In Defense of Zooey Deschanel’s Star-Spangled Banner at World Series Game 4

Grantland is saying that actress/singer Zooey Deschanel sang the “least-inspired National Anthem ever” before game 4 of the World Series last night. They saw no passion in her version. They wanted to hear the sounds of  “a woman who has known loss and triumph, not the pubescent squeaks of a flinching sitcom star with cute bangs and a stupid blog.”

Then their No. 1 suggestion for singers who should be on standby for National Anthem duties is Brian McKnight. Really? I can’t stand the kind of vocal acrobatics that he and singers of his ilk like to put to the Star-Spangled Banner. Have we learned nothing from Christina Aguilera’s catastrophe of a performance at the Super Bowl? (And I”m not talking about any lyrical mistakes she made, just the horrid affectations she added to note after note.)

I was at Rangers Ballpark for Game 4 last night, and loved the sense of melancholy with which Deschanel infused the familiar song. It felt almost like a funeral dirge, and I mean that as a high compliment. It was quite different from what we normally get at these games: when some mid-level country music or top 40 star is trotted out for a serviceable, but instantly forgettable, performance.

No, Deschanel didn’t deliver a triumphant version of the song, like this fantastic Whitney Houston performance.  But what she gave us was unique and perfectly appropriate to lyrics that were, after all, written during an uncertain time of war.

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