In case you weren’t one of the hundreds of millions watching, you must have heard by now that Christina Aguilera muffed the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl® last night. As someone who likes to think he is capable of singing a little bit–or is at least married to a voice teacher–listening to the performance of the national anthem at a sporting event is almost like watching figure skating: I wince all the way through, just knowing that something will go wrong.
Let’s be honest: "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a tough song to sing. The vocal range required to do the song justice is quite wide, and it’s usually performed a capella, which is an unforgiving style–no instruments to cover up a mistake.
I also wince partly because of the religious overtones of the song. Performed at a sporting event–It is part of the liturgy of hero-worship, the imperial American cult of individualism. Maybe we could call it a "creation-myth song": a poem of origins that gives a people collective identity.
Or, since F.S. Key’s poem was written during the War of 1812, perhaps it would be more appropriately called a "flood-myth song," a myth of new creation, a rematch of the ethnogonic struggle.