By now we've all heard about pop singer Fergie's rendition of the national anthem that she delivered at the start of the recent NBA all-star game. For the most part, it did not go well.
As Fergie sang, Twitter lit up with harsh comments. Players on the floor smirked. Jimmy Kimmel was caught in an embarrassing smile (he later said he was just smiling only because he "loves" the national anthem.) Even Roseanne - known for perhaps the worst ever rendition of the anthem which she performed at the MLB all-star game back in 1990 tweeted "I think mine was better." The New Yorker's Amanda Petrusich probably summed up the world's reaction best, writing "The singer's rendition featured more breathless, aggressively seductive riffing than I thought possible from a woman not wearing bunny ears and heels."
Even Fergie - who at first seemed pleased with how things went - later admitted that the performance mostly failed. In a statement obtained by the New York Daily News, the Black Eyed Peas singer admitted that she was just attempting to "try something special for the NBA," but that the rendition didn't strike the intended tone. "I love this country and honestly tried my best," she said.
OK, I agree, it wasn't great. But aren't we missing something important here? Fergie took a risk. A huge risk. A national television-viewed-by-millions-of-potential-haters-waiting-for-her-to-fail risk. Unfortunately, she failed. So now everyone's beating up on her? Is this what America is all about? No it is not.
Do you remember the Apple III, Lisa and NeXT? Probably not, but they were all failed products under Steve Jobs. Microsoft Bob and Windows ME were also lousy ideas while Bill Gates was in charge. Google's "graveyard" is littered with products - from Helpouts to Reader - that never achieved much. Amazon had to abandon its Fire Phone, Askville (what the heck was that?) and Local Register. All of these products were, at the time, launched with lots of media fanfare, high hopes and millions of marketing dollars. All of them failed after only a few years.
Today's greatest innovators and business leaders are no stranger to failures. Elon Musk has had rockets explode on launch pads. Warren Buffett admits to dozens of bad investments. Mark Cuban has been fired from jobs. Michael Jordan has been famously quoted as saying "I failed, I failed, I failed and then I succeeded."
So this is the reaction we give to Fergie, a singer who took a risk? Is that what we want to teach our children, our budding scientists, our future entrepreneurs? That if you take a risk and it fails then society will mercilessly cause you to retreat into a hundred hours of shamed Netflix binging in a dark room for months?
Of course not. Fergie shouldn't be mocked. She should be praised.
Some people say that you shouldn't take risks with the national anthem and that's ridiculous. Its words weren't handed down by the Lord. It's a just a song. Its lyrics were written by a lawyer who survived a Baltimore bombing by the British in 1814 and was then given a tune by a music publisher. It's become important as a representation of our democracy and freedoms and for all the millions that gave their lives for these causes. But that doesn't mean it's not open for interpretation to keep it fresh and relevant in the minds of this and future generations. Things change. People change. Songs change.
Fergie tried to bring a fresh interpretation and she failed and good for her. I would expect no less from any artist, entrepreneur or innovator who is out to disrupt the world and introduce new ideas.