Why are we disguising the fact that singers mime by instead calling it “lip-syncing” (which suggests it’s a skill of some sort) and turning it into something that seems less like cheating, which of course is what it really is? We even have whole TV programmes dedicated to “lip-syncing” (although I’m fine with that in a way, as they’re not pretending to be doing anything other than miming – although I have to admit to finding it rather weird).
For professional singers, however, miming means you’re not singing AT ALL and you’re just mouthing the words of your songs; yes, that’s right. Let’s put this in perspective a moment. If you had been asked to give a talk, would you think it was alright to turn up and say that you were going to mime it? Somehow I think not – it would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Well, that’s what is happening all the time in the music industry and I for one, don’t think it’s good enough.
It happens for a few reasons (not all of which are unjustified). These are:
• Too many singers who are famous today cannot sing well live, only when they’ve been auto-tuned, and when their voices have effectively been “air brushed” like with photographs in magazines put through Photoshop. Bottom line – they cannot deliver live (or possibly even, at all) what you hear on their recorded versions! Suggestion: don’t go and see them live.
• The expectations of the public with big pop and r’n’b stars particularly is that they will always sound exactly like their recordings – well, this isn’t always possible because our voices are living instruments and are bound to have their off days. There’s a video of Mariah Carey on Youtube and she is clearly unwell as her voice is all raspy at the top – but we all know that Mariah Carey can sing well. She just shouldn’t have sung that day, but sometimes, you just have to get on with it.
• If you have loads of energetic dancing going on around you as part of the show, and you then take part in it, you’re going to get out of breath quickly and be unable to sing – the solution is to mime it appears. I do believe, however, that those singers who do lots and lots of dancing during their songs (eg. Britney Spears) do so precisely because they can’t sing well live; the dancing serves to distract the audience from this fact.
• Too many singers who are famous today have no vocal training whatsoever. Students say to me: “aren’t they doing such and such on purpose?” – of course they’re not. If you know how to do something well and properly, why on earth would you do the opposite and sound rubbish into the bargain?! In fact, I find it almost impossible to revert to bad technique as the good technique is so embedded, but I still get off days too – we all do. There’s a difference however, between a good singer having an off day and someone pretending to be able to sing!
There’s a very entertaining video on Youtube of Justin Bieber sitting at a piano in a huge arena, performing to thousands of fans. He’s playing the piano and singing through a microphone fixed to the top of the piano. Two over-enthusiastic fans rush up on stage and grab him away from the piano and in so doing knock the piano over – quite a bit of force as it was a grand piano - yet the singing and piano playing carry on regardless – now that’s really cheating!
As such, if you’ve paid good money (sometimes quite a lot of money) to go and see your favourite singer and then you find out that they’ve been miming, doesn’t that bother you? If it doesn’t, why not? Is it because you think it doesn’t matter because they “put on a good show”? Is it because you don’t think their singing matters or what?
It takes quite a lot to get me out of the house to see somebody in concert (somebody really famous, that is). This is because when I pay quite a bit of money to see these top stars, I expect them to be great musicians and be able to deliver live as good as, or even better than their recordings. Good singers can do this – and more. As such, it’s worth thinking about. Do you really think it’s worth celebrating people who are cheating and have got rich on it, or people who can really deliver? It’s up to you of course………….