We asked a professional soprano to appraise Lady Gaga’s national anthem at the Biden inauguration

20 January 2021, 17:29 | Updated: 21 January 2021, 09:28

Lady Gaga sings at Joe Biden's Inauguration
Lady Gaga sings at Joe Biden's Inauguration. Picture: Getty

By Kyle Macdonald

It was an iconic moment when Lady Gaga wrapped her vocal cords around ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on Inauguration Day 2021. We asked legendary Early Music soprano and Classic FM presenter Catherine Bott for her expert response.

On 20 January, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States. And on national anthem duty in 2021, was pop superstar Lady Gaga.

In her performance, Gaga joined the likes of singer Jennifer Lopez, country star Garth Brooks and the United States Marine Band in leading the music in the ceremony outside the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

Read more: Biden inauguration music: full performance schedule revealed >

Watch Lady Gaga sing on Inauguration Day

‘Oh, say can you see...’

Here’s the incredible moment mezzo-soprano Lady Gaga sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, on a slightly snowy afternoon in Washington DC.

Lady Gaga performs the national anthem at Joe Biden's inauguration

Read more: What are the lyrics to the US National Anthem? >

An expert soprano reacts

British soprano, Baroque specialist and much-loved broadcaster Catherine Bott shared her thoughts with us. “Well, as always, Lady Gaga made the occasion her own – starting with the gold microphone, accessorised by a massive gold brooch, pinned on what looked rather like the top half of a wetsuit, with a vast crimson skirt,” Bott begins.

“And her confident smile was reassuring as she sang: in the key of G flat major and staying in the no-mans-land of the contralto/mezzo-soprano registers, she began with appropriate classical dignity and 4 beats in the bar, just a hint of funky cross-rhythms in her phrasing of the words ‘Proudly we hailed’.

Lady Gaga sings at the US Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Lady Gaga sings at the US Capitol Inauguration Ceremony. Picture: Getty

“Then into waltz time for the second half of the anthem, with a daring – and clearly deliberate – 5-beats-in-the-bar here and there. Perhaps the most poignant moment, after last week’s disturbances in the building behind her, came as her voice rose through the words ‘that our flag WAS STILL THERE’, and held – and held – that last note.

“Then, Lady Gaga gave us a final reminder of her mastery of pop style as she sailed aloft to celebrate ‘The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave’ with some Mariah Carey-esque melismas. Carey could have reached some higher notes, but Gaga put her own unique heart and soul into what an American commentator immediately declared to be ‘a great rendition of our National Anthem’.

“Later on, mask in place, she could be seen joining in the communal singing of ‘Amazing Grace’. She was the right choice for today.”

Hear Catherine Bott’s Classic FM show every weekend from 1pm. Listen on Global Player, the official Classic FM app.