I watched the Carrie Underwood opening for Sunday Night Football for the first time last Sunday and I couldn't believe how bad it was. I felt pain watching it. I actually grimaced, not the grimace that writers write when they don't really mean a physical grimace but they also don't want to write "it hurt" for the third time.
It hurt to watch.
Carrie Underwood's Sunday Night Football Theme Song
Carrie Underwood isn't the problem, not even close. She does what she does and my guess is she's as embarrassed to have been involved in the making the sequence as I was viewing it. It made me wonder if I really wanted to watch the game, after all. More than anything, it made me wonder: who could possibly be the audience for something like that?
Something has to be truly offensive for Carrie Underwood's voice to be incapable of saving it. How can a production team ruin a country-rock theme song for the NFL whose audience, it's easy to think, would be primarily the same audience for a country-rock song?
Ah, the production team—they are the people responsible for the disaster that NBC broadcasts to upwards of 20 million people, on average, every Sunday night. Surely, they have an extensive research team exploring audience demographics and pop culture trends to pinpoint the exact scenes a video should contain to please every possible segment of that audience.
Somehow, the result of that research was:
1. No one will mind if we film Carrie in front of a green screen so that we can superimpose her weird hop-dancing over whatever players agree to do this, whenever we get a chance to film them.
2. No one will notice the players who can't act or the players who usually can act but somehow can't for this sequence or the players whose agents persuaded them after weeks of pestering that, yes, you hate acting and you can't act but this is a good idea. And they won't notice singing Eli, I promise.
3. People aren't film critics, so they won't mind the terrible animations that we paid too much money for.
4. Kids love smartphones, so lets put a giant, fake one over the whole shot, and— Oh, I got it! Lots of people have Verizon phones (and Verizon is rich) and sometimes people like Verizon commercials (and Verizon is going to pay us an actual ton of money for this) and viewers know about product placement anyway so we won't even hide it. In fact, we'll make it as big and obvious as possible so that they applaud our transparency.
5. Carrie's an incredible singer and no one will even notice how the rest of the commercial treats the audience like they're all stupid, oblivious, content-sucking numbers in our research meeting.
Great! This will be great.
They sort of got that last one right but backwards. I was so horrified by what I was watching that, after two views, I still haven't picked up a single lyric of the song that's— well, it's probably great, right? I'm sure it's really good…
The video registers on its own level of cultural embarrassment. It's cheesy beyond Limburger. Watching it causes a legitimate shock to the body.
So there's only one thing to do when the fateful opening notes play before the game tonight: just enjoy it. It's a fantastic opportunity to give it your best Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment with whomever's on the couch next to you.
To see how far we've come, enjoy a few previous NFL opening themes: