare occasion when I forgot the my OWN songs...or times when I cracked in the middle of a high note. I say, "Good job Christina!!! You were great~! And when you messed up the words, like a REAL PRO, you kept didn't make it obvious that you flubbed. In fact, I'd bet anything that if there weren't a whole bunch of articles and tweets about it, 1/2 the audience wouldn't have even noticed it. By the way, Ms. Aguilera, you were FANTASTIC in Burlesque!" ...Applause, applause!!


  1. I TOTALLY AGREE!!! It must nerve wracking standing up there with all eyes on you plus every single camera from every single network and cable channel. She's a fantastic singer, but lets face it, no one can be perfect ALL the time. Unfortunately, she wound up messing up at the Super Bowl. For me, its not a problem, I don't follow football anyway, and well... at least she didn't have a wardrobe malfunction!! lol
    The girl can blow. Keep ur head up high Christina... we still love you.
    Thanks for your take Judy. You're always on top of things!!! <3

  2. Hi Judy: Thank for sticking up for Christina. I love her voice and agree that singing in a stadium is very intimedating. I'm somewhat disappointed that she messed up on the words and afraid that the media is going to have a field day with that. But people don't want the National Anthem to be song incorrectly. That's a very hard song to sing and not easy when dealing with the echo. Singers make mistakes too. Let hope they won't be so hard on her.
    Thanks again for posting your comment.
    Love Ya,

  3. Hi Judy,

    Thanks for an encouraging take on Christina Aguilera's performance. Despite her mishap on the lyrics, her heart was in it, she was herself, and persevered as the professional singer she is. I agree with you, and enjoy reading your blog, and the time you invested in such postings.

    As a performer myself, I haven't sang in a stadium before, but performed in Carnegie Hall, aboard cruises, and at NYC clubs. I can visualize the echo scenario that those who are invited to sing in a stadium can face. Even though it's our National Anthem, one can only be too perfect. More audience members should put themselves in the shoes of performers. Sometimes we're so focused on making a grand impression and getting it 110% correct, that the obvious becomes not as obvious. In school, another patriotic number which some students would goof on is The Pledge of Allegiance. Rather than stating "For which it stands," some said "For Richard stands."

    - Michael Perlman