Beyonce, Other Stars, and Lip-Synching

Beyonce isn't the only singer to be embroiled in lip-syncing controversy.

January 22, 2013, 6:26 PM

Jan. 23, 2013— -- intro: Beyonce is embroiled in controversy over whether she lip-synced her beautiful rendition of the national anthem during President Obama's inauguration. But if she did, she's not the only one to have faked it.

Apparently, more and more artists agree. Lip-syncing, once considered an industry taboo, has become expected for pop stars like Britney Spears, who are perhaps 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.

"That's the right way to do it," Rickey Minor, who has produced numerous Super Bowl pregame performances and is now the band leader on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," told the Associated Press in 2009. "There's too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance."

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Top vocal coach Jan Smith, whose voice clients include Rob Thomas, Colbie Caillat, Justin Bieber, Usher and many other big names, told ABC News Radio that performing in cold weather can sometimes trip up even the best vocalists -- and it was cold in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

"The vocal cords, which most people don't know, are in the windpipe and so when a singer breathes in cold air, it's kinda like...jumping into cold water," Smith said. "It restricts the cartilage and can sometimes create variances that way, or difficulties for singers to be able to perform well outside."

In addition, Smith said, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is one of the most difficult songs to sing live, even for a Grammy-winning professional like Beyonce.

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"[It's] a song that spans about 1.5 octaves, and it kind of scares most singers to death just because of where it hits them in their voice," Smith explained. "It usually splits their voice in half, and singers are not, typically, as comfortable in the high end parts or crossing over into falsetto. So, it's kind of a tricky song for most people."

"Being old school and really, you know, priding myself on great live performances, I encourage my artists to do that always," Smith added. "But you know, there are sometimes reasons that people have to choose to do otherwise, and it can vary from...[the] elements, to sickness, to whoever knows."

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Ultimately, former Billboard executive editor Robert Levine believes not all lip-synching is bad, especially when it comes to the national anthem. "It's a prerecording of [the artist]," he told in 2009. "The 'fakeness' is that it's not really live, not that it's not really [them]."

Click through to see a list of other lip-synching performers who made headlines.

quicklist: 1title: Whitney Houstontext: Whitney Houston's performance of the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl was considered a benchmark for many artists. But even Houston lip-synced that performance.

"The music was pre-recorded, and so was the vocal," Minor, who was Houston's musical director at the time, confirmed last February.

Minor said that in a crowd that large and loud, it was impossible for Houston to hear herself. Though she did sing, it was her pre-recorded voice that the audience heard.

Here's another surprise: Minor and Houston changed the national anthem to ensure a better performance.

"The original version is in 3/4 time, which is more like a waltz," Minor explained. "What we tried to do was to put it in 4/4 meter… We wanted to give her a chance to phrase it in such a way that she would be able to take her time and really express the meaning."

Minor was nervous that the altered anthem wouldn't be well received, but that story, at least, has a happy ending: Houston's performance electrified the stadium and soon after, popular demand prompted Houston's record label to release a single that hit the top 20 on the Billboard 15569771

quicklist: 2title: Jennifer Hudson text: "American Idol" alum Jennifer Hudson caused some commotion when it was discovered that she lip-synced the national anthem to a previously recorded track at the 2009 Super Bowl. Faith Hill, who sang "America The Beautiful" before her, also lip-synced.

They did so at the request of Minor, who was the pregame show producer. Minor told The Associated Press at the time that he insisted Hudson and Hill use the tracks the National Football League requires them to submit a week before the game.

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 18288513

quicklist: 3title: Kanye Westtext: No one ever said it would be easy, Yeezy.Kanye West added himself to the roster of music's most infamous on-stage mishaps in December 2008 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," are West's first foray into singing. But whether by his own fault 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.

From the moment West got on the mic, it was clear something wasn't right. Levine from Billboard speculated that 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.

But even if West didn't lip-sync, Tyler Gray, Blender magazine's senior editor, wasn't letting him off the hook.

