Underwood Will Lip Sync at Super Bowl, Fault of Garth Brooks

February 2, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  12 Comments

Super Bowl 2010This Sunday at the Super Bowl, Carrie Underwood will very likely be lip-syncing the National Anthem, whether she wants to or not, and it is mostly the fault of the king of pop country, Garth Brooks.

This story starts way back in 1993 at Super Bowl XXVIII in Pasadena, CA. In 1993, Garth Brooks was not only the biggest thing in country music, but the biggest thing in music, period. Garth had just become the the first country artist ever to have three albums listed in the pop top 20 charts in one week. So when it came to handing out Star Spangled Banner duty, Garth was the obvious choice.

Everything leading up to and during the Super Bowl is planned out to the second. With so many people watching, so much money on the line, and so many different events and happenings to coordinate, everything must be carefully choreographed and remain on an uncompromising schedule. That is why the NFL began insisting to it’s Anthem performers that they pre-record their performances, even if just as a backup plan to singing live.

In 1991, Whitney Houston sang the Anthem, and it was considered by some at the time to be one of the best Anthem performances ever. Later it was revealed that Whitney was singing into a dead microphone, and the performance was pre-recorded. When Garth Brooks was asked to make a pre-recording of the Anthem two years later, he refused. Some might have thought that this was because Garth wanted to make sure the performance was live and pure, but as game time neared, Garth’s true motives were revealed.

Garth’s 1992 album The Chase included a song called “We Shall Be Free”, a gospel-esque song that he wrote after spending time in Los Angeles after the race riots following the Rodney King incident. Garth was hoping to debut a video for the song during the Super Bowl that included numerous celebrity cameos from people like Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, and Patrick Swayze. However NBC, the broadcaster of the game that year, rejected the video because of “content some felt was disturbing imagery.” Along with the celebrity cameos, Garth’s video included clips of flag burnings, cross burnings and the Ku Klux Klan, intravenous drug use, riots, bombings, war scenes, natural disasters, and other questionable content; images that NBC did not want to broadcast to the family-friendly Super Bowl audience.

So Garth, 45 minutes before he was supposed to perform the Anthem, pulled one of the most bold stunts in Super Bowl history to force NBC’s hand: he walked out of the Rose Bowl stadium entirely, refusing to sing unless they aired his video. Producers tried to rationalize with him, explaining that there was no time budgeted for it, but Garth held his ground, and a standoff ensued. This sent NBC and the NFL into full panic mode: with 91 million people tuning in from all around the world, they had no National Anthem performer, and even worse, Garth had had the foresight to not give them a pre-recorded version that they could use as an alternative.

This was the worst case scenario for Super Bowl organizers. An NBC producer spotted John Bon Jovi in the Super Bowl crowd, and began to prep him as a plan B. Garth Brooks had NBC right where he wanted them, and the NFL could see that. So the NFL did something completely unprecedented in Super Bowl history, they moved the kickoff time back to accommodate the airing of the Garth video.

Garth Brooks had won, but in a lot of ways the rest of us lost. According to former NFL executive director Don Weiss in his book The Making of the Super Bowl: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Sporting Event, since the Garth incident in 1993, the NFL has made it a requirement that all Anthem singers make a pre-recording of their performances. Last year Jennifer Hudson sang the Anthem, months after members of her family had been killed. She was called “inspiring,” until it was revealed later that she had lip synced.

The Super Bowl’s music director last year, and for 1991 when Whitney Houston sang, and for many other years has been a man named Ricky Minor, who also works for the TV show “American Idol,” where this year’s National Anthem performer Carrie Underwood got her start. Minor explained to The Associated Press after revealing that Hudson had indeed lip synced, that it was on his insistence.

“That’s the right way to do it. There’s too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live, because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance.”

– – – – – – –

I’m not a huge fan of National Anthem performances, but the idea behind it is to inspire people, and one of the ways natural talents inspire us all is by working without a net. The American public’s appetite and insistence on perfection and the use of lip syncing and Auto-Tune have taken the inspiration out of live music performance and turned it into pre-recorded puppetry.

