By now, most people have probably heard about or seen Jennifer Hudson's flawless performance of the national anthem at Sunday's Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
What they may not know is the reason why it was flawless: Hudson lip-synced the anthem to a previously recorded track, and apparently so did Faith Hill who performed before her.
They did so at the request of Rickey Minor, the pregame show producer. Minor told The Associated Press that he insisted Hudson and Hill, who sang "America the Beautiful" before the anthem, use the tracks the National Football League requires them to submit a week before the game.
"That's the right way to do it," said Minor, who has produced numerous Super Bowl pregame performances and is the music director for "American Idol." "There's too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance."
Apparently, more and more artists agree. Lip-syncing, once considered an industry taboo, has become expected for pop stars like Britney Spears, who are better known for their performances and personality than their singing ability. But, surprisingly, it has also become de rigueur for some of the best singers and musicians who perform at high-stakes live events such as the Super Bowl.
Robert Levine, executive editor of Billboard magazine, doesn't see anything wrong with that.
"If Bruce Springsteen flubs a line on 'Born to Run' only his fans will notice," he said. "If Jennifer Hudson flubs on the national anthem, people are going to get upset. People want it to be technically perfect as well as emotionally inspiring. Can you guarantee that live? Maybe. But it's good to have insurance."
The NFL certainly thinks so. According to "The Making of the Super Bowl: The Inside Story of the World's Greatest Sporting Event" by former league executive director Don Weiss, the NFL has required performers to have a backup track since 1993, when country crooner Garth Brooks threatened to leave the stadium minutes before he was scheduled to perform unless NBC played his new video. Brooks had previously refused to prerecord the anthem, which meant the league had nothing to play in his place if he left.
Ultimately the show's executive producer agreed to play a portion of Brooks' video if the NFL would agree to roll back the kickoff time by three minutes. Weiss did and Brooks' performance went on without a hitch. And the league made a backup recording a requirement.
Before then, some stars were electing to use a prerecorded track at high-profile events. They include a performance many singers consider the benchmark -- Whitney Houston.
Houston's unforgettable rendition of the anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, during the first Gulf War, set the standard that most singers have tried to top. But that performance, which was also in Tampa, was lip-synced as well, according to the AP.
In previous years most performers could still elect to go live -- the NFL provides live microphones on the stadium floor -- but they must have a backup recording.
Levine believes such revelations should not take away from Houston's or Hudson's performances. "It's a prerecording of her," he said about Hudson. "The 'fakeness' is that it's not really live, not that it's not really her."
It's also possible, however, to enhance a prerecording with equipment that corrects for pitch problems, though it's unlikely that Hudson would need it.