Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tsk, Tsk: Criticism of Beyoncé’s Lip Syncing . . A Distraction From More Serious Issues And Moral Choices

President Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech last week had a lot in it that ought to have commanded serious attention, like the fact that he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change” and his calls for equality with his alliterative allusions to “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”  He spoke of protecting the young and future generations including those of Newtown.  There was his proclamation that a “rising middle class” is imperative and that the “patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.” Significantly, he spoke out against believing that in America “freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few” while asserting that the commitments Americans make to each other through “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security” do not “make us a nation of takers” but strengthen and free us “to take the risks that make this country great.”

It’s unfortunate then that so many people want to come away just talking about whether Beyoncé lip-synced her singing of the National Anthem.  Admittedly, comment on the subject is hard to resist. . .  Right after Ms. Knowles concluded the soaring notes of her rendition Gwen Ifill, moderating PBS’s coverage, said: “As we have seen many, many times in the past, that is a tough song nail and Beyoncé managed to find a way to do it today.”

Yes, indeed, but little did Ms. Ifill know that the way that Beyoncé had managed to find to deliver her otherwise pitch perfect performance was for what was piped out to the national audience to be a prerecorded version.

With wealth of around $775 million Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the richest celebrity couple in the world, which adds to the feeling that they ought to really deliver when they perform (the way that Kelly Clarkson did when she performed “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” moments before Beyoncé performed.) 

As it turns out, even though the national audience only heard Beyoncé’s prerecorded version Beyoncé was probably not lip syncing in the truest sense but singing along live to the prerecorded tape people were hearing over the speakers.  That’s the verdict of a British sound engineer after listening to an alternative feed and he opines that her actual live performance “was every bit as good as the `safety’ pre-record – in fact it was so close that it’s hard to tell them apart” (See- and hear: 'She DID sing live': Now sound expert delivers verdict on the curious case of Beyoncé's national anthem... as new audio of her performance emerges, by Chris Johnson, 24 January 2013.)

People like Jon Stewart on the Daily Show have taken humorous advantage of the distraction of this faux scandal concerning Beyoncé’s performance ethics to make serious points.

One of the quips making the rounds gets expressed thus: “As if Beyoncé were the only person in Washington to move their lips and say nothing.”
Bill Maher opened his HBO program last week with a more pointedly appropriate variation on the above, telling the cheering audience that greeted his arrival on stage:
I know why you're happy this week: Obama got reinaugurated.  That was a big thing for liberals.  But I have to say, the Republicans were right . . . He's been in office less than a week now in the second term and already the administration's rocked by scandal . . .  Beyoncé lip syncing!

    * * * *

Let that be a lesson: If you are in Washington, D.C. and you open your mouth and another voice comes out it better be the NRA, an oil company, or a bank.
Maher may have been more on target than he knew.  The attendance of Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the inauguration provided a ready-made distraction for those who were looking for one and there were, indeed many, like Rupert Murdoch, owner of the media empire that includes Fox New and the New York Post, who would prefer that Obama’s message on the historic day not get through.  So, for example, the Post ran a full front page on its edition covering the inauguration that was nothing but a photo of  Beyoncé and Jay-Z with a tabloid-size headline proclaiming these two to be the real first couple.

What makes the distraction the celebrity couple was conveniently providing less funny and also makes the misguided fixation on Beyoncé lip syncing as `scandal’ less innocuous are the much more serious distractions that Beyoncé and Jay-Z provide, obstructing the messages Obama needs to get across.  No, I don’t refer to the fact that Beyoncé has been chastised for the promotion of sugary soda because it conflicts with Michelle Obama’s efforts to encourage healthy diets for American children as she seeks to combat the obesity epidemic.  There are other moral indicators and choices that concern me more, things that do greater damage to and greatly confuse the message Obama seeks to get out. . .

. . . Beyoncé's high-paid special performance for Libya’s Gaddafi family. .

 . . Jay-Z saying that he doesn’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is about while he himself buys into a system that perpetuates unfair privilege . .

. .    And yes, my concerns involve the moral laxity Bill Maher chided in his joke of people opening their mouths to give voice to words a disreputable organization has paid them to say. .  This extends to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, hiring out as fronts for a monopolisticly predatory real estate developer and public subsidy collector looking to neuter the rights of a community and the effectiveness of their community organizers mustering a defense.  (For more on all of this see: Tuesday, January 8, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece.)

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