Sure enough, after the accusations mounted, the gang took to Facebook and Twitter late Monday night with a good-natured “you caught us!” statement:
“After having performed several shows earlier in the week, Gary lost his voice. So instead of canceling our commitment to do the show, we made a last minute decision to lip-sync. We’ve never done it before, and obviously we’re not very good at it. We look forward to singing live again in the very near future!”
This appeared to calm at least some social media furor as fans appreciated the honest explanation. (Sample Facebook comment: “I love ya’ll no matter if you had to lip sync or not. It happens to everyone and you showed great character for going thru with your commitment…I will always respect ya’ll for your great values, your songs are second after that.”)
So why were people so angry when it occurred? Hey, Beyonce lip-synced at Inauguration: Haven’t we all come to the unspoken understanding that whatever the unfortunate reason (illness, unpredictable outdoor noise, intense dancing) lip-syncing just happens sometimes?
Well no, not in country music. Case in point: Blake Shelton’s now very unfortunate dig at a competing genre at the beginning of the ACMs. “Everybody in here tonight is ready to listen to some great amazing live music,” co-host Luke Bryan said. “And if you don’t like live music, then you need to go down the block and see Britney Spears,” joked Shelton smugly about Spears’s new residency gig.
Low blow — and one that the country music audience laughed at appreciatively; because this is country music, not slickly-produced pop, where appearance matters more than anything. Say what you will about the current state of the genre, but country artists are known for being themselves, no matter how much it might cost them in the long run. As a result, authenticity is in the DNA of the genre; as seen in the sample comment above, certain fans appreciate values over music.
Overall, the loyal country audience has a very low tolerance for anything they see as fake, or anything that feels like someone is trying to pull a fast one — which is why one of the most offensive parts of the Rascal Flatts controversy was how obvious it was. Country is supposed to be real above all else.
Still, Nashville artists are still human: Who wants to let not having a voice get in the way of plugging your new single in front of 14 million people? They understandably didn’t want to give up the spot, and that’s another reason some got so angry: Commitment or not, there were plenty of deserving artists in the audience who weren’t given a chance to perform (Rascal Flatts didn’t even have a nomination) and would have loved a chance to get up on stage.
This incident likely won’t affect the group in the long run: Rascal Flatts has been beloved for many years (though also a frequent target for mockery for their pop qualities, which didn’t help in this case), and did effective damage control quickly with a self-deprecating explanation. Though this should offer a valuable lesson to future artists: If you really don’t have a voice, just cancel.