Did she? Didn’t she? Does it really matter either way? The entertainment world has been abuzz recently because of reports that Beyoncé lip-synched her performance of The Star-Spangled Banner at president Obama’s inauguration.
The controversy first began to swirl when it became apparent that the US Marine Corps band, who provided the musical backing for many of the day’s performances, were not actually playing their instruments during the singer’s performance. A spokesperson for the band then revealed that while they had indeed played live for most of the ceremony, they were asked to mime to a pre-recorded track for Beyoncé’s rendition of the national anthem, seemingly confirming that her much-lauded ‘live’ performance was anything but.
(Image credit: PA Images/Ron Sachs/CNP)
The revelation sparked a media frenzy, with social networking sites being flooded with various opinions on the topic at hand. Many were disappointed, some were outraged, and others simply failed to see what all the fuss was about. After all, maybe Bey’s team simply felt it was better to be safe than sorry. The adverse weather conditions didn’t exactly provide the ideal environment for a five-star vocal, and Christina Aguilera was publically crucified for botching the lyrics to the song 2 years earlier. The decision to pre-record Beyoncé’s voice may have been a pre-emptive strike of sorts; an effort to avoid what could have been a PR disaster.
And yet, it could be argued that a PR disaster is exactly what transpired. A swathe of negative publicity arose almost immediately, which would certainly have been worthy of some damage control strategies being implemented. However, there was no public apology, no statement issued by Beyoncé’s publicist, no effort made to either confirm or deny the course of events. Save for the singer herself posting a somewhat cryptic picture to her official Instagram (shown below), Bey’s camp remained curiously tight-lipped over the days following the scandal. In fact, the only real damage control was done by the aforementioned Marine Corps band who, after lighting the fire, attempted to quell it less than 24 hours later by suggesting that the band themselves decided not to play live due to them not having had enough rehearsal time with Beyoncé. Regarding the singer’s vocal performance, the official line became that “nobody in the band was in a position to assess” whether or not it was live.
(Image credit: Instagram)
Beyoncé did eventually cop to lip-synching to a pre-recorded track during her performance, at a press conference held almost a fortnight after the ceremony. She cited the lack of time to properly rehearse as the reason she made the decision. But had the damage already been done? Had she waited too long before getting her side of the story out there?? As a PR student, I’ve been told time and time again that the worst thing you can do in a time of crisis is keep quiet. You’re prevented for doing much in the way of damage control, and your publics will interpret your silence as an admission of guilt anyway. If you’re caught out, own up to it and move forward. It took Beyoncé’s team a little while to arrive at this conclusion, and some might say procrastinating the way they did was a pretty big PR no-no.
Interestingly though, it’s worth considering that they may actually have had something of a master plan all along. Beyoncé had long been announced as the performer for the half-time show at the Superbowl, a mere two weeks after the inauguration. Could her management have been hoping that her performance at that event would speak for itself? Beyoncé has a reputation as one of the best performers of her generation, so maybe they were relying on the Superbowl as a platform for her to silence the critics, rendering any form of public apology for the lip-synching debacle completely unnecessary.
(Image credit: PA Imades/Gerald Herbert/AP)
Fortunately it looks like that was precisely the effect, intended or otherwise, that the singer’s halftime set had on the general public. Everything from the dynamic performance to the mini Destiny’s Child reunion to the sheer ubiquity of Beyoncé’s back catalogue of hits helped to ensure that her show was the talking point of Twitter for the whole night. And that little miming incident from 14 days ago? Nothing but a distant memory…