I’m not a fan of Carrie Underwood, but I’ve said before that she is an amazingly talented natural singer. But what does that matter if her performance is pre-recorded, and run through pitch benders days before we all hear it?

Give me something REAL over something perfect.

Sources: ABC News, MTV.com News, Wikipedia National Anthem Performers.

12 Comments to “Underwood Will Lip Sync at Super Bowl, Fault of Garth Brooks”

  • Good story. Here is another you would like. Same theme.


  • You certainly missed the call on this one. Not only did Carrie sing the Anthem live, she embarrassed herself and country music by her horribly off-key performance. I feel really bad for her. And to have this happen when almost a billion people were listening. Oh my!


  • For the record, it was Super Bowl XXVII (27), not 28.


  • Hey BlueEyed,

    I’m not convinced. The last note was sour, but that may have been to throw us off the scent. Overall I thought the performance was decent, whenever it was done.

    My guess is we’ll know for sure here pretty soon. If she sang it live, hats off to her, and this would bring Carrie Underwood up in my estimation. I’d rather see her sing it live and be off a little, then have it completely canned and perfect.


    • That I agree with. :)


  • […] TCMV Staff wrote a very interesting post today.   Here’s a quick excerpt:In 1993, Garth Brooks was not only the biggest thing in country music, but the biggest thing in music, period. Garth had just become the the first country artist ever to have three albums listed in the pop top 20 charts in one week. … Garth was hoping to debut a video for the song during the Super Bowl that included numerous celebrity cameos from people like Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, and Patrick Swayze. However NBC, the broadcaster of the game that year, rejected the … […]


  • I believe she sang it live. And it’s one of her bad days, other days she should sound like this:



    Those people had a reason to choose Carrie Underwood to perform. They surely had heard she sing the national anthem before.


  • One of the largest yearly events in the world brings that level of drama. Remember the wardrobe malfunction year? The back story is the NFL hired MTV to do the pre-game show. In a segment, they flashed the photo of the man standing in front of the tanks at Tienanmen Square that we all know. Problem is, it was broadcast live all over the world and that photo is banned in China. To say China was pissed is an understatement. At half-time Janet Jackson’s boob flashed across the screen and the world had something to endlessly talk about.


  • you all need to try and sing that song….so easy to be a critic…….those who teach can’t do…


  • Although this is old as can be, the recent comment brought the blog back to the front of the line in the comment section.

    Although there isn’t really much to discuss this many years later, I find it surprising, that SCM would side with the multi-billion dollar NFL and NBC rather than highlight the fact that Garth, a country artist (of course SCM dubs him the king of pop country because he was so successful) stood his ground on what he thought was the right thing to do….himm, I thought we praised that here?

    You can say Garth wanted to promote his “We Shall Be Free” song/video, but you can also say that he was trying to bring a very relavant topic at the time to the biggest stage in America… a f-ing football game. And oh yea, what did happen to the anthem… he sang it live! Thought we respected that?

    I applaud Garth for standing his ground. He always did whether it was a bad career move (i.e. see Chris Gaines project) or it was getting a very good recording contract.
    Garth isn’t the King of Pop Country. Garth is Garth. The industry and the acts that followed trying to duplicate what Garth did (and he credited Chris Ledoux with the inspiration for his shows) are the “Kings of Pop Country”.

    I always find it interesting to dig up an old blog on here, and see just how slanted the opinions were, and still are.


