Here’s a truth bomb that will rock you to your very core: Sometimes, at big, important events, singers don’t actually sing.
An artist may choose to mouth along to a pre-recorded track during a “live” performance for any number of reasons. Maybe the weather is bad; maybe she simply isn’t feeling well. Whatever the excuse, though, lip-synching is about as ubiquitous as the common cold — especially if the singer in question happens to be performing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Jennifer Hudson did it at Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. Whitney Houston also did it when delivering her definitive version of the anthem in 1991.
Which brings us to Beyoncé, who reportedly used a pre-recorded track when she sang the national anthem at yesterday’s presidential inauguration. Though reps for the star and the United States Marine Band have not yet responded to EW’s requests for comment, a Marine spokesperson told the New York Times that Beyoncé did lip-sync the song — and that it’s standard procedure for inaugural performers to record their music in advance in case of bad weather. In 2009, for example, cellist Yo Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman chose to employ their backup track due to that Inauguration Day’s bitter cold and harsh winds.
When asked why Beyoncé didn’t do the anthem live, the spokesperson told the Times that she didn’t know — the weather was fine, by all accounts, and Kelly Clarkson reportedly performed her own inauguration song without a backing track. “That is what we were instructed to do so that is what we did,” the Marine explained. “It’s not because Beyoncé can’t sing. We all know Beyoncé can sing. We all know the Marine Band can play.”
But regardless of the reason, Bey shouldn’t be pilloried for lip-synching. If we want flawless perfection from our musicians, we’re going to have to accept the fact that sometimes that isn’t possible without backing tracks. (See what can happen when someone attacks “The Star-Spangled Banner” without the help of modern recording technology?) And even if this whole thing makes her dramatic earpiece removal seem pretty silly, hey — at least Beyoncé got the words right.