Whitney Houston’s national anthem re-examined in new ESPN doc

Houston's anthem performance is described as an "in-depth, behind-the-scenes look" at the moment widely regarded as one of the best renditions ever

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Whitney Houston‘s national anthem rendition is taking center stage once again. A new ESPN documentary premiering this weekend will take a deep dive into Houston’s Super Bowl XXV performance, what it meant to the entire country at the time and how it still is a major part of her legacy to this day.

Friday marks 10 years since we lost one of the greatest talents in Houston. Since her passing, fans and media are still trying to contextualize her legacy and truly understand her impact, with documentaries like Whitney breaking down the woman behind the star. One of her most iconic moments was her rendition of the national anthem 31 years ago at Super Bowl XXV. Widely considered to be one of the best renditions ever, her take on the classic song is still being dissected to this day, and ESPN is taking an even deeper dive into the moment in their latest documentary.

Whitney Houston thegrio.com
Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants won 20-19. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Per an official press release, “E60 will present an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at Whitney Houston’s national anthem performance 31 years ago at Super Bowl XXV. The story, told by those who were intricately involved in one of the most iconic moments in sports history, explores how – set against the backdrop of the Gulf War – her performance that night helped unify the country, and why nearly 10 years after her tragic passing, Houston’s iconic rendition still resonates today.”

The documentary includes various people who were intimately involved in that historic moment, including Rickey Minor, Houston’s music director. ESPN commentators Al Michaels and Chris Berman also appear, as well as various NFL Hall of Fame players who were present that day.

On a recent episode of Acting Up, theGrio‘s Cortney Wills sat down with Gerrick Kennedy, who penned the new book on Houston, Didn’t We Almost Have it All. More than just a simple biography, the book dives into Houston as a celebrity, singer, and human being, as well as her complex relationship with us, her fans. One chapter, “Miss America The Beautiful: The Burden of the National Anthem and the Politics of Whitney’s Blackness,” examines that national anthem moment and what her being, “an acceptable Black woman,” in media really meant.

Whitney Houston thegrio.com
Singer Whitney Houston is seen performing on stage during the 2004 World Music Awards at the Thomas and Mack Center on September 15, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Kennedy explained in the episode, “Yes, she was loved by the world, absolutely. But you are lying to yourself if her story is not rooted in racism.” He went on to detail that there certainly was a price she paid for being so internationally beloved.

Whitney’s Anthem is produced by Russell Dinallo and Simon Baumgart. Whitney’s Anthem premieres Friday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, and will be available to stream on ESPN+ and the ESPN App.

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