  • First, I am not a country music fan. The distinct whiney tuning of the instruments and most vocals are what make me immediately shut any of the genre off. With Garth Brooks it was a bit different. With Garth Brooks, if i shut out the whine of the instruments, i got the vocals of an imperfect voice that showed the emotion of the lyrics and delivered through with skill. A song that resonated with me, sent chills up my spine, ever since i was a kid was “the dance”. I came to this page because of seeing a few early concert video performances of the dance where the album track seemed to be exactly the same as the on stage performance and cut out on a dime. I wondered strongly if he had been lip synching those performances. Some have even said that alot of artists lip sing – that the mic gets turned on and off thru out the performance at the direction of the sound director. I am not too sure if he lyp synched those 2 live concerts, the tracks are perfectly in synch – vocally- but i dont care really and that wasnt the topic of this article.
    lip synching/lip singing or lypping and its place in live performances is really a matter of situation and personal preference. I sigh when people are angry with a britney spears lip synching. Not my kind of music but i would imagine its hard to perform notes perfectly when you are bending your head backwards to face the crowd as you have a spasm/o on a male dancer. I would imagine that lip SINGING is often used for active performances.
    The artists i tend to watch are more artists than performers. When i see them live, i am being admitted to observe their abilities. I am not going to find perfection in these situations… what i will see is their true talent. I am also not there to be amused and entertained. Some people need to be entertained and feel personally thanked for stopping in and buying a ticket, to be catered to. The bands i see deliver different unique renditions at every stop. Some changes are subtle, a cold or strained vocal muscle, a piece of drum kit not set up quite perfectly, a band member missing his beat so the band improvises around it. One of the best experiences i have ever had was when a band had a string snap on the lead bass, the rest of the band didnt stop as the back up bass was brought in. the band went into an instrumental extended bridge with vocal, guitar and drum solos. Because the string break happened right before entering the climax final chorus and crescendo, when the bass came back into play the lead singer signalled to bring the lyrical bridge in one more time at a slower pace (using his hands and talking to the other artists as they played). The bass entered, they winded down back into a slower version of the lyrical bridge, accelerated violently and suddenly, and then absolutely crushed the climax final chorus in a complete full sense saturating crescendo which assaulted every atom of creation, The end result was the best version of the song i have ever heard and blew everyones mind in a packed 22000 seat arena. The final chorus was let loose with such build up and ferocity that the final note was belted so hard and held for so long that i felt the reverberations in my whole body and thru the concrete; i could imagine the concrete of the stadium liquify and melt, even then the note still held and delivered unrelenting until all instruments died on a dime.then two hard drum claps. bum bum. AWESOME. Since then they have carried that version into alot of live performances but never delivered with same natural in-synch chemistry and unrehearsed controlled chaos as they day that string broke. Having been at the show where they accidentally made these changes, i get goose bumps every time i hear the bass rejoin the group and build into the chorus.
    As for Brooks motives behind the video and BS… he might have felt he had had an agreement from NBC. If that is true than i dont blame him. Hey, and as far as i am concerned every body should see the heavy truth of what is happening out there in the world. If a billion people are watching the superbowl than thats a billion people that should stop being sheltered for 30 seconds. relevant and natural. in my opinion he should have left out the gold cutlery, caviar eating, estate in middle of nowhere living celebs from his video. The whole point of that video was to show crap is happening in real life outside your window, yet you have people talking about it who take private jets. mhm

    one more thing; as a sound tech and musician, i will say right now that it often takes 3 songs into a live performance to get the settings proper for the venue and circumstance. Sound checks are great to find the acoustics of an empty building for the artists about to perform butit cant compare with having 10-20-30 thousand bodies added into the mix. the sound on tv though will always be better as it will be a direct feed. for the live audience, in stadium, it will be a different experience since they get the refracted and reflected, and absorbed, sound waves chaotically thrown at them as they bash into eachother and end at your ear drums to then be translated by your brain.
    what i am saying in the end is live music will never be perfect. some artissts suck at being a live artist and hopefully they can entertain enough to get by on showmanship. other artists can do their craft nightly and have the smallest of cracks in their performance. those small cracks are what make it special.

    there are followers and performers and artistsl. artists are best served with no safety net and with chaos able to inflict some damage. an artist will show his or her best when reacting to the unexpected natural world. performers and followers? you quickly find out who the hacks are.


  • […] Brooks wasn’t taking no for an answer. He refused to go on stage (and per one account, left the stadium entirely), causing havoc. The NFL and NBC, having not insisted on the […]


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