Updated: 2 p.m., Jan 23
A controversy over whether Beyonce lip-synced the “Star Spangled Banner” during the inaugural ceremony is headed into a third day. Should this even be a controversy?
The pop superstar delivered a dramatic and critically hailed rendition of the national anthem — but was it live? Or the recorded version she taped at a Marine Corps studio Sunday night?
Stories seemed to change through the day. A Marine Band spokesman confirmed late Tuesday that its musicians just mimed playing their instruments during the National Anthem. But he said he could not say whether Beyonce was lip-syncing or actually singing — and, if she was, whether her mike was on.
Capt. Eric Flanagan told us that the Presidential Inaugural Committee originally asked the band to perform with the singer, but because “there was no opportunity for Ms. Knowles-Carter to rehearse,” they decided a live performance was “ill-advised.”
The band had taped performances with all the inaugural singers — just in case of freezing weather or equipment failure. But the only one used was Beyonce’s, said Flanagan.
Earlier Tuesday, another band rep told reporters that the singer had opted for the recording at the last minute and implied she was, in fact, lip-syncing. But Flanagan told us the band couldn’t tell for sure whether Beyonce was singing live. (Wait, wouldn’t they know? Not necessarily: It’s not unusual for performers to sing along to a recorded vocal or instrumental track.)
So who does know? Only Beyonce and the sound editors at the PIC, according to Flanagan. None of their folks got back to us.
**Updated, Wednesday: Flanagan and reps for PIC told us that sound logistics for most of the show were handled by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. But the sound board operator during Beyonce’s song was one that worked for her, Flanagan said. JCCIC also referred questions to Beyonce’s reps **
Shocked? Only if you’ve not been paying attention to the common practice of pre-taping vocals for outdoor performances. Some Beyonce fans insist it looked real — especially when she ripped out her earpiece midway through the song. So good she doesn’t need it.
Whatever. It doesn’t seem like the star was trying to fool anyone: On Instagram, she posted a picture of herself in the recording studio with the anthem sheet music.
What about Kelly Clarkson, who sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”? In an e-mail, Clarkson’s rep said she “sang live as always.” (But no gloating: ABC reports that Clarkson appeared to say “It’s so hard!” to Beyonce after her fellow diva sang.)
But really, the only real surprise here is that anyone is surprised. Pre-recording for important outdoor performances is routine in the music business. Whitney Houston’s 1991 rendition of the anthem at the Super Bowl— one of the greatest ever by a pop singer — was lip synched. At President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the frigid temperatures and wind prompted cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman to use a taped version of “Air and Simple Gifts” over the loudspeakers.
(Oh, and Obama? In a way, he wasn’t exactly taking the oath “live” at the Capitol Monday either. He took the official oath Sunday in the White House ceremony; Monday’s swearing-in was strictly ceremonial.)
UPDATE, Thursday: Everyone weighs in on Beyonce lip-sync controversy — except for Beyonce
Earlier, on the Style Blog: Did Beyonce lip-sync her National Anthem performance? Are you surprised?
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