Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thoughts On Lip Syncing ...

This morning, the news that Beyonce lip synced her performance of the national anthem yesterday caused a bit of a kerfuffle.

Twitter was abuzz, no surprise in our celebrity-driven culture.

I saw it first as a rumor. I gave her the benefit of the doubt, figuring it was just another case of one person trying to tear another person down.

Then I saw it confirmed, and I have to say, I was disappointed.

Now, I think I understand Beyonce's motivations. It was a very important moment. As an artist, I'm sure she wanted to deliver the best possible rendition of our anthem for the president. I admire that.

But a taped performance isn't a true performance. In the studio, if you flub a phrase, you simply punch in a new take of that phrase and no one is ever the wiser. That's the beauty of production.

Hell, the president flubbed his oath. He swallowed a word. In a moment so filled with emotion, I'm surprised his voice was as steady as it was. Grace under pressure, that's for sure. But then, grace under pressure defines his entire presidency. But I digress.

Lip syncing is dishonest. It's not the "not singing" that bothers me so much as the "pretending to sing." To stand in front of an audience and let them believe that they're hearing you perform a song live when you're really just standing there mouthing the words but letting them believe that they're hearing you live bothers me. And mind you, I feel the same about any artist who lip syncs. This is not Beyonce-specific.

Fast forward to tonight.

Donna Brazile – whom I love, love, love – retweeted a comment from Terry McMillian: "I don't care that Beyonce lip-synced. We know she sounded just like herself on stage. And that's a fact."

I replied to ask a question: "Curious: What might your reaction have been if she had been introduced with 'Here to lip sync the nation anthem, Beyonce'?"

Ms. McMillan responded: "Oh, please."

I replied: "No, really. It's one thing to sing live, it's another to lip sync. Why not tell people it's not live? Because it matters."

In the meantime, she had written again: "Why don't you call Beyonce's people and complain? Or find something else to worry about."

So I replied: "I'm just commenting on your tweet. No need to get snarky."

And she wrote: "Go back and read your tweet."

To which I replied: "It was a sincere question. Twitter doesn't allow inflection. I honestly wonder if folks would be OK knowing it was taped."

At which point another tweeter chimed in: "Oh. baby Jeebus on a pogo stick. Is this really a big deal to you? Really? #whitewomensproblems"


I replied: "I'm just asking a question. No need to insert my race into it."

And my question stands: If lip syncing isn't a big deal, why not tell an audience up front that what they're about to hear is pre-recorded?

I presume the answer for most people is because they don't want to hear a recorded take of an artist, they want to experience a performance live.

When I go to a concert, it's not to listen to songs that I can listen to at home on a CD. It's to participate in an experience with the artist. He or she is creating music in real time. I am experiencing that music in real time. It's communal.

It's not about me just getting to get a glimpse of a famous person. I don't care about that. I care about the experience. (Ever been to a Springsteen show? That's an experience.)

Even as I write this, another tweeter has chimed in: "worry about those crows feet around your eyes sis"

My reply? "Charming."

Very enlightening, this brief exchange.

And I should know better than to hope for a substantive conversation on Twitter.

(By the by, there was a bit of "Did she or didn't she?" swirling about. Did she use a prerecorded track for only part of the song? From the Washington Post: "Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Gregory Wolf said that because there was no opportunity for Beyonce to rehearse with the Marine Band, it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill advised. Instead they used a pre-recorded track for the band’s portion of the song." But tonight, in the Post: "Update 5:29 p.m: The U.S. Marine Band has stated that Beyonce did indeed lip sync to a pre-recorded version of the national anthem.")

And the "crow's feet" snarker replied: "what? I thought you would like to know that you arent aging well...no?"

Like I said: Charming.

Oh, and the tweeter of "#whitewomensproblems" came back with: "And yet, you didn't respond to my question - just my apt hashtag. Nuff sed, sugar!"

To which I wrote: "I thought 'I'm just asking a question' sufficed. No, it's not a big deal to me, sugar."

It seemed like the best way to end a fruitless exchange.

I was asking a question about lip syncing. It's fascinating to me that some turned it into an issue of race and age.



Anonymous Dave said...

It's why I am not on Twitter!

It's like reading the comments at any major news web site.

Just makes you realize how many sad, bitter, hateful people there are out there.

But to your point...

If it had been even colder than it was and James Taylor couldn't play his guitar, I would have been cool with all the performers using recorded performances for the sake of the day. But if he could sing AND PLAY and Kelly Clarkson could sing, then Beyonce could too. It's the one out of three statistic that throws a dark shadow over her. It smacks of protecting her image rather than wanting to perform.

I'd guess that Beyonce probably uses recorded backing tracks to enhance her solo voice in all her live performances like Madonna and Lady Gaga. It's more common than we think and, quite frankly, their audiences simply do not care! I don't think The Boss should even be mentioned in the same sentence as these commercial products.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yeah, weird that a question about the artistic integrity is met with digs about my age and my race. Which kinda confirms my point, since they didn't have a valid counter-argument.

That Beyonce hasn't made a comment about it all also seems to confirm that she lip synced. If she sang live, I would hope she'd be insistent that people know that. But then, Aretha already gave her blessing so why belabor the point?

As for Bruce, I only mention him in terms of a great live experience. The man puts on the best show of all the artists I've ever seen.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

I wasn't being critical of your Bruce mention. You're right. The four-hour gig I was lucky enough to see back in the old days when he played Wembley Arena, London was, to this day, one of the best I've ever seen, David Bowie at Madison Square Garden came a close second. (Of course that's ignoring all the Dylan and Cohen gigs which for me personally are always top of the heap.)

The great thing about these people is that you know (with a few minor exceptions in the case of Bowie) every note you hear is being played or sung by a human being on the stage!

Have you seen the YouTube video of Justin Bieber managing to throw up on stage but miraculously keep singing at the same time? Ooops what a giveaway.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I had heard about Justin's feat.

I purposely never looked for the video.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...


5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I swipe many good ideas from other peoples' posts, and this is one of them: We've become so inured to artifice -- Autotuned singers, synching, CGI explosions instead of "real" FX, CGI actors, chopped-up and manipulated political ads, out-of-context soundbites --- that the line between real and fake has blurred.

And no one cares.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well put.

It's unfortunate on all those levels, but when it comes to singing, hell, risk miss hitting a note perfectly. It's like the difference between something made by hand and made by machine. There might be a flaw but at least it has character.

That she stood up there and acted singing really bothers me. I'm saddened that so many people said, "Who cares?!"

9:55 PM  

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