So what if Beyoncé mimed the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration? At least it was in tune

It's not the first time a track has been pre-recorded, and it won't be the last

Share
Related Topics

Beyoncé has admitted to miming her part in President Obama’s inauguration last month – but does that mean it was all a lie?

The Star-Spangled Banner, of course, sounded as emphatic as ever coming from the lips of one of the most successful recording artists of all time but it was, actually, all pre-recorded. Instead of singing ‘live’, she was, in fact, just singing ‘along’.  And it appears we have a problem with that.

The New York Times’ YouTube upload of her performance currently has its comments function disabled and, at the time of writing, has garnered close to 2,000 'dislike’s'. This is, at best, a cautionary measure, but certainly not one that is being taken because of the quality of the performance in question. There’s no debating that Beyoncé’s delivery is assured, impassioned and, perhaps most importantly, in tune, yet we don’t seem to be such big fans of it anymore when we know it was made earlier. Understandably, there has been a sort of backlash from her fans, most of which plays into either disbelief, confusion or, rather scathingly, hypocrisy. But, the simple fact remains – it was her voice.

What may, or may not, come as a surprise to sceptics is that this is not the first time an inauguration has been mimed at. More to the point, this is not the first time an Obama inauguration has been mimed at. In 2009, the classical musicians Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriella Montero and Andy McGill did exactly the same. They played along, albeit without amplification, to a pre-recorded version of John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts. Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, came to their defence. Speaking to The New York Times, she admitted; “No-one's trying to fool anybody. It's not something we would announce, but it's not something we would try to hide." The problem lies in the fact that the audience only finds out afterwards.

But many organisers, and performers, have good reason for choosing not to perform live. In the case of the inaugurations, it was primarily as a result of the status and importance of the occasion that recordings were relied upon. Beyoncé, herself, has said that her primary motivation behind using the pre-recorded track was that she is a ‘perfectionist’. She then added that, as a result of limited rehearsal time, singing live was not a ‘risk’ she felt comfortable in taking. Similarly, in 2009 it was said that it was the weather which posed a threat to the musicians’ instruments. As Yo-Yo Ma remarked, superbly candidly, “A broken string was not an option. It was wicked cold.” The point to make is that the performers, and their organisers, are highly risk-averse in events such as these. It’s not that it will go wrong – it’s that it could, very easily.

Of course, it seems that much worse when a musician is in fact using a backing track in the first place and yet still manages to go wrong. This is what happened to Rihanna in one sonically hair-raising moment on the London leg of her 777 tour late last year. An almost psychedelic false-start in which the band, her voice and her backing track were half a bar out of sync for the better part of a minute was, naturally, edited out of later re-airings of the full performance. Then there was Ashlee Simpson (younger sister of sometime pop-star Jessica Simpson) and her frankly confusing SNL fluff-up where she walked off stage after her voice started coming out of nowhere.  But backing tracks do have their upsides and, when used correctly, are almost imperceptible – as Beyoncé has proven. Following their Brian Eno-produced Viva La Vida album, Coldplay took it on tour only to realise that it just didn’t sound quite the same live. They soon resorted to playing over their own album tracks, using the studio magic to flesh out their live sound. 

If Beyoncé wants to sing along, let her. After all, we’d much prefer it to be in tune.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'