Jewel performs the national anthem at the Indy 500 (2023)

Jewel Doesn’t Understand What The National Anthem Is For

Jewel deserves every bit of criticism she’ll receive for today’s performance of the National Anthem at the Indianapolis 500. Her tempo turned the celebration of our flag into a dirge. Her modified melodies made it impossible for a crowd of thousands of racing afficianados to sing along. The result was a performance that not only made it impossible for fans to participate, but that ultimately drew attention to the performer instead of our country.

Of course, Jewel is not the only artist to butcher the anthem in recent memory. We need to remember why we sing the Anthem in the first place. Only then can our artists move back toward a proper celebration of the Anthem.

Think about what happens when the Anthem begins. We stand. We place our hands over our hearts. We look to the flag. The purpose of the Anthem is to remind of us who America is, who fought and died for our freedom, and to collectively celebrate the establishment of our Nation.

It’s not unlike singing hymns in church. The purpose of worship in a church setting is to inspire, to point our attention to God, and to teach us and help us remember the tenets of our faith. In both the church setting and the performance of the National Anthem, we’ve moved away from the core purpose of the music — to teach, to venerate, to celebrate — and instead celebrate the performer.

In churches today, instead of singing, worshippers stand and listen to performers, and try their best to follow along. This can be seen in Jewel’s performance at one minute into the video, as racer Tony Kanaan looks confused as he tries to follow along and sing with Jewel as she turns a familiar melody into something unrecognizable.

The reaction online, and on the faces of those in the video, tell the story. Rather than singing along, rather than thinking about the victory at Fort McHenry as American Revolutionaries held off British warships, attendees at the Indy 500 listened to Jewel, thought about Jewel, and wondered where there Anthem had gone.

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In a time when our children can’t tell you about basic American history, and when America seems to be losing its moorings, the National Anthem serves as an anchor to times past when Americans were heroes, when men sacrificed their personal lives to secure freedom for generations. It’s far time for our artists to sacrifice their desire to be noticed, and instead turn viewers’ attention to the nation they’re singing about.





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