Alicia Keys is up to any challenge.

She proved that in December during the star-studded "12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief" benefit show, which featured such all-time great rockers as Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney, and she illustrated that point once again as she sang the national anthem at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans on Sunday.

The 14-time Grammy winner, who is scheduled to perform March 10 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, delivered a dramatically different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was the polar opposite of some of the high-flying vocal affairs of past Super Bowls, such as Whitney Houston's memorable tutorial in vocal gymnastics before the 1991 game in Tampa.

Alicia Keys sings the national anthem before the start of Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at
Alicia Keys sings the national anthem before the start of Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Superdome in New Orleans. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( NHAT V. MEYER )

Instead, Keys sat at the piano and crooned slowly at the start of the difficult number, handling the words with deliberate care. The rendition was sweet, soft and breathy, exuding a relaxed vibe that seemed nearly impossible for the occasion. Keys showed uncommon restraint at the start, eventually moving to a greater degree of passion as the song steadily built toward a powerful climax.

It was, without a doubt, one of the more memorable national anthems of recent years.

The pregame festivities also included a touching rendition of "America the Beautiful," performed by Sandy Hook Elementary School students, with substantial help from Jennifer Hudson.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic.



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