If you’re not a country music fan, you may be wondering: “Who is Luke Bryan, and why does he get to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl?” Fair question — it’s one of the most coveted gigs in the industry and has made for some iconic performances.
While based in Nashville, Bryan frequently shows up at mainstream events, such as the Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards. He’s also a hugely successful singer-songwriter, and one of the most popular artists in modern country music. He routinely sells out stadiums and arenas and his singles reliably shoot to the top of the charts — songs you might know include “Country Girl (Shake It For Me),” “Drunk On You” and “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” which he once sang with Taylor Swift. He was a spring break staple at Panama City, Fla., for years.
Often categorized as “bro country,” his up-tempo songs extol the virtues of drinking beer with pretty girls and partying on a truck tailgate, so he’s seen no lack of criticism. Still, Bryan has an die-hard fan base, and when you see him launch into his famous hip-shaking dance moves on stage, you can hear the screams for miles.
Bryan, however, is an odd choice for the national anthem, because last time he performed the song on a big stage at a sporting event, it didn’t go so well. Bryan sang the anthem at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2012, and caught flack for sneaking glances at lyrics written on his hand, as well as discreetly checking his watch.
Afterward, he tweeted an apology: “I had a few keys words written down to insure [sic] myself that I wouldn’t mess up. I just wanted to do my best. I promise it was from the heart. If I offended anyone with my approach I sincerely apologize,” he wrote. “Anytime I sing the anthem it is an honor and my heart beats out of my chest.” He also explained he checked his watch because he started the song late, and he knew planes were supposed to fly over the stadium any minute.
Earlier this week, Bryan (a Georgia native, by the way, who’s rooting for the Falcons over the Patriots) said he was feeling the pressure as Super Bowl Sunday approached, knowing more than 100 million viewers would be tuning in for the beginning of the game. At a news conference in Houston, he said that he and Lady Gaga — last year’s anthem singer and this year’s halftime performer — had not traded notes on the big moment.
“She put her stamp on it, which was amazing,” Bryan said. “It’s a big moment for me and I’m excited to get out there and hopefully put my stamp on it.”