Update: Earlier today, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps Band that played backup for Beyoncé during yesterday's inauguration confirmed widespread speculation that the pop singer had relied on a prerecorded version of the national anthem. By late this afternoon, however, a different band spokesperson had weighed in, offering a different version of the official story. The Associated Press explains:
Master Sgt. Kristin duBois said the band was notified at the last minute that Beyonce would use a pre-recorded voice track. But by late afternoon, the Marine Corps backed off that statement.
Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Gregory Wolf said that because there was no opportunity for Beyonce to rehearse with the Marine Band, it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill advised. Instead they used a pre-recorded track for the band's portion of the song. "Regarding Ms. Knowles-Carter's vocal performance," Wolf's statement continued, "no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded."
To be clear, Wolf's statement doesn't specifically refute duBois'; he's not saying that Beyoncé did or did not lip-sync, only that it's not the band's place to comment on the matter. The most likely scenario still appears to be that Beyoncé did indeed rely on a recording (as plenty of other musicians have in similar situations) and that the band is trying to offer a fellow (and very high-profile) musician some cover as a professional courtesy or for some other reason. Beyoncé and her people have so far remained mum on the topic. Our long national nightmare continues ...
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Original story (published at 12:04 p.m.): Confirmed by the Times of London: Beyoncé's rendition of the the national anthem at yesterday's inauguration ceremony was indeed lip-synced:
A spokeswoman for the Marine Corp Band said it was standard procedure to record a backing track and Beyoncé decided shortly before her performance to rely on the studio version rather than risk singing it live on the Capitol.
The Washingtonian was among those asking the question earlier today:
[T]o close observers, it seems evident that the performer was not singing live. To press seated just below the podium, in front of the “President’s Own” Marine Corps Band, it was evident that the band wasn’t actually playing during the song—even though band director Colonel Michael J. Colburn was conducting energetically and the band members mimicked blowing into their instruments. ...
A hint as to the actual origins of the version Beyoncé sang came from her own hand: On January 20, the day before the ceremony, Beyoncé posted pictures to her Instagram account that appeared to show her in a recording studio. In one, she holds a copy of the sheet music to “The Star Spangled Banner” in front of a microphone attached to a recording device, and in another she sits in front of recording equipment while members of the Marine Corps Band stand clutching sheet music behind her.
The pop singer isn't the first performing artist to rely on a recording during winter weather. At Obama's first inauguration, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman also played along to a previously recorded version of their work, no doubt because of the frigid temperatures. Still, the news that Beyoncé's performance wasn't the real deal is still a little bit of a letdown given the rave reviews that quickly poured in online and elsewhere after the performance. (In the measured words of TMZ: "IT WAS F**KING AWESOME.") Watch for yourself:
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