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Fergie says 'tried my best' after national anthem blowback

Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

"I've always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA," the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. "I'm a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn't strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best."

Fergie's slow, bluesy rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on Sunday night wasn't particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA's annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on "the dawn's early light."

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 ½-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday's mood — and became an instant GIF — when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, "Let's play some basketball!"

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he "needed a cigarette" after Fergie's performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal leaped to Fergie's defense, saying: "Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone."

Others on social media weren't as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

The Forum in nearby Inglewood, California, was the site of arguably the most famous national anthem in sports history during another NBA All-Star Game 35 years ago.

Marvin Gaye's touching rhythm-and-blues version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1983 game was initially criticized, but has since gained widespread acceptance as a groundbreaking musical performance.

Instead, Fergie is more likely to join the long list of curious versions of the anthem, even though she showed far more impressive vocal chops than the likes of Roseanne Barr or Carl Lewis.

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More AP basketball: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball

Solange Knowles named Harvard Foundation artist of the year

Solange Knowles is getting another honor — this one from the Harvard Foundation.

The singer, songwriter and artist has been named the foundation's artist of the year, and is set to accept the accolade on March 3.

The Harvard Foundation is dedicated to exploring intercultural and race relations, and it's certainly been a major theme in Knowles' work. Her Grammy-winning 2016 album, "A Seat at the Table," touched on racial politics and empowerment issues, and featured hits like "Don't Touch My Hair." Knowles also had an exhibit on black womanhood at London's Tate Modern last year.

Knowles was a Glamour Woman of the Year honoree last year.

Previous Harvard Foundation artists of the year include Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Shakira, Viola Davis and Salma Hayek.

'Scorpion' actress Katharine McPhee heading to Broadway

Actress Katharine McPhee has already played someone who stars in a Broadway show. Now she's really going to do it herself.

The singer-actress told The Associated Press that she is stepping into the hit musical "Waitress," marking the Broadway debut for the former cast member of NBC's "Smash." She starts April 10 and stars through June 17.

"People come up to me all the time and say, 'You've done Broadway, right?' And I'm like, 'Nope, I've never done it,'" McPhee said. "I did a show about it but I was never, in fact, on Broadway. So this is really my first moment."

McPhee, 33, can be seen on the CBS drama "Scorpion," where she helps a group of misfit geniuses combat high-tech threats. Her recording career includes the 2015 album, "Hysteria," and she sings jazz standards on "I Fall in Love Too Easily," which came out last year.

McPhee, who was the runner-up to the 2006 "American Idol" crown, losing to Taylor Hicks, also starred in "Smash," which focused on the backstage drama surrounding the creation of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.

McPhee played Karen Cartwright, a small-town girl from Iowa who becomes a serious contender for the title role, putting her in fierce competition with seasoned Broadway trouper Ivy Linn, played by Megan Hilty.

"Waitress," the musical adaptation of the 2007 film with songs by pop star Sara Bareilles, tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and pie maker trapped in a small-town diner and a loveless marriage. The role has been played by Jessie Mueller, Betsy Wolfe — and Bareilles herself.

"Aside from being a big Broadway fan and wanting to be on Broadway one day, to do a show that Sara Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics to — I'm such a fan of hers — it's a real thrill for me," McPhee said.

The musical is adapted from a 2007 film starring Keri Russell. It offers unusual ingredients for musical theater, like infidelity, spousal abuse and lack of maternal instincts.

"It's a group of imperfect people, which is real and human. I'm looking forward to portraying a woman that a lot of people can relate to — struggling, wanting to have a better life," McPhee said. "I can't wait to have this to be my first show."

With live TV under her belt, as well as grueling shooting schedules, McPhee said her chief concern is having the energy needed to perform eight times a week.

"I'm not afraid of the role. I'm not afraid of the nerves of doing a show," she said. "I'm more afraid of the stamina." Bareilles and McPhee huddled in her dressing room and broke the role down. "I'm going to look to her as a guiding light."

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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