And every year, people heartily applaud and then start reminiscing about Whitney Houston—frankly, because no one will ever top her performance of the national anthem before Super Bowl XXV in 1991.
The Persian Gulf War had just started 10 days beforehand and the NFL had even considered postponing the game. Suffice it to say, tensions were high leading up to the event, even without social media as we know it contributing to the collective angst.
Houston was 27. She had yet to record what would become the biggest hit of her life, but still, the singer of mega-hits such as "I'm Your Baby Tonight," "Greatest Love of All" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" had made three platinum-selling albums and won two Grammys.
NFL execs heard it, thought it was too slow and asked for a redo—but there wasn't time. And the rest is history.
Whitney Houston went out there on Jan. 27, 1991, and sang "The Star Spangled Banner," albeit into a dead microphone as the recorded track played, and the crowd was awestruck by what they heard coming out of the speakers. Houston's bluesy, soul-packed version became a top 20 single and was all over the radio, iTunes still being a decade away.
There would be controversy when an engineer admitted that the song was pre-recorded, as there would be 21 years later when a Beyoncé relied on a backup track for President Obama's second inauguration.
But the overall effect Houston's rendition of the centuries-old song had on the country, when the world was on edge, was far more enduring than any does-it-matter-when-she-sang-it debate.
Indeed, the lip-sync police can't take away what was one of the most memorable (off-field) Super Bowl moments—no small feat, considering the size of the stage. And the pressure on those who've performed in her wake has only grown since that momentous year.
"I had a teleprompter with the lyrics right in front of me, but they were always a line behind," Kelly Clarkson, who sang the anthem at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, reminisced to Rolling Stone in an interview about a month after Houston had died. "It was not fun. That's what I got for trying to cheat."
The loss still fresh, the magazine asked if she was a big Whitney fan, to which she replied, "Are you frickin' kidding me? I know every Whitney Houston song. I wanted to cover one of her songs at our shows as a tribute, but it's hard to cover her!"
But true story. Houston's ballads may be some of the most endlessly covered songs—surely half the people who ever tried out for American Idol had a little Whitney in their repertoire—but not just any proficient singer can do them justice.
Jennifer Hudson, a disciple of the Whitney school of vocal power, got the call to sing "I Will Always Love You" at the 2012 Grammys. The show took place the day after Houston drowned in the bathtub in her room at the Beverly Hilton, hours before she was supposed to attend Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammys party.
"Whitney Houston was probably the ultimate artist that influenced me the most," Hudson had said on Nightline in 2008. "I always loved everything she sang. But Whitney, that voice, you know, and that music—I always like the music and the substance and something behind it and her music was just like that."
Houston had her contemporaries, such as Céline Dion with her powerhouse voice and Mariah Careywith her insane range. But even though their respective 1990 debut albums followed Houston's by only five years, Whitney's timeless quality made her seem like the forebear to one and all, aspiring and established.
"I, like every singer, always wanted to be just like her," Beyoncé stated after Houston died. "Her voice was perfect. Strong but soothing. Soulful and classic. Her vibrato, her cadence, her control. So many of my life's memories are attached to a Whitney Houston song. She is our queen and she opened doors and provided a blueprint for all of us."
Lady Gaga, who followed in Houston's footsteps when impressed with her performance of the national anthem at the 2016 Super Bowl, thanked the iconic artist back in 2011 when Born This Way won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Brandy told E! News two days after Houston died that her Cinderella co-star had meant "everything" to her. "She's the reason that I sing."
It's hard to believe Houston's been gone for five years already—and it's very easy to forget that her last No. 1 single was in 1995, the theme song from Waiting to Exhale.
What would become Houston's final studio album, 2009's I Look to You, did debut at No. 1, proving that she was hardly forgotten in the later years of her career. But quiz most people now and they wouldn't be able to name more than a couple of songs on the album, while those same people could go on about a dozen songs recorded before 1995.
The ongoing ubiquity of her music—also thanks in part to the variety of singing competitions on TV, which still frequently feature aspiring stars at least taking a stab at the late diva's impeccable vocal stylings—keeps her very present as the artists who came of age in her wake become the next generation's mentors.
Though her struggle with addiction and her messy marriage to Bobby Brown became the stuff of tabloid fodder, and her personal legacy took an even more tragic turn when her only child, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died at the age of 22 in 2015, there has been a concerted effort to keep Whitney's musical legacy pristine in honor of the lofty heights she reached in her prime.
"Holograms are new technology that take time to perfect, and we believe with artists of this iconic caliber, it must be perfect," sister-in-law Pat Houston, an executor of Whitney's estate, told Entertainment Tonight at the time. "Whitney's legacy and her devoted fans deserve perfection. After closely viewing the performance, we decided the hologram was not ready to air."
Arguably the most direct descendant of the Whitney school among the current spate of It Girl pop stars is Ariana Grande, who has a voice that can knock a club tune out of the park and handle the biggest ballads.
"Honored to be paying homage to my angel," Grande tweeted before performing a medley of Houston songs before ABC's Greatest Hits special last summer.
The artists who came up with Whitney Houston carry on in her stead, the ones who idolized her will never forget—and the new kids will learn. No one ever did it quite like Whitney and no one ever will, but many more will try.