Who Run the Inauguration? Beyoncé (And Obama)

Last week, Beyoncé was accused of lip-syncing the national anthem at the fifty-fourth Presidential Inauguration and it was later confirmed, not by the artist herself, but by the Marine Corps band that recorded the song with her the day before the event. Beyoncé decided last minute to lip-sync due to the possibility of something going wrong at the inauguration, whether it was with the sound system or something more serious.

The response to the incident has been mixed, but many people I have talked to have stated that her prerecording is perfectly valid, especially for an event as important as a presidential inauguration. Beyoncé did not use someone else’s voice; it was her own that came out of those speakers. It just so happened that she did not sing “The Star Spangled Banner” live in front of an audience of millions of people. She merely used a recording of her own voice from the day before. Given that this was an extremely important event, it is only natural that she took the safer way out and decided to prerecord a beautiful version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that would please the entire nation. Beyoncé may be one of the most talented singers in the country, but it is only fair that she would get nervous about singing live in front of a huge audience like that.

Beyoncé was not the first person to lip-sync at a presidential inauguration; at Obama’s 2008 inauguration, Yo-Yo-Ma used a similar strategy because the cold made his cello hard to play. It is also still not clear if Beyoncé was singing along to a prerecorded track, or if she only lip-synced. The Marine Band did not place any blame on Beyoncé, as they were already going to record due to the weather affecting their ability to play their instruments live. Cold weather has adverse effects on brass instruments; low temperatures do not really allow for them to play well. The cold also has a negative effect on the vocal cords, which may be another reason why Beyoncé chose to prerecord.

Beyoncé took the safe route because she was busy practicing for the Super Bowl, which arguably attracts many more viewers than the inauguration, and thus more is at stake for her as a live performer. Beyoncé did not have time to practice with the Marine Band, and therefore felt uncomfortable singing in front of a live audience without any rehearsals under her belt. While some believe that her decision not to sing live somewhat lessens the importance of the inauguration, especially because she is an avid supporter of President Obama, it may only serve to heighten the importance of such an event. Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor, the two artists who performed before her, did not choose to use a prerecorded track, and many comparisons were made between her and them.

Anderson Cooper put this incident on his “RidicuList” on his show after the event, giving his spin on the topic. “So what?” he said. “As long as I’m concerned, it is Beyoncé’s world, and we are just living in it.” Cooper lauds Beyoncé, saying, “Francis Scott Key himself would send her a fruit basket.” Clearly someone as critical as Cooper has to make a bold statement to defend her, but his sentiment has echoed what I have heard as the popular opinion; her voice is amazing.

Throughout this entire ordeal, one thing has remained clear: Beyoncé did sing the national anthem for the inauguration, whether or not she performed live. Many people do not care that she did not sing it live because the fact of the matter is that it was her voice anyway. Beyoncé is a very talented singer, and she gave an amazing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that left many people content with her performance. She wanted to give the best show possible, and her voice rang clear in front of millions of viewers that day.