In Sync We Trust
July 14, 2017 8:38 AM   Subscribe

 
Pink does not lip sync. She's kind of notorious for it. In some of the concerts that have been uploaded to Youtube, she's screwed an intro to her own song by forgetting the words, or losing track of what beat she's supposed to begin singing, and had to ask the band to start over. Sometimes when she's doing her aerial tricks, she'll get out of sync with the music and have to correct herself. It's hilariously endearing to watch those moments. She's human. She makes mistakes. (In her case, she makes a mistake, curses, apologizes and keeps on going.)

I saw Morrissey in concert at Jones Beach in 1991 during his "Kill Uncle" tour. A fan rushed him while he was singing, knocked him down and the show had to be cancelled. The lip sync audio track kept going for a good two minutes after it happened. Embarrassing.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on July 14 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it's so funny to me that there's even the pretense of "singing" anymore. Like, why even bother moving your mouth? Just go onstage and dance to your own music in a pretty costume, what's the difference.
posted by chococat at 9:31 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]



There are bound to be exceptions and overlaps, but I think that by and large, people who love entertainers who mime habitually aren't particularly concerned about it, whereas people who disdain the practice aren't primarily interested in the kind of entertainers who would do it.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:40 AM on July 14 [11 favorites]


"Like, why even bother moving your mouth?"

If a character sang in a movie, it might take me out of the story a bit if there were glaring lipsyncing flaws, but I wouldn't feel betrayed to learn that they'd lipsynced. And I wouldn't want them to completely stop pretending, because that'd *definitely* take me out of the story.

They're putting on a show where they play a character that sings.

For what it's worth, they (the stars and everyone else involved) is likely still working their butts off to make the show work. I guess I'm willing to let them decide how best to accomplish that technically.

That said, though I can appreciate why it might be fun, I don't go to that kind of show. They're expensive, and I just like listening to the music too much, and don't trust such big places to have decent acoustics. Luckily there's still tons of ways to see top-notch live singing in smaller rooms if that's what you want.
posted by floppyroofing at 10:04 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Spears even knows the extent to which she's lip-syncing. She think it's just a bit of vocal fill from a backing track but the sound guys probably just mix it all the way up and go with it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


"I guess I'm willing to let them decide how best to accomplish that technically."

(At the same time, some audiences probably do care, and just doesn't know. And it does bother me to the extent that people (mainly kids, probably?) are really being fooled.)
posted by floppyroofing at 10:36 AM on July 14


I have a hard time accepting "we can't sing live during dance numbers" when Broadway performers kill it live for 8 shows a week.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:00 AM on July 14 [15 favorites]


There are bound to be exceptions and overlaps, but I think that by and large, people who love entertainers who mime habitually aren't particularly concerned about it, whereas people who disdain the practice aren't primarily interested in the kind of entertainers who would do it.

I know this is a generalization, but I think it's a good one, and not necessarily an insult to either side. At some point, if you want your singers to be marathon dancers and your dancers to be marathon singers to be dancers youre going to have to expect a bit of compromise. I think the Ashley Simpson example is much more egregious, where it seeks to deceive fans.

All that said, as a former young girl with a passion for real vocals it would seem silly now to read about the musical veracity of The DeFranco Family or The Partridge Family.

Pink is awesome.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:00 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Phillip Auslander's work, Liveness, is a pretty interesting academic / humanities treatment of similar ideas. Actually, I'm surprised the author didn't reference Auslander at all, since the first half of the article seems to draw pretty heavily from that work.

Essentially Auslander depicts a similar history of lip synching, but also takes care to note the way that often the harshest critics of the practice are rock artists and fans, who use lip synching as evidence that other popular music (often music that is coded as feminine and from people of color) is a degraded form. What these rock music fans ignore, is that their own preferred music tends to use just as much lip synching and other technological assistance in order to play to large crowds. Auslander develops the theoretical construct of 'mediatization', meaning the ways in which live performance adopt and are colonized by the technicity of broadcasted performance, to describe the way that cultural experiences of live performance have changed over time.

He's writing from a much earlier perspective, but I think a lot of that holds forth to the present day.

What both Auslander and the FPP article miss is the way that user generated content, and especially live-streaming, changes again our relationship to performance. For example, someone who sings on Twitch, or a person doing a freestyle rap on YouTube. Lip Synching has even become its own form of entertainment: with people performatively mouthing along to favorite songs.

