Last night I heard one of the most beautiful versions of the Star Spangled Banner (audio below). It was sung by Lady Antebellum at game 2 of the World Series. It was the best (and only good) part of the night…since the Rangers were shut-out.
I’m not a big fan of versions of the Star Spangled Banner that totally destroy the melody for the sake of the artists ego or “creativity”. I can appreciate aspects of such creative indulgences, to be sure. But they can’t touch artists who can bring to life the actual version of the song by simply uncovering and re-presenting the beauty it already holds within it – all while still being original.
It’s the difference between an artist who says “look at me and what I can do with this song” and one who says “look how beautiful this song is that I didn’t write and which is about something much bigger than myself.” I prefer the latter. No offense, Jimmy Hendrix.
Here’s the version they did last night (although this is a prior performance of it at the Sugar Bowl this year):
They didn’t add any extra vocal runs. They didn’t change the melody. They had a neat lead switch from male to female vocal. And they just sung it beautifully with a couple of well placed harmonies that enhanced what was already there in the song. That’s the key with a song that already works perfectly.
It’s kind of like the human person (even more so). You are most beautiful just as you were meant to function – as much as we struggle to do that sometimes. We don’t need to “hack life” in the sense that we try to figure out ways to short-cut or undermine the natural design. Whether it’s quick-weight loss diets, contraception, superficial relationships, sex outside of a permanent and life-long relationship, unhealthy pursuits of pleasure, searching for love in all the wrong places or whatever, they all attempt to short circuit the way a human person is supposed to function spiritually, physically, emotionally and intellectually.
Instead, we should be working to enhance a natural process that, at least in its design, already works perfectly. It’s a really beautiful thing when we can sing life like we didn’t write it and with a realization that we are about something much bigger than ourselves.