Anonymous Inaugural Official Says Beyoncé Did Not Sing Live

Beyonce performs the National Anthem during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Given the back-and-forth of reports regarding singer Beyoncé’s alleged lip-syncing of the National Anthem during Monday’s inaugural ceremonies, it officially merits the terms being used to describe it. Among them are “lip-sync-gate” and ”Beyoncé-gate.”

Speculation that the Beyoncé lip-synced “The Star Spangled Banner” were at first confirmed by the Marine Corps Band, which was to accompany the singer, but shortly thereafter taken back by its spokesperson. Then, on Wednesday, CNN reported that an inaugural officia — who spoke of the condition of anonymity — confirmed Beyoncé did opt to use her pre-recorded version of the song.

“She did not sing live,” the official said to CNN.

Here’s more from CNN of the official’s account:

Beyoncé arrived so late Sunday night she did not have time to rehearse with the U.S. Marine Band, which was asked to accompany the pop star’s performance, according to the inauguration official.

“Because she didn’t have time to rehearse with the Marine Band, she decided to use her recording with the Marine Band,” the official added. “It was all Beyoncé.”

The official was somewhat puzzled by Beyoncé’s decision, noting when she made the pre-recording, “she was spot on.”

British audio specialist Ian Shepherd wrote in a post on his website (via NPR) that Beyoncé may have done both. Shepherd wrote Beyoncé sang live but was doing so to the pre-recorded version.

“The video above clearly shows Beyoncé singing live at President Obama’s inauguration, despite the fact that many news outlets are claiming she mimed,” Shepherd wrote. “You can also clearly hear the pre-recorded backing in the video, made earlier in case of technical problems.”

Clues indicating this, according to Shepherd, are:

  1. When she starts singing, her voice is hard to hear – the microphone gain is too low. The sound-man quickly corrects this – but if we were listening to a recording this wouldn’t happen – in fact back-up recordings are used to solve exactly this kind of problem.
  2. At 1’16″ in the video above, she tilts her head slightly closer to the mic and the sound gets suddenly more bassy. This is because of an acoustic effect known as the “proximity effect”.
  3. At 1’52″ she takes out one of her earpieces. Some people are citing this as more evidence she was lip-syncing, but in fact it’s what singers do when they’re having trouble hearing the pitch of their own voice through the earpiece. By taking it out, she can hear her own voice more clearly and sing in tune more easily. (In fact, if the pre-recorded vocal was going to her earpiece, she may well have been finding it distracting.)
  4. At 2’17″ she smiles slightly, and you can hear this “smile” in her voice.

Here’s the video if you want to listen again with these clues in mind:

Beyoncé has remained quiet on the topic so far, but other stars have come out in her defense.

“But, when I heard the news this evening that she was pre-recorded I really laughed,” singer Aretha Franklin told ABC News. “I thought it was funny because the weather down there was about 46 or 44 degrees and for most singers that is just not good singing weather.

“When I heard that I just really cracked up. I thought it was really funny, but she did a beautiful job with the pre-record … next time I’ll probably do the same.”