I guess what I'm getting at, is that lip synching is only particularly offensive in a specific commodity version of music: the wide-scale large performance (either a tour event, or a live-broadcast song). What you might instead ask is what is being put forward as the product in those events: an expression of talent (singing), or a spectacle of brand and persona (dancing, choreography, narrative, special effects).
posted by codacorolla at 11:17 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


I guess another way to put it, is that rock music is coded as a certain type of product: authentic, rebelling against commerciality, more "intellectual" than dance or party music. The experience of a rock concert (or, perhaps, also the experience of a Lady Gaga concert, who has always positioned herself as weirder / more outsider than standard pop) therefore is selling a certain type of identity and experience that is compromised by openly embracing "fake" performance, despite covertly using a lot of the same methods in those genres. The author of the FPP even seems to go so far as to dehumanize music that is admittedly heavily produced in its live form,
Our standards continue to warp from talent to perfection to a sort of post-perfection that’s simultaneously demanding and aware of the measures taken to achieve a super-human appearance. The acceptance of lip-syncing is akin to the way the eye gets used to plastic surgery and further adjusts to admire the wealth it implies, so that a facelift becomes its own beauty standard as a status symbol. Where’s the humanity? As much as it’s scrubbed away by celebrities, it’s also lacking on the part of an audience that regards these stars as super-human. Thus lip-syncing is practically a logical decision for those merely interested in keeping up—it allows celebrities to obscure the fact that they’re doing something most of us humans take for granted without so much as a thought: breathing.
When the Black Keys get up on stage, or whoever, and play they are having their sound mediated through a sound board, which produces sound in a certain way to conform with the goals of the band. However, the way that rock bands digitally alter their sound from... I dunno, playing with an acoustic guitar and no amplification? is left critically unexamined.
posted by codacorolla at 11:24 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I think of athletes, who are limited by the slow, brutal degeneration of age. There comes a point where an athlete cannot perform to a level. Maybe they cut back, maybe they accept a different role, but retirement is coming for them, whether they like it or not.

I saw Billy Joel in concert 20 years ago. He was still singing most of "An Innocent Man", but had the talented Crystal Taliefero sing the high parts. I don't know if he's continued this, or has since given up on the song entirely. He's known as a bit of a musical perfectionist, though. Paul Simon, similarly, has shifted some songs into a lower register, or given up on others as well.

Maybe there's something to be said for treating vocal talent like treating athletic talent: there will be a time where you can't perform the way you used to. Accept this as a part of growing old, and do so gracefully. Adapt.
posted by aureliobuendia at 11:45 AM on July 14


Wow, that video clip about halfway through of Black Box with Katrin Quinol trying to sound like Martha Wash .... wow. It's like junior high school BAD.
posted by JanetLand at 11:48 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time accepting "we can't sing live during dance numbers" when Broadway performers kill it live for 8 shows a week.

A lot of that is made possible by much more restrained and careful choreography for whoever is singing at the time. The chorus dances around whoever is carrying the vocal, making them look like they're doing more than they actually are. There's some of that in pop, but people expect to see someone like Britney actually dance a lot.

Also, a broadway show is rarely 90 minutes of one person leading, unlike a pop concert where the star is the only performer anyone cares about.

I would be very surprised if more than a small handful of Broadway triple threats could do a 90 minute set of Britney Spears' choreography and vocals live, so I'm certainly not surprised that Britney Spears can't. I still think it would be fun to see the spectacle, though I'm not willing to pay Britney Spears' ticket prices to do it.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:12 PM on July 14 [5 favorites]


"playing with an acoustic guitar and no amplification?"

In other news: they introduce the song with the same joke every night, they obsessed over every note of the guitar solo, and they spent hours with a vocal coach figuring out how to make the refrain sound authentically joyful.

And, sorry, improvisation is kind of a trick too....
posted by floppyroofing at 12:14 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Wow, that video clip about halfway through of Black Box with Katrin Quinol trying to sound like Martha Wash .... wow. It's like junior high school BAD.

That... was terrible. So gd terrible. I can't decide whether the sound crew turned off her mic halfway thru, or she gave up.
posted by greermahoney at 1:16 PM on July 14


I would say, before the era of good in-ear monitors, that being able to hear yourself, and the band play while you're running all around the stage would be essentially 0. If you're already leaning on the studio producers to make you sound passable, a live show is just not going to happen, will never happen, and you def. shouldn't hide the fact, because that looks silly.

I have a hard time accepting "we can't sing live during dance numbers" when Broadway performers kill it live for 8 shows a week.

