A crane shot slowly sweeps down toward a massive, billowing rose-red cape attached to someone playing an equally red grand piano. As the camera closes in on the figure, you realize it’s Alicia Keys, playing the descending triplets that begin “If I Ain’t Got You,” one of her earliest and biggest hits. Her voice, as smooth as ever, eases in with a shortened version of the hums that begin the original recording, then she starts belting out the chorus lyrics… and her voice cracks immediately.
That’s how Keys’ surprising (and brief) cameo during Usher’s Super Bowl 2024 performance kicked off if you were watching live. But those who didn’t watch wouldn’t know it now without reading social posts about it or news stories like this AV Club one, because there’s no evidence of it in the official video posted by the NFL after the fact.
Last night Alicia Keys’s voice cracked (first video), and fascinatingly, the official NFL YouTube channel appears to be attempting to erase that little moment, having edited it out in their upload (second video). pic.twitter.com/EM4k8rWT8c
— Robert Komaniecki (@Komaniecki_R) February 12, 2024
If it was an intentional edit, it was an easy one — tricks like cutting out bits of audio and lengthening a nearby note to fill the space are trivial. It’s also not all that unusual — AV Club points out that Jennifer Lopez’ raw 2010 Saturday Night Live performance was altered for a later video upload. It happens elsewhere in entertainment, too, like that disappearing coffee cup in Game of Thrones or just so much of the original Star Wars trilogy, right from the beginning.
If you were among the 126.6 million people whom are estimated to have watched the game live — a record, if accurate — just know that as you watch the NFL’s YouTube upload, you aren’t suffering from the Mandela effect. Keys’ voice really did break; they just don’t want you to know about it.