Beyonce Lip Sync Scandal: What’s The Big Deal?

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Beyonce, one of pop music’s most beloved stars, is accused of lip syncing  — and America is fuming!

Social media exploded Tuesday as outraged fans blasted the Grammy winner over allegations that she mouthed along to a pre-recorded version of “The Star Spangled Banner” during the Presidential Inauguration.

“It proves that she is not an authentic artist,” Ave Maria Pospieck-Schnerr of Philadelphia wrote on’s official Facebook page.  “She can’t sing on que [sic] live and sound perfect…proves that she duped the many people watching who thought she was singing live and it proves she is a phony.”

John Leo Benoit, a viewer from Fairfax, Vermont, was equally unforgiving.  “A singer who needs to lip it because they can’t remember how it goes should not take the job,” he wrote, while Mark Faminow of Calgary, Alberta, Canada summed up his disgust in two words: “Fake=Loser.”

The sudden controversy — which comes just two weeks before a scheduled performance at the Super Bowl — has many concerned fans wondering if the singer will be able to recover from the public relations nightmare, while others are simply asking “what’s the big deal?”

“I guess it all boils down to the fact that lip syncing is, bottom line, a form of fakery,” says Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University.  “If you watch it, you are supposed to think this person is really singing — and in fact she is simply moving her lips.  Lip syncing, for whatever reason, is one of those things that everyone sinks their teeth into — even though everyone knows it occurs in some very respected venues.

Lip syncing is somewhat of a time honored tradition that dates back to the days of variety television in the 1960s.  Almost no one sang live on shows like “American Bandstand” and “Solid Gold.”

Today it is still common for acts to “sing” over pre-recorded tracks — especially at large live events where acoustics can be challenging to control.

“Has anyone ever watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?” Thompson notes.

So if Beyonce is guilty as charged, she certainly wouldn’t be alone.

Whitney Houston famously faked her way through the same song at the 1991 Super Bowl and no one seemed to care.  And cellist Yo-Yo Ma admitted to hand syncing his 2009 Inauguration song without implication.

Late Tuesday, a Marine Corps spokesperson issued a statement saying that since the singer was unable to secure rehearsal time with the band, it was determined she would perform to a pre-recorded track.  “Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter’s vocal performance,” the statement said, “no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded.”

So far, the singer’s camp isn’t offering any official statement or insight about the performance.  But the singer has proudly posted a slew of photos from the event on her personal Tumblr account.

For an event with the pageantry of an Inauguration, there is little room for error.  Recording as much as possible ahead of time ensure a smooth performance with a predictable outcome.

“If Beyonce had been lip syncing to somebody else’s voice — or her own voice from 10 years ago — that would be one thing,” Thompson says.  “But she was lip syncing to her own voice in a recording that was (reportedly) made on Sunday.”

“If one really wanted to look at the public response — compared to other things that are not quite what they seem — this is pretty minor,” says Thompson, who feels that with the national uproar about fake singing, perhaps the wrong person is being accused of fakery.

“Beyonce was lip syncing to her own voice.  But the president is often reading someone else’s words.  If the President can have a speech writer, Beyonce should be able to lip sync to something she recorded 24 hours earlier.”

Still, there will always be envious onlookers – especially online — who will seize any opportunity to point out a celebrity’s flaws.

“Beyonce is such an admired and therefore envied figure,” says mental health expert Dr. Gail Saltz.  “She is beautiful, talented, wealthy, famous.  She has everything that people want.  And in this world, the bigger you are, the more people want to see you fall hard.

“Envy is a big issue and whether they are conscious of it or not, people are very ready to hop in and say “Aha! This is my moment for takedown.”

“Social media allows people who are angrier, vengeful and want to be able to say negative things to have their voice,” Saltz says.  “We tend to hear more from people with negative comments online because they can hide behind the screen.”

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly