I cannot begin to understand the frenzy over Beyoncé lip syncing at the inauguration. She is a talented performer who chose to do what cellist Yo Yo Ma did four years ago, and what Whitney Houston did at the Super Bowl in the greatest rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever heard.
Opera singers have someone in a prompter box feeding them lines when needed. Television “anchors” are merely reading a Teleprompter. (They often mangle names because they don’t check pronunciations ahead of time.) Talk show hosts use “cue cards.” Every reality show—from American Idol to Survivor, from Dancing with the Vaguely Familiar to Last Surviving Bachelorette Dolt—is scripted, does retakes, and heavily edits.
President Obama is two different people when he reads his speeches and when he speaks extemporaneously. If you’re a veteran speaker and coach (which I are), the differences are startling.
The non-talents Milli Vanilli were dumb enough to use other people’s voices. But that WAS Beyoncé’s voice (and Whitney Houston’s and all the rest; it WAS Yo Yo Ma’s cello performance). The degree to which we prepare, prerecord, and strive to remove imperfections is well documented.
I recall listening to a recording of Pablo Casals where I could hear his fingers sliding on the frets. I thought it enhanced the performance and was glad they didn’t remove it (which often happens). I remember Streisand demanding once that the editing which removed her breaths between passages be restored, which I appreciated. (It’s when she talks that she makes me crazy—ergo, “Shut up and sing.”)
We’ve come to a juncture where “perfection” is sought, rather than merely success. It’s like demanding that a baseball player bat 1.000 because .380 isn’t nearly good enough (he’s not hitting two-thirds of the time). We delve into politicians’ and appointees’ backgrounds with a scrutiny that none of us could survive or pass. Some people still excuse Lance Armstrong because they don’t want to surrender the notion of this “perfect” cyclist and rationalize the doping and the lies.
Every once in a while Sinatra hit a clunker in person, Koufax walked the batter, and a Rockette was out of step. It made them human. Hugh Jackman lost his place in a play one night, and simply started the scene over. Cliff Gorman, portraying Lenny Bruce, went “up” on his lines and yelled to the audience, “Where was I?!” We told him.
This is an age of dyed hair, capped teeth, cosmetic surgery, changed names, and outright lies on every social media platform in existence. Some people should be arrested for fraud on the basis of their publicity photo and résumé.
Kelly Clarkson sang live at the Inaugural, so if anyone has a right to comment, she does, and she has said nothing, simply acting like a mature professional. As for the rest of us, if you can sing like Beyoncé and in cold weather, then do so.
But if not, shut up and don’t sing.
© Alan Weiss 2015