Grammy winner Beyoncé, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” offered the most theatrical performance. The “Single Ladies” singer dressed in a sheer black gown appeared more serious than normal as she approached the podium.
Like a scene from movie Evita, the singer who performed Etta James' "At Last" at Obama's first Inauguration in 2009 took a moment to pan the crowd with an emotionless expression before belting the song’s opening lyric, “Oh, say can you see...”
Accompanied by the Marine Band, Beyoncé opted to stick with a more traditional arrangement of the National Anthem. She kept her vocal runs to a minimum, resisting the over-singing her fans are accustomed to hearing on her radio hits.
[Related: Documents preparation for Inaugural performance.]
Kelly Clarkson, who also sang with the Marine Band and is nominated for four Grammys this year, took a few more liberties with her rendition of “America (My Country ‘Tis Of Thee).” Clarkson’s version was driven by the Marine Band’s dominating wind instruments and her efforts to find an arrangement that settled between classical and popular music.
Like Beyoncé, however, Clarkson elected not to muddle the song with unnecessary ad-libs.
James Taylor’s acoustic version of “America The Beautiful” was brief but endearing.
Taylor played guitar as he sang the patriotic song that evoked an approving grin from the President. After his performance, Taylor greeted the Commander In Chief with a hug.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir provided the opening musical number for the event, singing, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” As the choir began its classical rendition, President Obama smiled as if he had a special connection to the hymn.