And now, here to lip sync the National Anthem…

Question: At a time when fake things — fake performances, fake girlfriends — ends careers and images, how is it that lip syncing escapes scorn?

This performance yesterday? It was fake.

And the Marine Corp band was faking it to, according to Washingtonian.


But to close observers, it appeared the performer was not singing live. To press seated just below the podium, in front of the “President’s Own” Marine Corps Band, it was evident that the band wasn’t actually playing during the song–even though band director Colonel Michael J. Colburn was conducting energetically and the band members mimicked blowing into their instruments. Separately, at one point during her performance, Beyoncé removed her earpiece.

A hint as to the actual origins of the version Beyoncé sang came from her own hand: On January 20, the day before the ceremony, Beyoncé posted pictures to her Instagram account that appeared to show her in a recording studio. In one, she holds a copy of the sheet music to “The Star Spangled Banner” in front of a microphone attached to a recording device, and in another she sits in front of recording equipment while members of the Marine Corps Band stand clutching sheet music behind her.

The media was in perfect position to detect the fakery, but chose to gush on about the performance anyway.

The lesson? Trust the old-timers:

  • BJ

    I remember when the super bowl was held in Minnesota some time ago that my friend was excited to preform, with his school marching band, during half time. But he was more excited about going to the recording studio to record the sound that would be broadcast (about a month before if I recall).

  • freealonzo

    I guess I don’t have a problem lip syncing the N.A. for events like this or Super Bowl. However going to a “concert” only to have the performer lip sync their performance is I would avoid like the plague.

  • Jim G

    Not only does he have a great voice, he’s got a name I can trust.

  • Bob Collins
  • Tyler

    I did live sound for about 10 years, and with such a high-profile event, I can completely understand why you would use pre-recorded audio – especially for a patriotic event where you only have one chance to get the National Anthem right.

    First, with all the cell phones in the area, it’s likely that radio interference is going to be drastic enough that the singer’s mic won’t be received by equipment.

    Second, there’s always a chance the performer could catch a cold or do something else to his or her voice the night before.

    Third, feedback (high-pitched squealing) can often be an issue, and you don’t want to be chasing that down during a big event.

    Fourth, (and in particular regard to the Band), using mics outdoors to get a concert-band-quality sound is extremely difficult, especially when there’s no band shell to block out crowd and wind noise.

    So yeah, it’s a little disappointing it wasn’t live. But I bet the sound technicians were downing a lot fewer Tums…

  • Bob Collins

    Be that as it may, you’re still pawning something off as something it’s not.

    Just don’t have a National Anthem. Or just have the Marine band play it if the technical challenges are so great.

    Then again, most everything about politics is style over substance, so perhaps it’s a fitting tradition.

  • Tyler

    Be that as it may, you’re still pawning something off as something it’s not.

    Bob, I hope you’re not paying for a cable TV subscription. ;-D

  • Joanna

    What, the MARINE Corp BAND too? now, that is low.

  • Fred Child

    Playing outdoors w/o a band shell under those conditions (cold & wind), it’s standard operating procedure and professionally speaking, the respondible thing to pre-record, just in case. Same thing happened four years ago with (gasp!) a classical quartet. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma chatted with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel about it in 2009: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99816993.

    So: should we just have the music on tape w/o the miming performers? Maybe. But we’re a visual culture, aren’t we?

  • Bob Collins

    The crime is the cover-up. To attempt to create illusion. Tell the people with the goose bumps that they were watching a fake performance, and suddenly the goose bumps disappear.

    If you’re not going to be honest with the audience, you’re insulting the audience.

    BTW, were the kids in the Fergus Falls High School Band faking it? If not, then if it’s good enough for the Fergus Falls kids, it’s good enough for Beyonce and the Marine Corps Band.

    The Marine Corps. They’ll risk their lives to prevent no man being left behind. But they draw the line and putting their lips on a cold piccolo.

  • kennedy

    Maybe they should lip synch the oath of office to avoid gaffes like what happened four years ago?

  • Elizabeth O.

    My heart is going to break if you tell me this National Anthem was lip synced.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHmdu_I_0zI

  • Fred Child

    If the folks directly involved speak openly about it right away, there is no cover-up. (Talking about Yo-Yo Ma here, who also spoke on behalf of the Marine Band.) But you’re right, Bob, this kind of “performance” means creating an illusion — in effect, lying, and that’s wrong. So what’s to be done? I think it’s unreasonable to expect world-class instrumental performances outdoors in winter. How about we go to a live shot from somewhere nearby…maybe the Kennedy Center? That would satisfy our desire for music to mark the occasion, and make it possible to be truly live

    And to go back to your opening question: fake performing doesn’t escape scorn — when there is a reasonsble expectation of being live. Remember Ashlee Simpson’s SNL melt-down?

  • Dave S.

    If the performance (or sound) isn’t perfect, so what? The USA becomes a laughingstock? Obama’s second term goes down in ignominy? Beyonce’s career tanks? The piccolo player gets a dishonorable discharge?

  • Becky L.

    It’s still her voice that we heard, it’s still her that we saw. It’s not as though someone put a boombox on stage and pressed play. Lots of performers do prerecord, in situations where sound issues can be a problem. Many of the songs for the closing ceremonies in London were prerecorded because of projection/audio issues. And it’s downright possible that Whitney’s Super Bowl anthem was prerecorded also – there’s been controversy over that too. Some performers take a chance that everything will work out all right live, some prefer knowing that it will sound perfect. Big deal.

  • jay sieling

    Did she or didn’t she? The Washingtonian article makes a claim (by way of asking a question) and offers evidence: the pre-recorded safety tracks, and the use of a recorded music track for accompaniment. Kelly Clarkson also pre-recorded during rehearsal…why no claim of lip syncing for her?

    Until Beyonce or those close on the platform confirm she lip synced, it is still speculation. Citing the Washingtonian article as the source to claim it ‘fake’ is not helpful because no proof is provided in the article. Only speculation that doesn’t make the case.

    A speculative case in favor of live performing can also be made on the same level of evidence. Watch the video (I saw it live on the jumbotrons in front of the Capital reflecting pond) IF it was lipsyncing it was perfect. Muscles in the throat, expressions, all seem to confirm actual performance and not mime. IF she was lip syncing, why remove the ear piece…that seems to support an actual live performance…reacting to the recording and the live sound. IF she was lip syncing, you’d think it would be more difficult to maintain the illusion without the ear piece and try sync the mouthing of lyrics while the sound is bouncing from the speakers and echoing up and down the mall.

    Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. Doesn’t really matter…..the lines have been drawn. It seems to be pretty common to be cynical in all things.