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When Andra Day stepped onto the podium at Super Bowl LVIII, it was a moment she had waited years to experience—not because she was singing on the biggest television broadcast of the year, but because she was finally given the chance to perform the Black national anthem. For years, Day had been trying to pivot invitations to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” into an opportunity to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“I had always been denied,” she says. “I got to a point where I was like, OK, until I can do that anthem, I don’t really want to do it again.”

Day, 39, burst onto the scene in 2015 with her song “Rise Up,” a rousing power ballad that earned a Grammy nomination and later became an anthem for Black Lives Matter protests. In 2021, in her first leading role in a feature film, she played one of the most legendary singers of all time in director Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a performance for which she nabbed a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination while the soundtrack took home a Grammy.

She has filmed another movie with Daniels, The Deliverance, and one with writer-director Titus Kaphar, Exhibiting Forgiveness, both of which are forthcoming. Fans have expressed hopes that she might someday play another influential singer onscreen: Eartha Kitt. “I’ve heard the calls, and I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time,” Day says.

But Day has spoken about the immense pressure she felt to do justice to Holiday’s story, and there was a cost: to capture Holiday’s sound, she smoked cigarettes during filming and damaged her voice. It was something she contended with as she prepared for the Super Bowl and in recording her second album—Cassandra—which she’ll release this spring. “I’m really just trying to heal my voice and learn the new pocket that it’s in,” she says.

Day has been working on the new album since 2017, experimenting with different sounds and ideas. She’s aware that many people will expect her to deliver inspirational songs like “Rise Up,” but music like that can’t be forced. “Maybe I will inspire differently on this album by just talking about my experiences,” she says. “I gave myself the freedom to do that.”

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