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National Freakout over David Cook’s National Anthem

June 11, 2008

So David Cook sang the national anthem for last night’s game 3 of the NBA Finals (Go Celtics!). People all over the internet are FREAKING OUT. They worry about the “blank look” in his eyes, to the fact he wasn’t vocally perfect, to the possibility that even just a few weeks into his post-AI career, his voice is BURNING OUT.

Yeah, he wasn’t vocally perfect but whatever. Are you perfect at what you do every day of your life? Do you always give 100% in every endeavor? Since winning the competition in May, this guy has been on every talk show across the country, has sat down with a multitude of newspapers and magazines. Oh, and rehearsals for that little AI Tour that’s starting in July began in LA on Monday. Cookie is tired. Hell, I would be tired. You would be tired. People get TIRED.

And then to those assuming the “blank look” was drug-induced. What? You think he was smoking some of Stoner J’s hemp jewelry because he’s been feeling stressed? When I watched the clip, I thought he looked nervous. And who wouldn’t be nervous. Somehow it seems like singing a much-anticipated national anthem at a major sports final might be a little nerve wracking. People always want to hear the greatest national anthem EVER.

And that, my friend, is the problem.

There are some singers who pretty much spend their careers singing national anthems at sporting events, several of which who have obviously auditioned for or made it to the Idol stage (Season 5 semi-finalist Ayla Brown comes to mind). Somehow I don’t think David Cook was spending his pre-Idol career toiling away at the national anthem on countless minor league ball fields in the Midwest. While the national anthem is obviously a song everyone knows, I think people waste a ridiculous amount of time worrying if a singer they really really really like can do it in some ridiculously amazing fashion.

Yawn. It’s a song. Besides opera singer Kate Smith (I think this is the one I am thinking of…), how many stirring renditions of the national anthem can you think of? The only one I clearly remember was Whitney Houston’s now-iconic version before the Super Bowl back in the early 90s, during the First Gulf War. But people were feeling undoubtedly patriotic, putting signs up in their windows. People were almost giddy with excitement that we were engaged in a “good & noble” war, or the fact that there was a war. War = Excitement! I remember thinking this when I was in 8th grade, that it seemed people were actually PUMPED that this country was going to WAR. So when Whitney Houston sang the national anthem that year, it was huge. It played on radio stations all across the country and was released as a single. I must also note this was before she retreated to a crack den with Bobby Brown (HELL-TO-THE-HELL-TO-THE-NOOOO) and still boasted some pretty big pipes. (Mariah Carey was just a mere blip on the radar at that time.) Oh yeah, and the country was super-jacked about GOING TO WAR and she sang the national anthem at the BIGGEST SPORTING EVENT OF THE YEAR. So I think that, despite Ms. Houston’s impressive vocals, it was more cultural zeigeist than anything else.

Which is probably why I will also consider the U2 halftime show during the 2002 Super Bowl as the best halftime show EVER. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was less about bombast and more about creating a moving tribute to those who lost their lives. Bono singing Beautiful Day in front of a screen listing the names of all those who had died? Yeah, that shit stirred up some real emotion.

My point is, people were expecting great things out of David Cook’s rendition of the national anthem. So he had kind of an off-night and was nervous as all hell, at least from my perspective. Big deal. When Hendrix performed HIS incredible version at Woodstock, the country was a hotbed of unrest and things were just going to get hotter. The Star Spangled Banner only becomes iconic when performed during something BIG, (Even though no one ever played a guitar like Hendrix, which should also be noted in regards to his rendition). Iraq has been going on to long and the only thing people care about now is the economy and who becomes the next President. And since neither party convention has happened yet, even though the nominees are secure, we are still living in a world of patriotic ennui. David Cook was just singing it for the NBA Finals, just as other former Idols have done in years past. Why? Because its the only championship final which coincides nicely with the end of the show.

But people who were expecting brilliance, all you have to do is look at the facts. When performing the national anthem, its always been more about patriotic fervor than mere vocal prowess. If David Cook had given that exact performance in the aftermath of a terrorist attack or at the beginning of a new and justifiable war, it would already be seeing massive radio airplay and likely be the top download on iTunes.

