As a British person who doesn’t watch any television other than RuPaul’s Drag Race and the occasional Netflix box set, I know next to nothing about the US national anthem. I do, however, know two things: A) that it is usually sang before any big televised sporting event over there and B) a lot of people take it very, very seriously. I hadn’t thought about either of these facts for quite some time. Until yesterday, that is, when someone Whatsapped me one word – “Fergie” – and within 30 seconds I had Googled her name and was watching the beloved Black Eyed Peas alumna wail her way through “Star Spangled Banner” with the same kind of slow, manic intensity that is usually reserved for when you realise you’re alone in the house and can scream the Titanic theme tune in your underwear in peace. In case you haven’t seen this iconic historical document, please, press play below.
For some reason, some people didn’t like it, and she has since issued an apology via TMZ. "I've always been honoured and proud to perform the national anthem,” she told them, “and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I'm a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn't strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best."
I don’t know why she’s apologising. She is a “risk taker artistically” and her performance reflects that: it was fucking LIT. It actually surpasses that time Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud scream-sang Mariah Carey’s “Hero” on Celebrity Big Brother while wearing a golden backwards cap, and nearly surpasses the time Fergie herself did all those one-handed front flips in leather trousers while also roaring, which, fair play. If she had done that on Drag Race, RuPaul would have squeezed out a tear from her immaculate face while Michelle Visage jabbed one acrylic nail at Fergie, tits trembling, and said “you earned this girl.” So, IDK, maybe it was just the wrong audience? Also, there have been way worse performances of the US national anthem. Like, way worse. It’s practically tradition now. Maybe they should apologise instead. To prove our point, us good people at Noisey decided to list them all for you:
Flea at an LA Lakers Game, 2014
I lowkey love “Can’t Stop” as much as the next person in their mid-twenties who used to watch MTV2 at their richer mates’ houses, but this clip of Flea playing “The Star Spangled Banner” on bass and only bass is a prime example of old white dudes getting away with doing the absolute least. Swear to God I saw someone’s dad do something similar at a car boot sale in Grimsby recently, but nobody took their hat off and he didn’t triumphantly punch the sky and “whoop” afterwards, he just sloped off.
Scott Stapp of Creed at the Nascar Ford 400 race, 2005
Imagine the funniest noise you have ever heard in your life. A really big fart during the pivotal scene in a play you once went to. The weird laugh of a lad at school who was then mercilessly ribbed about it for the entirety of his teen years. This. All of them 10 out of 10 sounds, and yet. None of them come close to the racket made by Creed’s own Scott Stapp as he opened his mouth to sing the national anthem of his people at the 2005 Nascar Ford 400, ambling up to the podium as if he were ordering a beer, a honking seagull in an ageing rock band. Fergie could never.
Roseanne Barr at a Major League Baseball game, 1990
To… be… fair, is there anything more punk rock (besides Avril Lavigne) than singing the US national anthem like a screaming armadillo under attack to a chorus of boos and just, like, not stopping? And, actually, getting louder and more deranged instead? No, probably not. So even though we have technically put Roseanne Barr’s 1990 rendition here among the very worst, it is also one of the best (as Roseanne knows), and it is only on this list because it is physically very painful to listen to.
Steven Tyler at the 2001 Indy 500
I mean yeah it’s Steven Tyler. It was never going to be… great. But honestly, here Steve gives us a masterclass in awfulness. It’s so balls-to-the wall terrible that the balls have actually bulldozed through the wall, all the way past bad and potentially almost back to good? Is that possible? I’d like to make the case that it is. Here’s what we’ve got: Steven Tyler playing his own intro on the mouth organ; Steven Tyler’s nan scarf wrapped around the microphone; the tiny scream that comes out of Steven Tyler after he hits the song’s highest note (1:50); Steven Tyler insisting on singing the American national anthem entirely unaccompanied, for his voice is the only instrument required; Steven Tyler’s ad libs at the end which sound less like singing and more like someone screaming “OH MY GOD BASTARD BASTARD FUCK BASTARD” after unwittingly standing on a plug. I told you, it’s a masterclass.
Victoria Zarlenga at Scotland v USA Football Friendly, 2012
I can’t find any information online that tells me WHO Victoria Zarlenga actually is. So I’m convinced this random person just walked onto the field, grabbed the mic and fucking went for it and everyone just assumed she was supposed to be there or else was too polite to stop her? Maybe she thought this would end up being Her Big Moment and… it did! Just not in the way she planned! Because she didn’t know any of the actual words!
Alexis Normand at the Memorial Cup, 2013
Have you ever been shagging someone and thought, ‘I’ve got to get this over and done with, really thought the kissing was good but now I would much rather be asleep,’ so sort of sped through your go-to moves? Alexis Normand walked out onto the ice before this 2013 Memorial Cup ice hockey game and did the musical equivalent of that. In her defence, she's French-Canadian so: A) doesn’t normally sing in this language and; B) probably never even knew the lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner" because those of us outside the US have our own songs to memorise. In defence of all that is good about live music, Alexis should've just kept fighting through. Instead she stopped, took a breath, exhaled into the mic and then shakily tried again. Singing in gibberish. All respect to her for finishing, though.
Keri Hilson at a Lakers v Hawks Basketball Game, 2010
A prerequisite for singing the US national anthem before a sporting event in front of a bunch of people is knowing the words. Keri Hilson here, singing before a 2010 basketball game, appears to have either sadly missed that memo, or had a very relatable memory block (think about how you felt when you forgot Pythagoras’ theorem in your GCSE Maths and multiply it by approx. 7000). Avoid if squeamish.
Christina Aguilera at Super Bowl XLV, 2011
You know what, when Christina fucks up the lyrics and sings about the “twilight’s last reaming” instead of the ramparts that were “so gallantly streaming” it’s almost a finesse. Like, she nearly gets away with it. This performance is actually a masterclass in getting on with things when you’ve forgotten the lyrics to a song older than American slavery itself but won’t let that hold you back. But the vocals are a mess. Every fibre of her vocal cords shrivel and shake in protest at that final “home… of the… braaaaaaaave” and it makes me just want to put a hand on her blazered arm and say, “babe, no – it’s fine, you really don’t have to do this much. We will still love you.”
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.