Entertainment

Why Reba McEntire’s Super Bowl national anthem made us miss Whitney Houston on the 12th anniversary of her death


There are so many times that I —  just like many others around the world  —  miss Whitney Houston.

Every time I hear someone on “American Idol” or “The Voice” attempt the impossible by singing one of her songs.

Every time I hear “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” in a bar or club and watch generations of women and men — both gay and straight — shimmy and sing at the top of their lungs.

And every Grammys since I was there in Los Angeles that weekend when she shockingly passed — at age 48 — the day before music’s biggest night on Feb. 11, 2012.

But perhaps I miss Houston the most every single time that someone steps up to the mic to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. Because no one has ever owned and transformed the national anthem the way that Whitney did when she sang it on Feb. 12, 1991.

On Sunday night — before the Kansas City Chiefs tackled the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas — it was Reba McEntire who had the daunting task of measuring up to the monumental memory of Houston on the 12th anniversary of her death.


Reba McEntire performs the national anthem during pre-game ceremonies at the start of Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Fransisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 11 February 2024. JOHN G MABANGLO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

And while the 68-year-old country superstar did an adequate job — it was more serviceable than special — there was nothing transcendent on a day when you hoped that there might be some heavenly inspiration from Houston herself.

Indeed, there have been others — from Luther Vandross (1997) and Mariah Carey (2002) to Beyoncé (2004) and Lady Gaga (2016) — who have done Houston prouder since 1991.

But today, of all days, we wanted more than Reba had to give.


Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida.
Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. Getty Images

At least she was better than Post Malone, whose “America the Beautiful” probably had Houston rolling over in her grave. Let’s just say, dude isn’t about to win any singing contests.

At least “Rise Up” chanteuse Andra Day — though possessing nowhere near the vaunted vocal powers of peak Houston (who does?) — channeled some of the gospel and jazz vibes of Houston’s national anthem for the ages when she sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

On this night — in remembrance of the Greatest Voice of All — that would have to be enough.



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