Good point, but Broadway performers have trained their asses off in an extremely controlled venue. I have no doubt that if they're doing their thing, and are having monitor problems, the equally talented Sound Guy will work to make the show go perfectly before the first night and then know how to do it for the next, and the next. If you're a touring band - well, good luck getting the sound perfect for every single venue. I've been in touring bands where no one got paid except the Sound Guy, and there was def. a good reason for that.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:38 PM on July 14


What about instrument syncing? Years ago I was told a story about a Duran Duran mega fan who went to see them live and hung around hoping to meet them. Concert ends and he goes up to the stage. A roadie is starting to take down the big setup. The guy asks him if it would be possible to meet the band. The roadie is a nice guy and tells him him that yeah he can come back stage but he needs to help take the setup apart and carry stuff back stage. He points to a couple of tall racks of equipment with flashing lights and asks the guy to carry those. The guy thinks he must be kidding, as they are big and heavy. He jumps onto the stage and goes back to the racks. Where he finds that it's all false fronts. Fake equipment. With flashing lights. He looks at the roadie with a puzzled expression. The roadie says that its all DAT. Prerecorded concerts just played back while people pretend to play. I guess he got to meet the band. I don't know if he asked them about the fakery.
posted by njohnson23 at 2:01 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


no mention of the Electric Light Orchestra "scandal" of many years ago, wherein they were sued by a promoter for playing to backing tracks. It was settled out of court.

Which is all the more weird for ELO having been a very strong live act.
posted by philip-random at 2:32 PM on July 14


I'm gonna say the Duran Duran story is apocryphal. Fake stage trimmings or no, there is no way that (1 a roadie would give the OK to some rando to meet the band, and (2 let a rando touch the gear. Couldn't imagine a better way to get gear stolen or to lose your job. If you're working for Duran Duran, you're not going to be that stupid.

As for gear on the stage, I bet some was fake - I don't doubt that part of the story at all. But, what large equipment do you need on stage for a synthpop bad, with a few guitars? Any amps are mic'd and played through the house system, and you'd have monitors on stage for the band. You don't necessarily want speakers waaaaaay in back of the stage trying to get to the audience with the sound going all over the place. Even small theatre venues will have their house system in front of the stage area. The band hears their monitors pointing at them, audience hears the house point the opposite direction.

Some bands don't do this, but we all can't be Jucifer. I can't really comment on something like the Dead's Wall of Sound, but it may be one of those things where it was good for its time, but makes no sense now with better sound tech, but it's probably still used in whatever carnation is still touring because... it's the Wall of Sound.
posted by alex_skazat at 3:36 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


"playing with an acoustic guitar and no amplification?"
In other news: they introduce the song with the same joke every night, they obsessed over every note of the guitar solo, and they spent hours with a vocal coach figuring out how to make the refrain sound authentically joyful.

I'm not entirely sure what your point is here.
Using an amplifier and rehearsing your material are the same as lip-syncing?

What you might instead ask is what is being put forward as the product in those events: an expression of talent (singing), or a spectacle of brand and persona (dancing, choreography, narrative, special effects).
Exactly. So if it's a "spectacle" and a "persona" being sold instead of talent or actual singing, why not cop to the lip-syncing? And then why go the extra and particularly slimy step that Madonna does (the article alleges) by pre-recording a new, different lead vocal that sounds more "live" than the album version and then lip-syncing to that every night?
posted by chococat at 3:37 PM on July 14


"Using an amplifier and rehearsing your material are the same as lip-syncing?"

No, but musicians who sing and play their instruments are usually also projecting their own illusions (authenticity, spontaneity).

I'm not claiming that makes them "just as bad" or anything, only that all show business tends to depends on illusions. I'd rather people were honest about that fact. But past a point I don't like to make this kind of thing a big moral issue. Did the show move you, or didn't it?
posted by floppyroofing at 6:45 PM on July 14


Yeah.... That Duran Duran anecdote just doesn't pass the smell test. I've seen them live... maybe 15 times? Small clubs and stadium tours. I've seen them when the sound went out and they played acoustic instead, on the fly, for half a set. I've seen them rehearse and instruments were out of tune and they fixed them. They're good musicians, and good live musicians. Nick may have some of his synths on loop, that's pretty normal. But the drums are real, the bass is real, the guitar is real, and Simon's voice is real (and sometimes flat.) People may not like what they do with their talent, but they're very good at what they do.
posted by greermahoney at 9:02 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


I love seeing old TV shows, usually from the 60s, where bands just goof off and make an obvious show of playing along to their record.
posted by thefool at 8:04 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Britney Spears is still under conservatorship, which means she has precious little input on her own working life and has to do what her conservators decide. She has very little agency, compared to almost any other performer, and I would bet hard cash was told to make the statement about not lip synching. Rich Juzwiak knows this (Jez has covered the conservatorship extensively) so hanging the entire article on her seems particularly unfair.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 8:36 AM on July 15


And of course, there's always this where Fish, barred from using a rude word and required to re-record his vocals just to mime to them, points it out.
posted by YoungStencil at 9:57 AM on July 15


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