Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Anthem Antics

During a drive to work one morning late last week, one of the local radio shows played an audio clip of a guy singing the national anthem at a recent sporting event.  He was actually a very good singer, and he'd almost made his way through the song when the big freeze hit.

Mid-sentence, the singer stopped. It first sounded like a dramatic pause, but it quickly evolved into dead silence, then gave way to a lengthy, painfully awkward stretch with hushed whispers from the crowd. The announcer finally ended the pain and came on the P.A. system and fed the singer the next few words so he could he pick up where he left off and finish the song.

The audio clip was hilarious; I had no doubt the video clip would be even better, watching the singer's deer-in-the-headlights reaction as his mind went blank.  I scoured the internet, but not only was I unable to find a video clip, I couldn't even find a single article that mentioned the blunder.

It didn't help that my Google searches turned up all kinds of celebrity "Star Spangled Banner" screw-ups from years past.  I never realized how many famous people have forgotten or misquoted the lyrics or done something else to bring shame and dishonor to America--Wikipedia has an entire section dedicated to the subject.

Perhaps most famously, Christina Aguilera blew a few lines and entirely omitted some others when she attempted to sing the national anthem before the the Super Bowl in 2011.  Earlier this month, washed up singer Brian McNight performed "The Star Spangled Banner" with his sons before a NASCAR race in Phoenix, and one of his sons managed to ruffle a few feathers by forgetting to remove his hat.

But it's professional football that really seems to bring out the worst in singers.  Late in 2010, at another NFL game, the country group Zac Brown Band botched the second line of the song, got booed, and had to take it from the top.  And a few months ago, at the Thanksgiving 2011 Packers/Lions game, the latest American Idol runner-up blanked mid-song, but was able to recover when the crowd helped her out and continued singing--apparently it was a much more forgiving group than the silent audience in that clip I heard on the radio.

Aerosmith's Steven Tyler has a long list of national anthem blunders on his resume, spanning multiple decades.  More than ten years ago, he kicked off the Indy 500 and offended some fans by ad-libbing a few of his own lines. Then, earlier this year, he fell victim to the NFL curse and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" so poorly at a Patriots/Ravens game that critics debated whether it was the worst rendition of all time.  One critic suggested that the song must have been written by Francis Scott Off-Key.  At least Tyler got most of the lyrics right...but it's pretty ironic for a guy who gets paid gobs of money to judge other people's singing abilities on American Idol.

Despite my finest detective work, I couldn't find that spectacular clip I'd heard on the radio--I can only assume it's lost in the chaos of celebrity screw-ups.  But I didn't have to feel sorry for myself.  As I listened to the same radio show on the drive to work yesterday morning, an even more hilarious national anthem story hit the airwaves, courtesy of my favorite sporting event, the Arab Shooting Championship.

A Kazakhstani shooter named Maria Dmitrienko took the gold medal in one of the target events.  The tournament organizers apparently hadn't anticipated any champions from Kazakhstan, because they were a bit unprepared for the medal ceremonies.  When Dmitrienko took the podium, Kazakhstan's national anthem blared over the loudspeakers...but there was one minor problem: officials played the parody version of Kazakhstan's national anthem from the movie Borat, performed by comedian/actor Sacha Baron Cohen.  Looks like their last minute scramble to track down Kazakhstan's anthem on Google failed to turn up the real song, "My Kazakhstan."

The Borat version includes some absolutely hilarious lyrics.  The song claims that "all other countries are run by little girls," it references Kazakhstan's impressive pool filtration systems which "remove 80 percent of human solid waste," and it credits the Kazakhstani people with the invention of toffee and trouser belts (if you're not easily offended, check out the full lyrics here).  Best of all, Borat was banned in Kazakhstan because of its offensive content.

The gold medalist handled the potentially embarrassing situation like a champ, ignoring the mishap as the Sacha Baron Cohen recording played during the ceremony.  She even stuck around afterward to pose for photos.  But Dmitrienko's teammates and coaches were less than thrilled--they demanded an apology and a do-over of the medal ceremony with "My Kazakhstan" playing on the speakers.

It's been a rough week for Kazakhstan.  At the opening ceremonies of a skiing competition a few days before the Borat debacle, officials accidentally played Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" instead of the national anthem. But I'm a firm believer that when one door closes, another opens.  I couldn't find the national anthem clip I was looking for; the very next day something similar, and at least twice as funny, fell right into my lap. If this trend holds true for Kazakhstan, they can expect great things in the coming weeks.

Here's an article with more of the hilarious details:


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