The Beyoncé lip-sync debate is in some ways a clash of cultures. On one side is a political world in which authenticity is seen as important; on the other is show business.
Is it possible that Beyoncé sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" live at President Obama’s inauguration, after all? Or that she sang some of it live and let a prerecorded tape carry the rest?
This comes up because the Marine Band has backed off a statement that the ex-Destiny’s Child singer lip-synced the song all the way through. Right now the situation seems to be this: The sound of the Marine Band under the national anthem was a prerecorded track. Musicians did not have enough time to practice with Beyoncé before the inauguration to do otherwise.
But the Marine Band has no idea what Beyoncé herself did.
“Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter’s vocal performance, no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded,” said a statement from Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Gregory Wolf.
Read carefully, this does not say she didn’t lip-sync, of course. So previous reports that she did just that may be right. It simply unconfirms something that the journalists and the Twitterverse at large had been treating as established fact. Beyoncé herself has yet to weigh in on the matter.
Still, the debate rages on whether it matters if she did mouth “O say can you see” instead of sing it. In some ways, it’s a clash of cultures. On one side is a political world in which authenticity is seen as important and the inauguration is a ritual as important as any America has, while on the other is show business, where surface is everything and singers routinely auto-tune and/or lip-sync their performances.
Music legend Aretha Franklin expressed both sides of this equation Wednesday, saying she “laughed” when she heard about the controversy. She sang live at the 2009 Obama inaugural, despite the cold. “I wanted to give people the real thing,” she told ABC News.
Still, as a professional she can understand why Beyoncé lip-synced. If that’s what she did.
“The weather down there was about 46 or 44 degrees, and for most singers that is just not good singing weather,” Ms. Franklin told ABC.