Dear God, tell us Beyoncé did not go all Ashlee Simpson on us and lip-sync that puppy from the podium!
(Was it a slow news week?)
It should have been a blip on the radar; a minor anecdote amongst the many non-stories turned into STORIES pre-, during & post-Inauguration. We had Eric Cantor’s “priceless” wince during the poetry reading, Sasha Obama’s “adorable” yawn during the oath, Michelle’s seriously overhyped eye-roll, even the incredulous lack of coverage by right wing media sources. And while the Beyoncé story has been floating around in all that fluff since the day of the deed, it’s taken on some serious heat as the “she said, he said, she said, they said” imbroglio picks up steam.
It is now time to tell it like it is (as Aaron Neville would say…I mean, sing).
Here’s the timeline (oh, yeah…this is serious):
1. Beyoncé does a smashing, hair-raising job on Inaugural Day with the National Anthem.
2. On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, a rep from the United States Marine Band, Kristin DuBois, comes out and outs Ms. Thang:
“All music is pre-recorded for the ceremony because there are so many eventualities and conditions that day,” Kristin DuBois, a rep for the band tells Page Six. “We performed, live, the band. But we received last-minute word that Beyoncé was going to use the pre-recorded vocal track. Those were the instructions we were given. We don’t know what the (sic) reason why.” [Source]
3. Shortly after, this declaration is swiftly backtracked (has Dubois been seen since??):
Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Gregory Wolf said that because there was no opportunity for Beyoncé to rehearse with the Marine Band, it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill advised. Instead they used a pre-recorded track for the band’s portion of the song.
“Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter’s vocal performance,” Wolf’s statement continued, “no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded.” [Source]
4. No word from Beyoncé’s camp.
5. In a White House briefing on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, press secretary Jay Carney is dragged into the melee, asked by a reporter if the President was aware of this breaking scandal. Per Vanity Fair:
Carney revealed that he “has not had the discussion with him. I am not sure that I understand the variety and contradictory reports on the matter.” […]
“My understanding, and this is what I recall from the inauguration in 2009, as a precaution, recordings were made. But I actually have no idea what’s true and what’s not about what happened here. And I don’t think it’s a particularly important issue to address from the podium here.” Confirming Carney’s point about precautionary recordings, officials in the Marine Corp press office have revealed that Beyoncé recorded a version of the anthem on Sunday night at a studio in Washington. The recording was to be used “in case of bad weather or equipment failure.”
6. With confusion growing, Twitter alights with fans debating the issue, some screaming “who cares?” while others snarl about “faking it on the world stage.” British recording engineer, Ian Shepherd, decides to slash through the haze and do his own high level investigation. In a cutting edge piece titled, “Beyoncé DIDN’T mime at the Inauguration. BUT….,” Shepherd uses his sophisticated recording equipment and uniquely qualified skill set to break it all down to bring it back up again.
Let’s start with this video:
7. Analyzing the video above, Shepherd makes the following observations:
…she did sing along with a pre-recorded backing.
The video above clearly shows Beyoncé singing live at President Obama’s inauguration, despite the fact that many news outlets are claiming she mimed.
You can also clearly hear the pre-recorded backing in the video, made earlier in case of technical problems. (Thanks to Daniel Holter for posting a heads-up on this video.)
But the live vocal is the one most people heard. [Source]
8. Then there’s this video, which he designates as “the evidence”:
• When she starts singing, her voice is hard to hear – the microphone gain is too low. The sound-man quickly corrects this – but if we were listening to a recording this wouldn’t happen – in fact back-up recordings are used to solve exactly this kind of problem.
• At 1’16″ in the video above, she tilts her head slightly closer to the mic and the sound gets suddenly more bassy. This is because of an acoustic effect known as the “proximity effect”.
• At 1’52″ she takes out one of her earpieces. Some people are citing this as more evidence she was lip-syncing, but in fact it’s what singers do when they’re having trouble hearing the pitch of their own voice through the earpiece. By taking it out, she can hear her own voice more clearly and sing in tune more easily. (In fact, if the pre-recorded vocal was going to her earpiece, she may well have been finding it distracting.)
• At 2’17″ she smiles slightly, and you can hear this “smile” in her voice.
None of these clues are conclusive, but to fake all of them, plus the details of the performance itself, would make Beyoncé the best lip-sync artist in the world!
9. When asked his opinion about why people are insisting the girl mimed, Shepherd answered, “it was the band that mimed along with a recorded track.”
10. Still no word from Beyoncé’s camp.
11. Then, dammit, just as we think Shepherd’s expertise has set the gold standard analysis on the matter, CNN comes out with another exposé from an “unnamed” inaugural official who claims “Beyoncé did not sing live.” Are you kidding me??!
“She did not sing live,” the official told CNN. A pre-recording of the artist’s rendition of the National Anthem was played instead. What was heard by spectators and viewers was the sound of that recording, according to the official. The official said Beyoncé made the decision herself the night before Inauguration Day.
Beyoncé arrived so late Sunday night she did not have time to rehearse with the U.S. Marine Band, which was asked to accompany the pop star’s performance, according to the inauguration official.
“Because she didn’t have time to rehearse with the Marine Band, she decided to use her recording with the Marine Band,” the official added. “It was all Beyoncé.”
The official was somewhat puzzled by Beyoncé’s decision, noting when she made the pre-recording, “she was spot on.”
She recorded her part separately from the band and her rendition was married with the band’s music, the official said.
The taped performance should take nothing away from her skills as a live artist, the official said. “She’s actually a very good live singer,” the official added.
Dear God in Heaven. I’m already envisioning the confession to Oprah. A “Forgive Me For Not Singing Live” Live Tour. A weeping declaration of “being pressured” by music directors or gnashing politicos who could give a hoot about authenticity in music (God forbid any of them should get into the debate of “digital doping” in the recording industry!). It’s ugly. It’s raw. But what IS the truth?
12. We’ll let Ian Shepherd wrap it up for us:
My verdict ?
• The mic was live.
• Beyoncé sang.
• Whether she wanted it or not, the live mic sound was made available and used in many, if not all of the broadcasts.
• Her performance was every bit as good as the “safety” pre-record – in fact it was so close that it’s hard to tell them apart!
We have no way of knowing exactly why Beyoncé chose to use the recorded backing, or if she really wanted us to hear her live performance. But we did – and it was great.
She didn’t mime, she sang great – what’s all the fuss about?
13. Exactly. And still no word from Beyoncé’s camp.
As for me, forget Oprah; I see a Senate Hearing in the making. Can you just picture it? Rand Paul gettin’ all “if I were president I’d be kicking your butt right off that stage,” John McCain snapping about “these kids and their damn music,” Mitch McConnell asking, “Who’s Beyoncé?”…