On Chris Stapleton Singing the Super Bowl National Anthem

We’ve about given up all hope on a country artist being named by the NFL as the Super Bowl Halftime entertainer. It appears it will be hip hop and urban pop indefinitely. And hey, it’s the most popular style of music at the moment, so it’s theirs to lose.

And what country artist could rise to the occasion? Garth Brooks maybe, but he blew his chance after holding the NFL hostage in 1993 when he made his own National Anthem performance. Luke Combs? He doesn’t have enough universally-recognized songs just yet. Zach Bryan? We can dream. About the closest thing we may ever get to country Super Bowl Halftime performer would be Taylor Swift, and the gig is such a circus, she’s already signaled she’s not interested in it.

But country and country-adjacent artists seem to have the National Anthem performance shored up, at least over the last few years. Eric Church performed with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan in 2021, and though more pop than country these days, Mickey Guyton knocked it out of the park in 2022. Her performance helped put some things in perspective for people who want to do away with the National Anthem performance before sporting events entirely.

Mickey Guyton was inspired to become a singer after seeing LeAnn Rimes perform the National Anthem at a baseball game. Jingoistic concerns aside, the National Anthem remains an irreplaceable stepping stone and opportunity for singing performance in the United States, and for anthem singers around the world. A National Anthem performance is also how Reba McEntire was discovered.

Chris Stapleton needs no stepping stone or discovery at this moment in his career, but we all know he will slay the National Anthem on Sunday, because this is what Chris Stapleton does. He’s such a good singer, it’s one of the reasons purists love to claim he isn’t country. Well, that and the fact that his singing is more native to soul than country despite growing up in the hills and hollers of Kentucky. But this cross genre appeal also makes Stapleton just about the perfect performer from country for a general audience.

We tend to take ol’ Chris Stapleton for granted in country. Many purists hate him and call him pop, but pop wants little to do with a pot-bellied bearded dude. He’s won so many awards, we got sick of him. But it’s hard to argue that he didn’t earn them above his Bro-Country competition. Whatever you think of Stapleton, it’s hard to think of a better individual to represent country music on a national stage.

And after Chris Stapleton kills it, he’ll get another 10 million spins on his version of “Tennessee Whiskey,” and co-writer Dean Dillon will put another wing on his house. Nearly eight years after originally being released by Stapleton, a 40-year-old song is still one of the most popular tracks in all of country music currently. That speaks to the power of Chris Stapleton’s voice, and why he’s been tapped to sing an over 200-year-old song that is one of the most important and most difficult to perform in history, in front of the biggest audience possible.

Who knows, maybe if Chris Stapleton makes a lasting impression as some other performers have done singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl to where it becomes one of the crowning achievements of their career, Stapleton will be invited back. And next time it will be to sing in the middle of the game, and not before it.

Country fans can only hope.

UPDATE: Chris Stapleton Nails National Anthem at 2023 Super Bowl

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