Reba McEntire Lights Up Super Bowl With National Anthem, After 50 Years of Hailing Twilight’s Last Gleaming

There was no need to worry that Reba McEntire might mess up or bring any unnecessary flourishes to “The Star-Spangled Banner” when she performed the National Anthem prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday evening. Unlike anyone else who’d done it prior to the Bowl or any other major NFL game in recent memory, she brought a full half-century’s experience of singing the anthem to the occasion.

The year 2024 marks a special anniversary for the country superstar and her association with the song: She is often said to have been “discovered” 50 years ago when she sang it at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo in her home state of Oklahoma, when she was just 19.

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McEntire’s latest rendition of the anthem was more fully orchestrated than some other recent versions — or even her own past readings — have been, with a pre-recorded horn section sending the song toward a big climax. McEntire mixed glamour with a true-to-country big belt buckle as she belted the nation’s theme song, with interstitial shots including pyro going off over Allegiant Stadium and an image of the flag waving on Las Vegas’ new Sphere.

The recording of the National Anthem was produced by Adam Blackstone, who co-arranged with Nick Lombardelli. Players included Travis Toy on pedel steel, Clay Sears and acoustic and electric guitars, Lombardelli on keys, Blackstone doing programming and bass, and a horn section made up of Lombardelli, Matt Gallagher, Joe Anderson, Ron Kerber, Chris Farr and Mark Allen.

Going into the game, McEntire discussed her preparation at a press conference, sounding like she didn’t have much reason to sweat the high-profile gig. “I prepare by being prepared,” she said. “I’ve been singing the national anthem in the shower, when we get in the car… Rex (Linn), my boyfriend, is a huge football fan. He’ll say, ‘Sing it one more time.’ I’ll say, ‘I think i know the words real good right now, so I’m all right.'”

“It means that I get to sing a very special song for all American people around the wrld who have really worked so hard for our freedom and to give us peace…. It’s not about me. I’m a representation of this song, and I’m just honored to get to sing it. It’s a good one. I’ve been doing it for 50 years and I’m really proud to get to sing it.”

It’s the fourth year in a row that the anthem has been performed at the Bowl in full or in part by a major figure in country music. Chris Stapleton did it in 2023, preceded by Mickey Guyton in 2022. In 2021, country star Eric Church sang it as a duet with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan. The last time a Bowl rendering of “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t involve a country singer was in 2020, when Demi Lovato had the honors.

Although this marked her first time singing it at the Super Bowl, McEntire previously sang the anthem at a World Series baseball game, in Cleveland in 1997.

If you want to see how McEntire handled the anthem going back a quarter-century, here is her reading of the song at a Dallas/Miami NFL game on Nov. 25, 1999:

McEntire may continue to enjoy a high television profile, well after the Super Bowl. NBC has given a pilot order to an untitled multi-camera comedy with the singer as star and executive producer. The pilot, from Universal Studio Group’s Universal TV division, reunites her with the team behind her last two sitcoms, The WB’s “Reba” and ABC’s “Malibu Country.” It will star McEntire as a woman who “inherits her father’s restaurant and is less than thrilled to discover that she has a new business partner in the half-sister she never knew she had.”

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