Andra Day’s Version of the Black National Anthem Gets Mixed Responses from Black America

Written By Dustin J. Seibert

Let’s start out by acknowledging that we all love Andra Day. That said, we can acknowledge that her rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the beginning of Super Bowl LVIII left many…hoping for better.

The Grammy-winning artist opened the big game with her rendition of the Black National Anthem, following country legend Reba McEntire’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Day’s alto was dependable as always, but much of the criticism of her performance focused on the arrangement of the music, which took listeners on a journey they aren’t used to from the Black National Anthem.

“no. The arrangement was horrible.. why change from the original,” one Instagram comment reads.

“Black National anthem doesn’t need all that. Sing it straight,” reads another.

When she got to “Sing a song,” Day sounded a bit drowned out by her background singers. Of course, this might not be her fault given things happen during live performances.

While “Lift Every Voice” has been performed at the beginning of NFL games following the global outrage over the 2020 murder of George Floyd – thanks to the 2019 partnership between Roc Nation and the NFL — this is only the second time it’s been performed on the field at the Super Bowl.

It’s easy to compare Day’s rendition unfavorably to Sheryl Lee Ralph’s performance at last year’s Super Bowl. Ralph had the winning combination of a more traditional arrangement, the embrace of her moment from winning her first Emmy for “Abbott Elementary” a few months earlier and her O.G. “Dreamgirl” vocal range that remains a force after a half century.

Still, Day received plenty of praise for her performance on Instagram from the likes of Tina Knowles and Will Smith. Kanye West was the only celebrity nakedly criticizing her, allegedly writing “NOT NEEDED” underneath an Instagram post of her performance. But West would probably have been cool with a performance of the Third Reich Anthem, just like many of the (non-Black) people griping about how there “should only be one anthem.” Day’s performance was by no means a Fergie-at-NBA-All-Star-Game-caliber disaster. But in an evening featuring one of the most anticipated halftime shows in recent memory, she was always going to have an uphill battle to climb.