No one ever said it would be easy, Yeezy.
Kanye West added himself to the roster of music's most infamous on-stage mishaps Saturday when he failed to nail his performance of "Love Lockdown" on "Saturday Night Live."
To be fair, West's greatest strengths lie in rapping and producing.
"Love Lockdown" and the album from which it hails, "808's and Heartbreak," is West's first foray into singing. But whether by fault of his own or because of his audio equipment, his attempt to serenade "SNL's" audience came off as feeble at best, fueling rumors that he requires a little help in the vocals department.
Check out the performances that stirred scandal, and the verdict on whether or not each artist committed what many fans regard as the greatest on-stage sin of all: lip-syncing.
From the moment West got on the mic at "SNL," it was clear something wasn't right. Rob Levine, executive editor of Billboard magazine, speculated West's weak voice had to do with a glitch in the autotune feature many artists use to stay on pitch while recording in the studio and rocking out live.
"Autotune allows you to hit every note perfectly. You're not going to be sharp or flat," Levine said. "I think the effect wasn't fully realized, [the autotune] might have been set up wrong. But it's foolish to suggest he was lip-syncing. If he were lip-syncing, it would've sounded exactly the way he wanted it to."
But even if West didn't lip-sync, Tyler Gray, Blender magazine's senior editor, isn't letting him off the hook.
"He was cheating. At the end of the day, did he make up for that lackluster element of his performance with something that balanced it out? I don't really think so. It was neat visuals, but the music wasn't quite up to par," said Gray.
"In the beginning, he got an A for effort because he was trying to break the mold," Gray said, referring to West's branching out from typical hip-hop techniques. "But the effort grade only goes so far. Now he actually has to sound good. And he didn't. He sounded like a bad talent show."
With pop stars like Britney Spears, it's all but expected that lip-syncing will go hand in hand with a live performance. Levine called it an open secret in the music industry, the product of audiences expecting artists to sound the same on albums and on stage.
"Traditionally, jazz and opera had singers who were technically great singers, whereas in rock you had singers. But if they were a little sharp or a little flat, but no one really cared because they weren't expected to be perfect," he said. "As pop music becomes more artificially perfect, kids who grew up on that aesthetic want that perfection. When you're used to everything being on pitch, you don't want to hear anything else."
As a result, stars like Spears often perform with backup tracks to ensure they sound as perky and on pitch on stage as they do on their albums, after producers spend hours fine-tuning their voices.
Spears' November performance of "Womanizer" on the U.K. TV show "The X Factor" was panned by critics because she reportedly lip-synced although "X Factor" judge Simon Cowell didn't seem to mind. The "American Idol" mainstay gave the rebounding pop icon a standing ovation after her gig.