What’s the Hullabaloo About Jewel’s Indy 500 National Anthem Performance?

Jewel indy 500 national anthem performance was divisive
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Jewel indy 500 national anthem performance was divisive
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Photo Credit: David W Baker / CC by 4.0

Jewel’s rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the Indianapolis 500 has people talking — although she’s hardly the first artist to have their performance of the song scrutinized.

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

Online responses have ranged from “absolutely disrespectful and horrible” to “absolutely beautiful and very respectful” and just about everything else. Many naysayers seem most upset that switching up the song in any way, however small, makes it harder for fans at the venue to sing along, with some insisting that any variation whatsoever is inappropriate.

“I’m sorry, but the National Anthem should never be changed up like this,” writes one Twitter user. “Good artist, bad choice!”

“I was expecting to hear a change in the lyrics from all the media. I sang along with her waiting, and nothing happened,” writes another. “She knew all the lyrics and sang it beautifully.”

“Wow, people online really can find anything to be offended about,” tweets another person. “Thought that was a nice rendition.”

“She sang something, just not our national anthem,” reads another tweet. 

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

Former stand-up comedian and sitcom star Roseanne’s 1990 performance of the national anthem during a Padres game at San Diego Stadium was notoriously criticized — but then Roseanne was never exactly known for her singing voice in the first place. 

Roseanne aside, Jewel is hardly the first performer to receive harsh critiques for their rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In 2018, singer and former Black-Eyed Pea Fergie felt the heat after her NBA All-Star Game performance, where she sang the song as an upbeat jazz number that alienated some viewers — so much so that the singer issued an apology.

“I’m a risk taker artistically,” Fergie said then. “But clearly, this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

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

“Don’t take risks when you’re doing brain surgery, don’t take risks when you’re driving a school bus, or singing the national anthem. Just regular is fine.”