Super Bowl Opening Acts: Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson Did Their Thing Last Night

Last night’s Super Bowl offered a few noteworthy musical moments before Beyonce took the stage, as Alicia Keys performed the National Anthem and Jennifer Hudson joined with the Sandy Hook students for “America the Beautiful.”

Alicia Keys kicked off the event with the National Anthem, patriotically dressed in a red gown and seated at a white piano.

Keys’ anthem began soft and understated, as she took her time to hold and savor some of the early notes. At the beginning, her delivery had a relaxed, jazzy feel. However, Keys belted out  “the rocket’s red glare,” in a manner that seemed forced and unnatural given the earlier delivery. From that point on, her rendition became a little screechy and covered in runs, completely abandoning the understated beginning.

Singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl is no joke. Any singer who attempts it follows in the heels of Jennifer Hudson (2009), Beyonce (2004), and Mariah Carey (2002). All linger in the shadow of Whitney Houston’s triumphant 1991 rendition, which even charted, it became so popular. While Keys’ version wasn’t bad, it just didn’t quite live up to the legendary caliber of other famous renditions.

However, Keys’ anthem will be remembered for its duration – experts have now clocked it as one of the longest renditions in history.

Next up was Jennifer Hudson, delivering a powerful version of “America the Beautiful,” flanked by Sandy Hook students. Members of the school’s chorus were invited to perform after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., last fall. The addition of the Sandy Hook students gave the performance a meaningful touch, especially since Hudson was the victim of a similar tragedy in 2008, when her mother, brother, and nephew were gunned down.

Hudson’s “America the Beautiful” was strong, using her signature throaty gospel vocals and an appropriate number of runs. Hudson’s rendition didn’t quite have the nuance that Kelly Clarkson’s version did at President Obama’s inauguration, but made up for it with power and gusto.  A subtle reminder, given the Beyonce halftime show buzz, that Hudson was Effie – not Beyonce – in their 2006 remake of Dreamgirls.

Read more: PopularCritic

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