Lip-syncing isn’t the worst thing in the world since there are a lot of artists who need to move around the stage, and the acoustics of certain venues make live performances sound flat-out bad. Then, there are times when the venue is just fine and the artist isn’t doing anything spectacular on stage, but they cop out of performing live and let the recorded track do the work for them.
There have been several instances where an artist was caught lip-syncing during a performance when they had no real reason to. For some, it has pretty much been a career-ender, while others were able to bounce back because they had a decent excuse. Here are five artists who were caught lip-syncing during live performances. For the sake of the list, we’re excluding any Super Bowl performances where lip-syncing is expected.
There is perhaps no greater example of lip-syncing ending careers than Milli Vanilli. The duo was comprised of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, and they churned out a slew of hits in the late 1980s which included “Blame It On the Rain” and “Girl You Know It’s True”. This led to the duo earning the 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, but it was one they’d have to give back.
During a live performance that aired on MTV in July 1989, Milli Vanilli was performing “Girl You Know It’s True,” but the track skipped and Pilatus ran off stage. Many brushed it off, but it was revealed not too long afterward that Morvan and Pilatus weren’t the actual singers. They were lip-syncing the vocals of three other men including Charles Shaw and Brad Howell. With that, Milli Vanilli disbanded and gave back their Grammy.
Ashlee Simpson came to prominence after her older sister Jessica became a hit singer and reality television star. As for her own career, Ashlee got off to a good start thanks to her debut album “Autobiography” which included hits like “La La” and “Pieces of Me”. Shortly after the album’s release, Simpson performed the latter song on “Saturday Night Live”.
When she came out for her second song, “Autobiography”, “Pieces of Me” started playing again. It proved that Simpson had lip-synced her first performance, and it became an awkward scene as she did a little jig and walked off the stage. Simpson blamed it on acid reflux and said she made a fool of herself. It was essentially the end of her music career which had just gotten started.
You can be one of the best singers of all time and still get caught lip-syncing every now and then. Carey, who is known for an endless list of hits which include “We Belong Together” and “Fantasy”, has had a few instances of obvious lip-syncing during her time. When welcoming in 2017 during Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, though, she had a pretty egregious example of lip-syncing.
Social media was ablaze with jokes about Carey’s performance, and she came out of it feeling bitter. Carey said it was her in-ear audio that was throwing her off. “It’s not going to stop me from doing a live event in the future,” she said. “But it will make me less trusting of using anyone outside of my own team.”
The Princess of Pop has had her fair share of controversies throughout her career, and lip-syncing feels like just a footnote for Britney Spears. Spears, who has released hits including “…Baby One More Time”, “Toxic” and “Womanizer” has had a few incidents, but perhaps none more famous than during her residency in Las Vegas.
During one performance in 2014, Spears was set to lip-sync alongside her song “Perfume”. However, the cover version by Sia started playing. Spears’s team tried to get the audio wiped from YouTube uploads, but it was too late. Still, Spears didn’t suffer too badly from the incident.
One of the most influential figures in music history, Beyonce has a following that is beyond loyal and no amount of lip-syncing could ever ruin her reputation. Still, that didn’t stop some people from criticizing Beyonce for lip-syncing during one of the more important events in the United States: the Presidential Inauguration.
The inauguration was for Barack Obama, who had won his re-election and beginning his second term as the United States President. Beyonce was tabbed to sing the national anthem and lip-synced her way through. Beyonce admitted that the performance was pre-recorded because she didn’t have time to rehearse. Instead, she had been warming up for her Super Bowl halftime performance which came just days later.