Guest Blog, Olga Watkins – National Anthem Jagoffs

Our Saturday Feature of Quotes On The Bus will return next Saturday, but if you need a bus quote fix, click here!

In the meanatime here’s our Guest Blogger, Olga Watkins

(Famous for being the leader of The Olga Watkins Band and for being on our SONGS PAGE with “Drink Up Yinz Bitches”)

Thanksgiving Day 2011, just last week, American Idol runner-up, Lauren Alaina, forgot the lyrics while singing our National Anthem before the start of the Packers-Lions game in Detroit. Here’s a link in case you missed it. Lauren Alaina Screws up the Anthem Even if you set aside her lyrical mistake, par for the course and in true jagoff fashion, her overall performance was amateurish and disrespectful.

The most recent Superbowl gave us the Christina Aguilera debacle. Not only did Ms. Aguilera make a mockery of the anthem with her way-way-way-over-the-top delivery, she also botched the lyrics only two lines into the song. If you need to revisit the moment, here’s the link.  Christina Aguilera Botches Anthem There have been other minor mistakes made through the years by the performers of the pre-Supebowl anthem but none quite as ludicrous as the last. At least Whitney Houston, or perhaps her handlers, for what was one of the most beautiful renditions of the National Anthem, had the good sense to have a pre-recorded track at the ready for Superbowl XXV and not risk a melt down in her already cocaine addled brain, in front of the entire country. Who can forget the affront to the anthem by legendary jagoff Rosanne Barr? Other notable jagoffesque performances have been given by Macy Gray, Anita Baker, Carl Lewis, Anastacia, Robert Goulet (who is actually Canadian, so he sort of gets a pass) and Steven Tyler, who, in an unparalleled act of jagoffery, thought it would be cool to change the lyrics for his performance at the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

I’ve sung the National Anthem at least a hundred times in my life for events ranging from a youth basketball tournament to a Penguins game. Therefore, I believe myself qualified to make the type of bitchy, hypercritical observations that could only be made by another singer. But I don’t want to misrepresent myself to you. I’m a trained opera singer who now sings original blues and funk and “Yinz Bitches” so I’m all about doing things my own way. However, I recognize that there are moments and responsibilities bigger than my ego. And sometimes the original, “old school” approach to things is simply the best. So I’d like to take this opportunity to communicate with all the singers and wannabe singers, superstars and amateurs alike out there who are planning to publicly sing The Star Spangled Banner.

Let’s review Olga’s Rules for Singing the National Anthem.

1. Being asked to sing our National Anthem for any event is an honor. Treat the opportunity with the reverence it deserves. The song is based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key after he witnessed the bombardment of Ft. McHenry by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. The basic gist of the poem is that the sight our nation’s flag gave him hope that we would be victorious and the strength he needed to make it through the night, despite all of the horrible things that were happening around him. That’s a pretty hefty ideal. So, here’s a crazy thought. Try reading the poem itself, entitled “The Defence of Fort McHenry”.  Understanding what it is you’re singing about in the first damn place could go a long way towards an appropriate presentation.

2. Think of your first choir instructor. Remember all that stuff your choir director and music teachers rambled on about that you didn’t try to absorb? “Blah, blah, blah, breath support. Blah, blah, blah, phrasing.” If you’re going to pretend to be a big time singer, please attempt to at least learn the basics. When you look at the sheet music (I realize that I’m assuming you can read music) you will see how the lyrics are written with things like commas and periods. Those are general indicators of where in the song it is acceptable to take a breath.  Setting aside most of the aforementioned examples, you’re actually not supposed to take a big breath after the first three words of the song. You are
supposed to learn those pesky little details in choir or from a voice teacher. Christina Aguilera knew that. She should have known that. She’s taken lots of voice lessons. She’s just so far removed from reality apparently that she no longer believes those fundamental rules apply to her. But guess what?  They do. Just as they apply to the rest of us. If you’re not familiar with these concepts, take some voice lessons and learn how to sing the song properly- BEFORE your big day. OR you can go ahead and do it your way, disgrace your country  and make a giant ass of yourself.  Maya Rudolph Anthem Singer Spoof

3. My last and perhaps most important rule for anthem singing is this. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! Hard to believe, I know. But these are the hard and constant facts. Nobody gives a crap about what vocal gymnastics you can do. This is not an audition.  In most cases, nobody even gives a crap about who you are because they paid big money to watch the Pens or the Steelers or whomever. Their ticket purchase was not contingent upon the venue’s choice of anthem singers. You are there to provide a service for about two minutes of your life. In those two minutes, you as the singer are asking all who are listening to stop and think about the significance of the flag of the United States of America.  You’re asking the rest of us to take a two minute break from the pursuit of the trivial and think about all of the American men and women who have lost their lives and continue to lose their lives in the course of fighting to preserve the rights and freedoms that our flag represents. That’s your only job at that moment. And it is your patriotic duty to do it properly and with dignity and respect. Period.

To all singers, young and old, beginner or professional, PLEASE remember the rules as well as this little tidbit. At no time should your piss poor performance of the national anthem overshadow the message that the original poem was meant to convey.

Do it right or don’t do it at all, Ya Jagoffs!!

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