If the worst thing that happened in the United States last week was Beyonce lip-synching the Star Spangled Banner, it was a pretty good week.
It's Milli Vanilli for a new generation. The major difference is Beyonce can sing. She's a brilliant artist and a role model for young women.
The pop superstar is drawing controversy for mouthing the words to a
pre-recorded version of the national
anthem. Some felt ripped off, much the same way as we did during the era of Solid Gold and American Bandstand, where the musicians never performed live.
The same did-she-or-didn't-she controversy happened in 1991 with Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV. Houston's version is considered one of the greatest interpretations of the anthem ever and it raised a ton of dough for charity. It's too bad she probably wasn't singing live. That would have made it seem that much more remarkable.
It was still Whitney's voice, her interpretation and her emotion. We feel the exact same way with Beyonce.
Does one want to get up in front of a global audience and run the risk of flubbing something as sacred as a national anthem? There's other elements to deal with, such as the weather, sound malfunctions and staging. All musicians who performed live, we're told, had prerecorded back-ups just in case.
Aretha Franklin sang live at the
inauguration, but says she wishes she hadn't. Franklin, who knows a little bit about singing, is 100 per cent behind Beyonce.
While the Beyonce controversy sparked debate around the office water coolers of North America, the real
issue is live music in general.
We live in age of auto-tune, where elaborate engineering can make a mediocre artist sound great.
Concerts are also now a spectacle. It's about the presentation and not the
music itself. With elaborate dance moves and staging, many megastars are lip-synching significant parts of their shows. You might as well stay home and listen to a CD.
In the good old days, an artists'
credibility was based on how well they sounded live as opposed to the studio.
In the meantime, take a deep breath, music purists. The inauguration was about Barrack and Michelle Obama - not Beyonce Knowles.
-Herald editor James M. Miller