"He was cheating," Gray said in 2009. "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." media: 14932552

quicklist: 4title: Britney Spearstext: With pop stars like Britney Spears, it's all but expected that lip-syncing will go hand in hand with a live performance. It's an open secret in the music industry, the product of audiences expecting artists to sound the same on albums and onstage.

Spears' November 2008 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.

But the pop princess caused controversy again, accused of lip syncing on stage during the Australia leg of her "Circus" tour, in 2009. According to People magazine, about 100 infuriated fans ditched Spears' Perth show in November 2009, blaming her subpar performance and lack of real singing. The following day, singer/songwriter John Mayer, who's also in the Outback, posted the following update to his Twitter account:

"If you're shocked that Britney was lip-syncing at her concert and want your money back, life may continue to be hard for you."media: 16120786

quicklist: 5title: Madonnatext: At London's annual Q Awards show in 2004, Elton John bashed Madonna for not performing up to par on her Re-Invention tour, saying, "Madonna, best f-- live act? F**k off. Since when has lip-syncing been live? Anyone who lip-syncs in public onstage when you pay [about $169 per ticket] to see them should be shot."

But Madonna's publicist fought back, saying, "Madonna does not lip-sync, nor does she spend her time trashing other artists. She sang every note of her Re-Invention tour live and is not ashamed that she was paid well for her hard work."

The debate didn't stop there. In an attempt to help out his pop star friend, actor Rupert Everett added fuel to the fire, telling the British media, "Madonna sings everything she can sing. ... But, if she goes into a dance routine, she's got to dance. You can't breathe and dance and sing at the same time."media: 15357306

quicklist: 6title: Ashlee Simpsontext: Ashlee Simpson's lip-sync on "Saturday Night Live" may be one of the most infamous in history.

Attempting to perform "Autobiography," her second song of the night, Simpson found herself singing along to the music and lead vocals of her first song "Pieces of Me."

She held the microphone at her side as her canned voice boomed across the studio, danced an awkward jig and then ran off the stage as the vocal recording was shut off and NBC cut away to a commercial.

At the end of the show, "SNL" host of the night Jude Law quipped, "What can I say? Live TV." Simpson, standing next to him, blamed the mishap on her musicians. "My band started playing the wrong song," she said. "I didn't know what to do, so I thought I'd do a hoedown."

A statement issued by Geffen Records, Simpson's label, claimed there was "a computer glitch," while a representative for the show said that the song that came up was a backing track.

The following Monday, Simpson called into MTV's "Total Request Live" and explained that because of complications arising from "severe" acid reflux she had lost her voice and that her doctor had advised her not to sing.

But the incident tarnished Simpson's rep for months. In January 2005, Simpson performed "La La" during the halftime show for the Orange Bowl in Miami and got boos from the crowd of more than 70,000 spectators.

Simpson attempted to build credibility in '05 with a U.S.-Canada tour that she described to reporters as "stripped down," without effects like pyrotechnics, just "me and my band getting out there and having fun."media: 18288611

quicklist: 7title: Milli Vanillitext: Then there are the lip-sync scandals that taint an act for life. In 1989, the dreadlocked duo from Deutschland were performing their hit "Girl You Know It's True" during an MTV-recorded show in Bristol, Conn., when their vocal track began to skip. While fans at the concert didn't seem to care, critics took note and began questioning the merits of Milli Vanilli members Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan.

A year later, in November 1990, media scrutiny led the group's manager to reveal that Milli Vanilli didn't actually sing on their Grammy and American Music Award-winning records.Four days later, the band's 1990 best new artist Grammy was withdrawn. Arista Records dropped the duo from its roster and deleted their album from their catalog, taking "Girl You Know It's True" out of print.Despite subsequent albums and attempts at a comeback, Milli Vanilli never shed its status as one of pop music's most legendary cautionary tales, an example unlikely to be repeated by reputable 18219943

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