Controversy follows some artists more than others, but now it’s time for fans of R&B superstar Beyonce’ to eat a huge piece of humble pie. At President Obama’s second inauguration, Bey belted out the “Star Spangled Banner” to rave reviews across the board and notably higher remarks from her musically inclined fanbase – the Beyhive. Nicknamed after a group of small, annoying insects, the #beyhive took to every social network possible to herald their queen’s performance as the best live “Banner” rendition of all-time. When rumors (which became confirmations) of the vocal being anything but “live”, those who discredited the singer’s authenticity (first reported here) was virtually dragged through the rose thorns of the enchanted forest. The Beyhive received a rude awakening in the shape of a #vocalcarfax on the singer’s live abilities.
Instead of calling it what it truly is (a blatant discredit of artistry from someone seen as a role-model vocalist), the actual audio is quite commendable. Bey delivered an above-average, pre-recorded rendition of our nation’s theme. The #earpiecepull was clearly an effort to imply authenticity which the media caught on to very quickly. However, given a few distinct factors from Bey’s past and present, there’s reason to both applaud and question her overall decision to not sing live. First, there’s actual scientific evidence that suggests changes in a woman’s singing voice before and after pregnancy. Maybe Malia (the oldest Obama daughter), who likely grew up listening to Destiny’s Child, realized that Bey’s voice possibly wouldn’t be the same after birthing Blue Ivy. After all, the inauguration stood as the first televised performance of hers since her family addition, so I’m certain nerves played a huge factor. Secondly, there are several Beyonce’ performances that are almost always pre-recorded, mainly “Baby Boy” and “Suga Mama”. I’ve sat through many-a DVD showings and have yet to see a 100% live performance of either song, giving Bey’s recent lip-synch affair a #repeatoffender title in my eyes. Thirdly, Bey’s entire career has been built (#teflontough) and layered repeatedly with decades of dishonesty – whether it’s the unfriendly departure of “prettier” band members or her unethical songwriting credits. Another lie from the “queen” is just like repeating the Lay’s potato chips slogan “bet you can’t have just one.” The dishonesty comes with the price of fame, and that hefty price instills itself upon its easily impressionable fans, hence the bitter reaction from the Beyhive. But here’s where I take a slight turn in the Hive’s direction – when did she ever say it going to be a live recording?
As an indirect example, Britney Spears’ VMA #epicfail was advertised as her first “live” outing since having her first born. Same scenario (post-pregnancy “live” public reveal) and similar number of audience members (2007 VMAs was the most watched in MTV history as with the 2013 inauguration), here’s an extreme need for a backing track. Unlike Bey however, Britney’s performance was advertised as a “live” showing, with the idea shut down abruptly after the performance ended. There was never any recognition that Bey would truly sing the anthem, only a practice run strategically released to the media a mere eight hours prior. This rehearsal had everyone (myself included) assuming that she was practicing for a stadium-like live vocal, but we were as wrong as Republicans who predicted an #easyromneysweep. The Beyhive just couldn’t handle that an artist highly regarded as the number one vocalist of our generation resorted to a backing track at one of the most important performances of her career – nodes? Could the “queen” have been plagued with a similar fate as Britney’s, or was her performance pre-recorded because she “has a right to do so”, given her regal status in the industry? Bey’s fans seem to argue for the latter and while I strongly disagree, she definitely isn’t the first to lip-synch the “Star Spangled Banner” – and certainly won’t be the last. While some premium vocal competitors of the “queen” have also lip-synched the exact same ballad to better results (Jennifer Hudson), it’s Whitney Houston’s pre-recorded version which shocks me more than anything.
Without question the greatest rendition of all-time, news of Houston’s version confirmed as pre-recorded was shocking only because of her status in the industry. The seven-time Grammy winner is probably the last person to resort to such antics but it was indeed done, and took the media several years to finally come to terms with the truth. In 1991, lip-synching may not have meant nearly as much as it does today and with such a pattern already cemented decades ago, why is Beyonce’s version being so heavily criticized by the media? This is where those damn buzzy insects come back into play. Like any other natural selection theory, the highest in a species’ hierarchy is referred to as the “leader” while the others are “followers”. In the case of the Beyhive, these little insects stood strong behind their “queen” of lip-synching and simply will not accept the truth surrounding their royal highness. Who’s to say that such bees aren’t swatted away easily by the intellectual feline (#katycats) or scared away by an outcast abnormality (#littlemonsters)? At the end of the road, facts are facts. While all other artists compared to the “queen” are inferior in the nest of the Beyhive, such vocalists sang 100% live during their inauguration performances, leaving their “queen” caught bleach blonde-handed (no pun intended). Any other artist would’ve been shunned permanently from the industry in addition to having their Pepsi contract revoked, which shows the ultimate “sting” of corporate persuasion (source). At least there’s one veteran Pepsi/Super Bowl performer willing to stand up for her.