Last night’s pre-All-Star Game national anthem was bad.
Like, historically bad. Fergie, member of the ubiquitous dance/pop/hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, absolutely butchered the song — resulting in some pretty hilarious reactions from people who have probably heard the American national anthem thousands of times.
Taking the anthem and putting one’s own spin on it has been an artistic license that American artists have often taken — many to great heights — but Fergie took that license and tried to burn it, rip it in two, and, when neither worked, finally resorted to throwing it in the lake.
Marvin Gaye performed the the anthem in the same city for the All-Star Game 36 years prior, and even took many of the same artistic liberties that Fergie did: slowing down the tempo, using unconventional line phrasing, and just generally belting the s**t out of it.
But the main difference between Fergie’s performance and Gaye’s is that Marvin did it so…effortlessly. It was his thing. As one YouTube commenter put it, “Man can you believe they held the allstar game at a Marvin Gaye concert?!?! The 80’s must have been amazing.” Indeed.
If you take one lesson away from this article, I hope it’s that that you shouldn’t try to be Marvin Gaye. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that.
Jimi Hendrix took it and added distortion, nearly doubling the song’s typical length (from two to about four minutes), and, in turn, made it a sort of protest song. The U.S. was embroiled in a number of different conflicts, domestic and foreign, and his performance was at once an endorsement of the American ideal of freedom and sovereignty and an objection to violence, discrimination, and other social ills. It was brilliant and it’s still iconic and embraced by almost everybody.
There have been many rousing performances of the anthem where the artist successfully took it and made it their own…which makes what Fergie did to the national anthem that much worse.
Look, I’m not here to harp on Fergie. Ideally, I’ll never write another word about her after this article. In fact, I would have placed good money that it wouldn’t have ever happened in the first place. It’s not that I don’t like her or anything. She’s Fergie, and mostly irrelevant to most people’s day-to-day life.
But it was…Just. So. Bad.
It’s really indescribable how badly she butchered it. In the midst of what is already an overwrought and self-congratulatory introduction to the the All-Star game itself, the anthem was just a rotten cherry on top.
Watching it, I had an eerie, uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu, which author Molly Knight absolutely confirmed later:
I’ve seen the national anthem performed hundreds of times but never in the key of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” congrats @Fergie 🇺🇸💥🇺🇸💥
— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) February 19, 2018
It was so bad that the audience started clapping about 90% of the way through, purely because of the fact that it was almost over. Naturally, Fergie took at as encouragement to add a little extra flair to the end of her performance.
Again: my life goal isn’t to criticize Fergie, or the national anthem, or musicians who interpret the song in a unique way as is their artistic right. Just the opposite.
But last night’s performance was just so egregious that it stewed in my mind throughout the night and now through part of the day. The All-Star Game is a huge occasion, so it’s possible that she may have just been drunk on the moment. We’ve all been there before.
Trying to turn the national anthem into a sensual moment was just a strange, tone-deaf move, and I’m still mystified by why she thought it was a good idea.