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Fergie's anthem was awful, but she owes no one an apology

"I love this country and honestly, I tried my best."

Don’t get excited – no one is resigning from office, having acknowledged that they really weren't the right person for the gig. That's just Fergie, apologizing to the nation via an interview with TMZ for her surreal and supremely awful interpretation of the national anthem during last weekend's NBA All-Star Game.

The Black Eyed Peas singer attempted to do something she described in her apology as artistic "risk-taking," and ended up instead offering fodder for the uber-patriotic set who seem to believe that pop stars interpreting "The Star-Spangled Banner" is part of some plot by Hollywood elites to turn the  country into one big unisex bathroom.

Social media had a field day with Fergie's flop. The memes arrived in a flood, and they split the difference between hilarious and just plain cruel. The Fergie-fied anthem  – picture the breathiness of the infamous Marilyn Monroe version of "Happy Birthday" as delivered to JFK, twisted into lounge-jazz with an out-of-tune lead vocal – was apparently excruciating for the players. They had to keep a straight face as they stood on the court listening, a demand many of them – Draymond Green, most notably – were just not equal to.

Yes, Fergie's take on the anthem was torturous. However, the idea that a singer needs to apologize for singing poorly strikes me as absurd. It speaks to the notion that every person sitting in front of their television set believes they are owed something - for free. Fergie owes you absolutely nothing. She did nothing to interfere with your personal freedom, which in this instance would have merely involved turning the channel or – here's a radical thought – turning off the television and turning on some good music.

Fergie is far from the first to butcher our country's theme song. Christina Aguilera attempted to turn the tune into a display of micro-tonal coloratura during the 2011 Super Bowl, and succeeded only in pointing out how ridiculous "lead vocalizing" has become in the post "American Idol," "cram-every-note-you-can-into-a-run-and-call-it-soul" culture. Scott Stapp of Creed alt-grunted his way through the piece during a 2005 NASCAR happening, which at the time, struck me as appropriate for the event, but was no less horrible for that fact. Roseanne Barr basically yelled the anthem at the crowd during a 1990 San Diego Padres game, and then put a nice bow on the package by spitting on the pitcher's mound and grabbing her crotch. (I thought it was funny. I was not in the majority.)

All of this underscores an idea I've had for years, but with the exception of Super Bowl house parties where the beer loosens my tongue and convinces me it would be a good idea to tell my guests what I'm thinking, have kept to myself. Why do we have to have the national anthem performed at every sporting event? Are we afraid we'll forget which country we're in if no one sings it? Is a sporting event really a happening of national import?  I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that no, it isn’t. It's a game that usually involves some variation of adults throwing a ball. It's not a meeting about foreign policy.

I move to make "Get Together" by the Youngbloods the official sports event anthem. Imagine everyone removing their hats and joining in the chorus: "C'mon people, now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now." Isn’t that the tone you want to set when you're surrounded by a huge mass of pumped-up people, many of whom are, let's face it, probably drunk? Just don't let Fergie, Xtina or Roseanne near it, and we'll be fine.

The other option: Simply replay Marvin Gaye's national anthem as performed during the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, a version that was celebrating its 35th anniversary at virtually the very moment Fergie's performance went south.

Gaye's take on the song will never be topped. Ever. People should simply stop trying.

 

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