I had a dream once, it wasn’t that long ago. I even wrote a story based entirely on this childhood dream–which was to sing the National Anthem at a Dodgers game. I don’t know how many people have had a similar dream, but when Beyonce lipsynced the National Anthem, it started a controversy in pop music and popular culture that hasn’t been heard since Mili Vanili had to give up their Grammy and killed the idea that you had to have real talent to sing the national anthem at an important event.
“I am a perfectionist,” she explained. “And one thing about me: I practice ’till my feet bleed. I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra. It was a live television show… Due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check… I did not feel comfortable singing live.”
What’s wrong with being a perfectionist and wanting to sound ‘perfect’ at a national event of some importance? –The same thing that is wrong with lip syncing a live performance and the use of auto-tunes.
Bob Dylan writes songs and doesn’t sing them well. Somehow we forgive him for it. Why? His talents in song and lyric writing make up for his lack of perfect pitch. He isn’t the only singer that sings his own lyrics without putting them through auto-tune (and, honestly, can you imagine what he’d sound like WITH auto-tunes?). Many artists forgo auto-tune, and most of them sound the same live as they do on their album. But the list of singers who haven’t used it is very short. Nelly Furtado is reported to be a singer who will not use auto tunes, but Britney Spears suffers from overproduction that makes her live performances sound weak in comparison to her studio productions. The Black Eyed Peas are well known for their heavy use of autotunes:
It’s a rare combination to have someone who can write songs and sing well. The computer allows me to execute my ideas at the speed I think them. So that’s why I lean to Auto-Tune. It’s just an effect. But I am working on, you know, my singing abilities.
(Will-I-Am of the Black Eyed Peas- http://www.nme.com/news/black-eyed-peas–2/63983#EkpBLXLmSwRwvSyl.99)
But ‘working’ on your singing abilities should have come BEFORE your success Will. That’s the point.
Would you pay a premium price to hear a recording of a famous violinists solo while they faked playing it? Would you pay for a theater performance and be content when they pulled down a screen and showed you a film of it? In the case of lip sync and autotunes, you DON’T get what you paid for. That makes it dishonest from the start.
The problem with lipsyncing an important performance is the same problem with autotunes. It shows that the artist has neither done the work, or earned the space they are currently holding, and are still unwilling to take the risks that would make them worthy of the space they are holding. That space could be filled by someone who is worthy–someone who has done the work and took the risks. Someone not Beyonce or Will-I-Am. Someone still struggling because they can’t afford a producer that makes them sound pitch perfect or unwilling to lip sync.
The music industry is losing credibility deservedly because it relies too heavily on a production built (as Fall Out Boy calls it) on “trash painted gold.” Musicians who have built themselves from the ground up are quickly up-and-coming in the age of youtube and Facebook. Their ability to hold their own on a shoe string budget and a lot of hard work will quickly outpace the overproduced and over autotuned boy/girl bands and their spin offs, because if there’s one American Value that we all value, it’s earning the number one spot honestly. There was a time that you could have called Beyonce’s success an “American Dream,” but her lip syncing is more proof that it’s not about how talented you are, but who you know, when it comes to success — and that’s not very “American” at all. That’s the same reason so many people have given up on the American System (politics included) and the same reason these methods of success should be rejected. Hard work, good work, risk, and real talent earned through time and skill, should be things we reward with success–that is “American.”