And it would be heralded as one of the most stirring renditions ever.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Cai permalink
    June 17, 2008 12:43 am

    Tend to agree with Pete. The performance was devoid of interpretation and thus markedly different from what viewers were used to with his “numbers.” After catching some of his own spin on the thing, it seems clear that the self-effacing persona he favors just couldn’t admit that his rendition was kinda mortifying especially in light of the tremendous media party surrounding his upset win over the other David. Cook’s own dance around the quality of this performance is not really surprising for those who caught AI this season. We watched Cook take credit (albeit silently) for Cornell’s BJ version while the judges clearly thought the version was Cook’s. If Cook had been gallant (as he likes to portray himself), he would have set the judges straight right away. Anyway, thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Pete permalink
    June 13, 2008 6:47 am

    Wow, I caught that performance and thought he sounded pretty bad. After listening to it again it was really bad, which is probably the reason someone yelled out that he sucked during the performance. If anyone didn’t hear him sing then they would certainly know how bad he was by reading this blog entry. After all, you went to great lengths to dissect the topic and draw attention to it just so you could come up with elaborate excuses for him. If you were trying to make it seem like the whole thing was was no big deal then you should have probably just said, “Yeah, Cook didn’t do so hot, oh well” and been done with it. Instead you made a really big deal out of it and it still doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, he was just lousy. Really nice try though. His cocktard fans are the only ones who can’t face the fact that he sucked, everyone else heard him just fine and knows that it was bad.

  3. Sam permalink
    June 12, 2008 12:20 pm

    Yeah, I am sure David is completely burned out for sure.
    People come to too many conclusions, and it spreads fast, usually it’s wrong as well.
    I have been lucky enough to go to a good amount of games lately in Boston. And seeing you mentioned her…
    I witnessed Ayla Brown singing at the last 2 game sevens for the Celtics, It seems she is now their good luck charm for game 7.
    I have heard a great many people sing the Anthem, and no-one, I mean NO-ONE has come close to Ayla’s version.
    That girl can sing, and she really gets the crowd going. People think that it’s a simple song to sing, pretty much 99% of all singers will completely disagree with that, it’s very difficult, especially when you factor in nerves, the height of the event, and what the people expect, singing a capela with no musical key to lock on to, and the most difficult thing, the time delay.
    There is a 2-3 second delay time for these singers in these arenas, unless you have a very good audio earpiece, in which I noticed Ayla did not have, the artist is hearing their vocals after they sing the words.

    Right now in my mind there is nobody that tops Ayla’s performance of the Anthem, even in the professional realm.

    From what I’ve heard the Celtics want her back for a possible game 7…if it happens.

    my last 2 cents…..Go Celtics!

  4. Roxanne permalink
    June 12, 2008 11:49 am

    I should say, “lowest” notes… not a 100% today!

  5. Roxanne permalink
    June 12, 2008 11:48 am

    Right on!! I can’t believe people sometimes. He was focused, tired, afraid of forgetting the words in the presence of Jack Nicholson!!! Poor thing, I would have freaked myself. He was a little pitchy on the losest notes but he nailed the song. I felt for him, but you know, HE ROCKS. And you’re right no one is perfect 100%. The guy is beat!
    Thanks for this article, you rock, too!

  6. Linda permalink
    June 12, 2008 9:33 am

    Wow, you said that really well! Unfortunately, using the term that the poster “HaHa” used, I guess I am a Cooktard. I assume referring to one of the obsessed Cook fans from his many fan websites. I think they all (we all) were concerned at how nervous he looked, some thought he looked petrified. I never saw where people (true fans) thought drugs were involved, most everyone just thought he was really tired, really nervous. And I think probably some people were expecting him to change it up some and put his own David Cook spin on it. I appreciate the fact that he just stared at the flag and sang it flat out, without adding anything extra. I don’t think we as fans were trying to criticize or find fault, its just that we love our Cookie and were concerned for him.

  7. whiskers permalink
    June 11, 2008 11:14 pm

    he was fine. Better than that little douchebag Blake Lewis beatboxing “America the Beautiful”. Where are the pissed off Veterans when we really need them?

  8. HaHa permalink
    June 11, 2008 7:12 pm

    The only ones who think he did a shitty job are the Cooktards. Everyone else thinks he did just fine.

  9. June 11, 2008 6:11 pm

    I TOTALLY agree with you on this one. Who cares if he didn’t sing it PERFECT? Nobody is perfect, I bet nobody can even define the meaning of perfect. Plus, it’s all about having fun, not just what people think about you. I mean, come on, get one of the people in the audience down. They would crap their pants. I would myself. People are retarded for thinking that he’s smoking something, I wouldn’t know this for sure, but that dull stare in his eyes, yeah, it was NERVOUSNESS! Wow, if you couldn’t figure that one out, maybe you’re the one that’s smoking something. But at the end of the National Anthem, where the people started to cheer, he felt more confident in himself, and vocally, he started to improve.

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