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To Sing Or Not To Sing – Lip-Synching

Lip-synching, most people hate it and many musical artists within recent years have been caught doing it. Whether the lip-synching was done for technical reasons or due to the fact the ‘singers’ couldn’t sing, audiences have stood up against it.

What is lip-synching? Technically it means to match lip movements with a voice. The term can refer to performances in the production of film, video and television programs. The practice of people during live concerts, lip-synching, is quite controversial.

People will go as far as to boycott a singer or even sign a petition. When Britney Spears was lip-synching on tour, over 3,500 fans signed an online petition begging her to stop the practice. Spears denied the practice saying “I don’t lip-synch”. But her tour manager, Larry Rudolph said Spears tour would be a mix of live and lip-synched vocals as past tours have been.

Lip-synching has been used often in the past to help recording artists create a particular effect, to enable them to perform live dance numbers, or to cover for illness or other deficiencies during live performance. Sometimes lip-singing performances are forced by television for short guest appearances, as it requires less time for rehearsals and hugely simplifies the process of sound mixing. The practice of lip-synching during live performances is frowned on by some who view it as a crutch only used by lesser talents.

Although lip-synching is a historic practice in the music industry, after Spears petitioners created a big to-do about it, the act of lip-synching has become taboo. And yet, few live pop performances, such as those at the Super Bowl’s halftime show, can go without being lip-synched. Purists complained when Shania Twain lip-synched her performance. Producers of the Super Bowl’s half time show won’t say whose music has to be lip-synched with prerecorded music and who is performing live.

The biggest controversy when it comes to lip-synching was with the group Milli Vanilli. Milli Vanilli not only practiced lip-synching, they didn’t even sing the prerecorded version of their music, a double taboo. Milli Vanilli came about when Frank Farian developed the concept of the group and chose to feature vocals by Charles Shaw, John Davis, Brad Howell, and twin sisters Jodie and Linda Rocco; however, he felt that those singers lacked a marketable image. He then recruited Morvan and Pilatus, two younger and more photogenic model/dancers he found dancing in a Berlin dance club, to front the act.

Milli Vanilli’s debut album All or Nothing, was released in Europe in mid-1988, with Rob and Fab’s pictures on the front and center of the albums, but no mention of who actually sang the songs. The success of the record caught the attention of Arista Records, who signed the duo, added a new track written by Diane Warren, “Blame It on the Rain,” and renamed the album to Girl You Know It’s True for release in the American market in early 1989.

This version of the album went 6 times platinum and led to the re-release of the title track, which peaked at number 2 on the Hot 100 in April of that year and was certified platinum. Milli Vanilli’s meteoric rise to pop music superstardom culminated with a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on February 22, 1990.

The first sign that the group was lip-synching happened in late 1989 during a live performance on MTV at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut. As they performed onstage live in front of an audience, the recording of the song “Girl You Know It’s True” jammed and began to skip, repeating the partial line “Girl, you know it’s…” over and over on the speakers. They continued to pretend to sing and dance onstage for a few more moments. Then they both ran offstage.

Unlike the international release of All or Nothing, the inserts for the American version clearly attributed the voices on the album to Morvan and Pilatus. Because of rising public questions regarding the source of talent in the group, as well as the insistence of Morvan and Pilatus to Farian that they be allowed to sing on the next album, Farian confessed to reporters on November 12, 1990, that Morvan and Pilatus did not actually sing on the records. As a result of American media pressure, Milli Vanilli’s Grammy was withdrawn four days later (however, their three American Music Awards were never withdrawn because the organizers felt the awards were given to them by music consumers), and Arista Records dropped the act from its roster and deleted their album and its masters from their catalog, taking Girl You Know It’s True out of print.

Lip-Synching, whether for convenience or lack of talent, will continue to be a bone of contingency among audiences who when paying for live music, want live and real music.

Jeff Bachmeier is owner of 977music.com, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile. For more information please visit http://www.977music.com.

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  • About the Author:
    Jeff Bachmeier is owner of 977music.com, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile.

    For more information please visit 977music.com.
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