By now you’ve probably heard that Christina Aguilera botched the National Anthem lyrics at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, and she has been berated in the media. I can’t defend her gaffe. She’s a professional performer, and she was performing in front of the largest television audience in history. There are also those who aren’t fond of vocalists who take the interpretation of the song too far from the mainstream. That’s more a matter of taste, but I understand their point with regard to respecting our nation’s anthem.
But here’s another angle to consider.
The one thing that irks me more than anything else when we reach this now iconic annual performance at the Super Bowl is when the performers lip synch a pre-recorded version of the song. And it was clear from the phrasing and tempo that she was going at this live. This is a live event, and the song should be sung live in the spirit of the event. Otherwise, you might as well just play a recording without anyone there.
Thanks to Aguilera for giving it a go.
I remember watching an interview with Paul Simon regarding the inversely proportional nature between the complexity of some of his songs and their commercial success. He stated that he has written songs that he felt were masterpieces that went virtually unnoticed by the listening public. Others (he referenced “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” that he felt were very simplistic shot to the top of the charts.
It’s a simple fact that sometimes simplicity can connect with a broader audience. I’ve also heard Herbie Hancock, when asked about genres that might not receive the critical acclaim that jazz generally does explain it this way (paraphrasing) – “In the world of cuisine, hamburger is just as significant as Duck a l’Orange.”
And Americans eat a lot more hamburgers.
And therein lies the artist’s dilemma – as you hone your skills you might begin to appeal to an increasingly narrow audience. On occasion the planets align and a Stevie Wonder, an Alicia Keys, a Christina Aguilera or a Steely Dan find commercial success despite their talent, but any artist understands Simon’s perspective on this topic.
And that concept certainly isn’t limited to the music world. Visual artists – Can I have an Amen for the Mona Lisa…or for Dogs Playing Poker?