Sing It! Or… not?

Lip-sync (verb) means to synchronize recorded sound with lip movements or to match lip movements with recorded speech or singing.  It is a practice that has become common among pop stars who generally incorporate a lot of dance into their performances; removing the pressure of singing live allows the artist to concentrate on their choreography and other visual aspects of their performance.  I prefer to call it cheating.

Madonna performed at the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 5th.  Unsurprisingly, her set fell flat with my husband and I, but what bothered me more than the outdated tunes was that Madonna chose to lip sync rather that sing live.  There are quite a few artists who claim that a live event seen by so many people actually calls for lip synching, as there can be many errors in a live performance.  I don’t think Madonna can use that excuse though, seeing as she sang her own songs that she has been performing for years and years, the exception being the new single she premiered.  I wasn’t looking forward to her performance and still felt cheated once it was over; they could have hired an impersonator to do what she did for the audience.

What boggles my mind is that at some point, it became acceptable and somewhat expected for pop stars to lip sync during performances.  I doubt anyone goes to a Britney Spears concert and expects to hear live vocals as she gyrates across the stage.  This does not extend into other genres of music though; I imagine the crowd would riot if The Black Keys decided to play it safe and use prerecorded vocals and fake their way through a set.  Kanye West doesn’t take center stage and rely on a recording to supply his vocals so he can concentrate on other parts of his performance.  It’s simply not done because it’s dishonest, it’s unfair to fans who are expecting a live rendition, it cheats fans out of experiencing the different sound of a live performance, and you just can’t call something “live” when it’s not.

I’ve heard the defense that some pop stars need to lip sync due to the stage acrobatics and tricky dance moves that are part of their performance; their energy must be conserved for those activities.  If so, how is it that Pink can perform Sober almost flawlessly while flying across the stage in a circus act?  Yes, you can tell she’s slightly winded, but her voice shines and the fact that she can sing upside down while flying through the air is just damn impressive.  I’d rather have a slightly breathy sounding singer than one who can’t be bothered singing at all.

The choice between lip synching and live singing depends on what is more important to the artist.  Are they more concerned with perfection or more concerned with their fans?  Are they all right with giving the audience something they can get from the CD or are they willing to give more with the authenticity of a live performance?  Are complex dance routines worth it if it means sacrificing the ability to sing properly while performing tough choreographed moves?  Has their voice been tweaked and fixed during edits so many times that their live voice would throw us for a loop?  I don’t care how many records an artist can sell or how gorgeous their music videos turn out to be, if they can’t sing live I don’t believe they get to call themselves a singer.

Watching Madonna was a disappointing snooze-fest, but it did give me a better appreciation for all of those wonderful artists out there who don’t deny their fans the wonder of a live performance.  I imagine it’s much more satisfying to leave a stage knowing you sang your ass off than leave the stage knowing your lips sure did match the words you weren’t singing.  A performance is more than just showing up and looking pretty, it’s about showcasing your voice and your music, something that just can’t be done properly with prerecorded song.

Weigh in: What did you think of Madonna’s performance or of lip synching in general?


About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on February 7, 2012, in News, Sports, TV/Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. have you ever seen kanye in concert? he cheats a bit…as most rappers do….I thought madonna might of been singing some of it live but couldn’t really tell as I wasn’t really paying that much attention to that detail (although i usually DO just to lambast the bullshit of lip sycning..and that statement answers your question I think)

    anywho…nicki minaj impressively usually sings live when she appears on tv shows and what have you….I wanted desperately to feel about nicki minaj the same way I do about lady gaga but sadly I’ve grown to respect her and give her credit as an artist…although I’ve read she used to be pretty hardcore before going all “pop”…

    there probably are still people that go see britney spears expecting live vocals…sadder still are some people don’t realize she’s lip syncing…((they might be mentally retarded..but still…or if they aren’t then they should be))…remember i beleive over in europe not all that long ago a group of audience members were threatening to sue either the venue or britney spears because they were ‘shocked’ she didn’t actually sing live….proving idiots can be found everywhere

    the madonna half time spectacular wasn’t as awful as I expected it to be..but she probably isn’t going to sell all that many tickets on her upcoming world tour or of her new album because of it.

  2. Very interesting topic, appreciate it for putting up.

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