The Super Bowl Blues

Some people tune into the Super Bowl to watch football. Some tune in to see the commercials. I watch the Super Bowl to hear the music. Unlike the game, this year didn’t disappoint. I was blown away by an opera singer selling nothing, and a folk singer selling his soul.

The first reason why I watch the Super Bowl is for the singing of the national anthem. It is often very depressing. Too often it is sung by musicians who are more interested in showing off their supposed virtuosity. It becomes an exhibition of how much embellishment they can lard onto each note. The meaning of the song is lost as they work overtime to make themselves look cool.

It was different this year. Watch the video of Renee Fleming sing The Star-Spangled Banner. For the first time ever, an opera singer was asked to do the honors. An honest-to-goodness classically trained singer stood up there and just sang the song (live). She didn’t bust a move, or make up lyrics, or sing lots of wrong notes, as is typically the case. She sang the song. Gloriously. Compared to her artistry, my words are weak. Just watch and listen.

After the anthem, I watch the Super Bowl to hear the music used in the commercials. The only thing more powerful than music in a film is music in a commercial. And this, of course, is the Super Bowl of commercials. A few years ago, the Chrysler and Eminem commercial blew me away. Watch it again. This year, I was blown away by Chrysler and Bob Dylan.

I know, I know. Chrysler is 100% owned by Fiat, an Italian company. Some Chryslers are made in the US. But so are lots of “Japanese” and “German” and “other country” cars. Besides, lots of Chryslers are made in Mexico and other faraway places. And, yea, it’s troubling to see Dylan selling something. Although, he already crossed that bridge with Victoria’s Secret and other outfits.

But watch the commercial. The instrumentals are from Dylan’s “Things Have Changed.” It is accompanied by visuals of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Dr. J, and Dylan himself. The sound of the trash-can snare alone makes me want to rush out and buy the damn car. Morality aside, it shows what a true genius Dylan is. Listen to his pronunciation of certain words like “legacy,” “cars,” “line,” and “zoom, and the roar, and the thrust.” Listen to his perfect cadence. He probably didn’t write the lyrics, but they sure sound like pure Dylan, and only Dylan could have sold them like this when he says, “So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We … will build … your car.”

FYI, the complete transcript of the 2-minute commercial:

Is there anything more American than America?
‘Cause you can’t import original.
You can’t fake true cool.
You can’t duplicate legacy.
Because what Detroit created was a first
and became an inspiration to the… rest of the world.
Yeah…Detroit made cars. And cars made America
Making the best, making the finest, takes conviction.
And you can't import, the heart and soul,
of every man and woman working on the line.
You can search the world over for the finer things,
but you won’t find a match for the American road
and the creatures that live on it.
Because we believe in the zoom,
and the roar, and the thrust.
And when it’s made here, it’s made with the one thing
you can’t import from anywhere else. American…Pride.
So let Germany brew your beer,
Let Switzerland make your watch,
Let Asia assemble your phone.
We…will build…your car.

prerich45's picture

I enjoyed the National Anthem this year, however it was not flawless and not without embellishment. Most people do not know that the NA should be sung and played "smartly" or at moderate to quick tempo (that's how the colors are raised - they are only lowered slowly for taps). I believe she sang the song in the key of C, that means the highest note would be a G (she embellished to get the two high C's in there). And last but not least - they should have used a mezzo soprano because the beginning notes start below the the bottom of the treble clef, and she had problems with those (kinda pitchy - but recovered well).

We tend to listen for what we like - all I heard the week before the game was "we'll finally get someone who can hit the high note" or the news interviews "are you going to hit that high note". I listen for the entire song - and Flemming's rendition is in my top 5, but my number one is still Houston, because even if she sang with a backing vocal track (she had no background singers) - it pretty much stayed with the written music (except for tempo) no embellished high C's (that are not in the song), and her range - low to the highest written note in the has better balanced than Flemming (Flemming can go higher than Houston but can't go lower, and the song doesn't require you to go beyond Houston's range - which was still crazy high).

jmedarts's picture

Ms Flemming is an amazing talent, but Anthem has it right, it's a key too low for her, and I found it kind of hard to listen. And I wish I enjoyed my job 1/2 as much as Bruno Mars seems to enjoy his, what a show.

jmedarts's picture

Sorry - prerich45 has it right. And it's my opinion that it's a key too low for her, not his.