Re: Whitney Houston Who?
OH, SAY, CAN SHE SING
By BILLY HELLER
January 31, 2004 -- Most eyes may be on the Patriots and Panthers leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, Beyoncé is facing as much pressure as any player: She's singing the national anthem before the game. No, she doesn't have to weigh punting or going for the first down with the championship on the line, but she has until just before kickoff to decide whether to sing live or lip-sync.
Because a performer went blank - pregame show executive producer Bob Best won't name names - during the commercial break right before the anthem, "We make a 'protection copy,' " explains Best.
So Beyoncé cut a recording a couple of weeks back at the 20th Century Fox scoring stage in Los Angeles with a 65-piece orchestra.
"We always check with the artist the day of the performance, and basically say, 'What are you comfortable with?' " says Best.
"Some artists feel that they may have achieved - in their mind - perfection on the performance copy and perhaps they would not be able to reach that level in the rather stressful, rather rushed, busy environment they find themselves in."
So what advice do past performers have for Beyoncé?
Kathie Lee Gifford, who sang the anthem nine years ago at Super Bowl XXIX, offers Beyoncé the same words of wisdom she says she got from Barry Manilow (Super Bowl XVII):
"No matter what, do not look up at the scoreboard telling you how many billions of people are watching the broadcast."
Cheryl Ladd (Super Bowl XIV) says Beyoncé doesn't need singing advice from her, but concedes "the song is a challenge because of its huge range."
Beyoncé should just, she says, "enjoy every second of the experience and let 'er rip."
Of course, just like the game itself, things don't always go smoothly in the "Star-Spangled Banner" department.
Garth Brooks left the stadium just 45 minutes before he was scheduled to sing at Super Bowl XXVII, at Pasadena's Rose Bowl, in a dispute over his music video, which he wanted NBC to play in the pregame show.
That left NFL execs scrambling like a desperate quarterback - until one spotted Jon Bon Jovi in the stands and was ready to draft him into anthem duty, when Brooks was coaxed back.
Another year, Julio Iglesias was going to sing the anthem, "but bowed out," says Best.
"He made an attempt to do it in advance and he was concerned that his English pronunciation was not sufficient to be able to do it justice." That was the year Manilow stepped up to the mike.
The humid conditions in Tampa in 1991 contributed to Whitney Houston's decision to go with the recording, and it's that performance that remains "the benchmark," notes producer Rickey Minor, who's working with Beyoncé.
"Singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl was one of the highlights of my career," says Houston.
"Beyoncé told me she remembers listening to Whitney's version over and over and over again," says Minor, "and I believe that there will be definitely some similarities based on where we are as a country, being at war. And like Whitney, Beyoncé has an incredible voice."
When Beyoncé was rehearsing with Minor, she told him when she got to "the land of the free and the home of the brave" she wanted "all of the families who have lost loved ones [in the war] to feel that she feels passion and appreciation of their sacrifice."
The first time Beyoncé sang the anthem in the studio, it was almost 31/2 minutes long.
"Generally they [the NFL] like it in the 2-, 21/2-minute range," says Minor, "and it was too slow for my taste too. I was falling asleep," he laughs.
But the recording session wasn't all serious all the time.
"At one point," says Minor, "instead of singing 'whose broad stripes and bright stars,' she sang 'whose broad stripes and broad stars,' so I told her there was one too many broads in the room.'"
Vanessa Williams (Super Bowl XXX) says Beyoncé has nothing to worry about.
"I know she's from Houston," says Williams, "so she'll have the whole hometown girl factor, which will give her a lot of support."
Among her supporters is Rudy Rasmus, the pastor of Beyoncé's hometown church, where she sang in the choir at age 12.
"I was proud to hear that she was selected," says Rasmus. But, he adds, "I actually would have preferred to have seen her perform during halftime."
What's in a name? It might mean a win.
Financial analysts have noted that which conference wins the Super Bowl affects the stock market.
And a close study of the last 10 national anthem singers reveals that every time a single-named singer has performed (Cher, Jewel), an AFC team has won.
So The Post predicts that Beyoncé will sing the AFC's New England Patriots to victory.
2003//Dixie Chicks//Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC)
2002//Mariah Carey//New England Patriots (AFC)
2001//Backstreet Boys//Baltimore Ravens (AFC)
2000//Faith Hill//St. Louis Rams (AFC)
1999//Cher//Denver Broncos (AFC)
1998//Jewel//Denver Broncos (AFC)
1997//Luther Vandross//Green Bay Packers (NFC)
1996//Vanessa Williams//Dallas Cowboys (NFC)
1995//Kathie Lee Gifford//San Francisco 49ers (NFC)
1994//Natalie Cole//Dallas Cowboys (NFC)