What’s Up With Jewel’s Indy 500 National Anthem Performance?

Photo credit: David W. Baker / CC from 4.0

Jewel’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Indianapolis 500 is turning heads — though she’s not the first artist whose performance of the song has been scrutinized.

Singer-songwriter Jewel could have saved herself the trouble if she’d consulted Fergie before performing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Indianapolis 500. The four-time Grammy-nominated singer decided to bring a country twist to her rendition of the national anthem, a decision that received mixed reviews.

Online reactions have ranged from “absolutely disrespectful and horrible” to “absolutely beautiful and very respectful” and pretty much everything else. Many critics seem most upset that it makes it harder for fans at the venue to alter the song, no matter how small, and some insist that any variation, however small, is inappropriate.

“I’m sorry but the national anthem should never be changed like this,” wrote one Twitter user. “Good artist, bad choice!”

“I expected all media to change the lyrics. I sang along while she waited and nothing happened,” wrote another. “She knew all the lyrics and sang them beautifully.”

“Wow people can really find anything to be offended about on the internet,” tweeted another person. “I thought that would be a nice rendition.”

“She sang anything but our national anthem,” read another tweet.

“One of the worst performances of the national anthem I’ve ever seen in my life,” says another. “Not Roseanne bad, but up there.”

Former stand-up comedian and sitcom star Roseanne’s performance of the national anthem in 1990 during a Padres game at San Diego Stadium drew notorious criticism — but Roseanne wasn’t known at all for her singing voice.

Aside from Roseanne, Jewel is hardly the first artist to take harsh criticism for his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. In 2018, the singer and former black-eyed Pea Fergie felt the heat after her performance at the NBA All-Star Game, where she sang the song as an upbeat jazz number, alienating some viewers — so much so that the singer issued an apology.

“I’m a risk taker artistically,” Fergie said at the time. “But obviously that rendition didn’t hit the intended note. I love this country and honestly did my best.”

“Here’s the thing about taking risks when it comes to the national anthem: don’t do it. Just don’t,” comedian and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel summed up the issue after viewers caught him smirking during Fergie’s performance.

“Don’t take chances when you’re having brain surgery, don’t take chances when you drive a school bus or sing the national anthem. Just regular is fine.”