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To Lip Sync or Not to Lip Sync: That is the Question

As a culture, we expect a great deal from musicians when they perform live. We have come to know and love their studio recordings, which have been produced with the highest sound quality, and we want that same level of clarity and musicianship when they are playing in front of thousands of excited fans. The only problem is that it’s near impossible to perfectly recreate the studio version of some songs and acts—musicians are human after all, except maybe Freddie Mercury who appears to have otherworldly musical abilities. This pressure to put on a pristine performance has caused some musicians to lip sync or mime their songs, leaving fans with mixed feelings.

Follow us as we explore some of the more infamous lip sync moments, and we’ll let you be the judge as to whether this controversial concert trick is ever justified.

Ashlee Simpson on SNL

If singing live can be hard, then surely it’s easy to lip sync, right? When cameras are trained on your every movement and the backing track needs to be followed exactly, lip synching can actually be a risky choice. Ashlee Simpson found this out the hard way when her vocal track started playing unexpectedly. At the end of show, Simpson claimed it was her band that played the wrong song, but it seems more likely she intended to sing along with a recording.

Beyoncé Lip Syncs the National Anthem

Now before you give Ms. Simpson too hard of a time, ask yourself whether she is the only one to lip sync on Saturday Night Live or simply the one who got caught. The fact is that a number of talented musicians have, for various reasons, thought it best to let a recording do their singing. Consider Beyoncé, one of the most amazing pop vocalists around, who admitted to singing along with a recording during President Obama’s inaugural ceremony in 2013.

Lip Synching For Laughs

Before looking at our next live lip sync, let this rubber-faced man put a laughing spell on you as he perfectly lip syncs a classic tune. This is proof that lip synching is a skill of its own.

Britney Spears at the 2007 VMAs

Britney Spears has been accused of lip synching a number of times, and while this next video might not be confirmed as proof, it does seem fairly obvious that she is relying on a backing track. In her defense, Britney always puts on a full show complete with choreography and costumes, both of which can make singing much more challenging.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Perform” at the Superbowl

After the 2014 halftime show, fans we asking, “Why isn’t Flea’s bass plugged in? Are they even playing the song?” Well, Flea decided to meet fans with honesty when he wrote that the only live performance was Anthony Kiedis’ singing and that the rest of the band was simply miming along. The reason: there is limited time to set up the stage and ensure that everything is in working order. While they may have been “band synching,” their pretend performance was still entertaining and full of energy.


What do you think? Is it ever acceptable for a musician to lip sync or mime along with a track?

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