I must admit, I’m fascinated by the topic of lip synching. I’ve truly enjoyed watching and listening to all the talking heads bicker about whether Barack Obama knew that Beyoncé was using a backing track at the inauguration, whether the band was also faking and whether the story matters at all.
And while I’m certainly not one of those What-did-you-know-and-when-did-you-know-it? over-reactionistas, I will say that, in the battle between the “Who cares” and the “I cares” about lip synching, you can color me “cares.”
Don’t get me wrong—I fully get where the “Who cares” camp is coming from: In a world with more ongoing wars than needle marks on Lance Armstrong’s ass, an economy that teeters like a cartoon boulder balanced on a pointy ridge and an ozone layer that’s dissipating faster than a stripper can write her digits down for Charlie Sheen—who the hell cares if Beyoncé lip synched?
Answer: I the hell care. Because I am ever-so weary of living in a world inundated by horseshit.
I first encountered lip synching while watching American Bandstand in 1978. Blondie was “performing” its monster hit, “One Way or Another,” and Deborah Harry—being the punk-rock wench that she was—botched the sync in protest.
“What the crap is this!?” I blurted in disgust.
“She’s lip synching,” my dad explained. “Everyone does it on Bandstand.”
And so began my lifelong obsession with performance deception. To this day, I scrutinize every band I see on TV. And I’m good at it. I take note of how flawless the overall performance is (truly live performances are rarely perfect). I look to see if the neck muscles on the vocalist bulge and twitch appropriately. I listen to ensure that the vocal volume decreases when the mouth moves away from the microphone. And I scrutinize singers who are dancing their faces off: Are there any gasps for breath? Are the sustains and tremolos unlabored? These are the sorts of things that expose a phony faker fraud. Indeed, catching a lip syncher from the comfort of my couch and yelling, “Blaspheme! Blaspheme!” at the TV has become my life’s work.
However, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as when a performer is busted live, on stage, in real time, to the jeers of a nauseated audience. There are tons of examples, but my three favorites are:
Ashlee Simpson: Her career splentacularlifously imploded on Saturday Night Live. Of course, we all know why she cheated. Simpson’s singing voice is about as pleasing as Gilbert Gottfried auditioning for the role of Murderous Seagull in a remake of The Birds. Yet she perpetuated the deception by making bogus excuses.
“I have severe acid reflex,” she told Entertainment Tonight. Well, guess what, Madam Fibber McPhonyface? It’s reflux, not reflex. So, I gotta ask—wouldn’t a person who suffers a “severe” case of a certain disease at least know how to pronounce it?
Katy Perry: She pretended to play the recorder (a flute-like woodwind) during her rendition of Jay- Z’s “Big Pimpin’.” After being delivered the instrument on a blue velvet pillow, Perry picked it up and began to “play” a short solo. Then she turned to the crowd with this dumbass, Look-at-me-I’m-a-realmusician-and-not-just-a-pretty-face face. She played another string of notes and pulled the recorder from her mouth to receive applause—yet, magically, it kept playing! Perry hung her head in shame and admitted, “I can’t play the flute.”
Only one problem, Countess Fakey von Fakenmeister: It’s a recorder, not a flute! She didn’t even know what instrument it was she didn’t not know how to not play!
Milli Vanilli: Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan are the poster band for lip synching, poseur piss-ants. It wasn’t even their voices on the album! The best part was how it all came apart on stage, in real time, when the background recording of “Girl You Know it’s True” skipped and kept repeating, “Girl you know it’s… girl you know it’s… girl you know it’s…” as if the recording couldn’t bring itself to say the word “true” amid such lies.
Here’s something else: Though it largely went unnoticed at the time, they were horrible dancers. Seriously. They were stiff and out-of-synch, and their upper bodies were as fluid as new homeowners after the housing bubble collapsed. They really only had three decent moves, two of which consisted of them twirling their long, dreamy locks. That’s all they were—two totally pretty, buffed out, tight-ass-sporting hair twirlers. And that brings me to the other reason I loathe lip synching.
After the shit hit the fan, the real Milli Vanilli went on tour. They played actual, live shows, singing all the same songs in exactly the same way that Rob and Fab pretended to sing them. And guess what? Nobody gave a damn. They slipped into obscurity and were never heard from again, which tells me the music wasn’t that good to begin with. It tells me that their success came from being fronted by two tight-ass-sporting pretty boys with gorgeous manes.
It’s no wonder the record business gave us this lie-namic duo, no wonder they kept the real performers behind the B.S. curtain. We told them to do it! Our inability as a culture to appreciate anything that isn’t delivered by pretty faces with firm tits and tight asses is why lip synching is so pervasive.
Just like with politicians, I guess we get the pop stars we deserve.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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