The last two times Jordin Sparks has visited Charlotte, she’s sung for a couple thousand fans at the NC Music Factory’s Fillmore music club.
On Monday night, the former “American Idol” winner returned here to perform in front of a much bigger crowd: 75,000 people at Bank of America Stadium in person, plus several million more waiting to watch ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
And as has happened so many times before, Sparks’s powerful pipes produced a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that scored high marks across the board.
Sparks, 25, has warmed up crowds with the national anthem at so many sporting events since breaking out on Fox’s reality show in 2007, she’s lost count. The Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, Major League Baseball and NBA all-star games, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, to name just a few. Last Saturday, she sang it before an Arizona Christian University football game (her brother, P.J., is a running back on the team).
She’s got it down pat. She’s never forgotten the lyrics. She’s never sung off-key. She keeps getting invited to perform the song because she keeps crushing it.
Yet she still gets nervous.
“I’ve gotten into a rhythm now with all the TV cues, but I’ll never get used to the pressure of singing our nation’s song,” Sparks said while sitting on a counter in a 400-level suite during the first quarter of Monday night’s game. “It’s a big deal. Then you add live TV and 75,000 screaming fans, and it is a lot of pressure.”
“If I did mess up, it would be all over YouTube the next day and get 3 million views ... I don’t know how I would ever recover from that! But I really do like doing it. I don’t think I’ll ever shy away from it.”
She’s particularly fond of the NFL because of her lineage – her dad, Phillippi Sparks, played for the Giants and the Cowboys from 1992-2000 – and in addition to singing the anthem at league games several times, Sparks was part of a marketing campaign in 2014 to promote the NFL’s women’s apparel line.
Her “Monday Night Football” performance in Charlotte was accompanied by fireworks and a massive American flag that covered the entire playing field but – miraculously – was not accompanied by the steady rains that persisted for most of the game.
“It was just kind of windy and lightly sprinkling when I got out there, and then right after I got off the field, it started pouring,” Sparks said. “I was like, ‘Thank you!’ ”