The Grammys: Awards for Best Lip-Sync…

I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up at the tail end of one of the most interesting stretches of music around. While not claiming to be any sort of musical savant, I’ve listened to all sorts of stuff in my time. I know a good sound when I hear it.

With the state of commercial music today, I’ve still got a beef in one area as a suave enough music consumer. I love live music and feel that an artiste must be better live than on their records. I guess I got spoiled in the age of Michael, Luther, Whitney, Lionel Ritchie, Prince, Madonna (when she was younger), Celine Dion, Mariah Carey (when she was younger), Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Dolly Parton, Sir Paul + The Beatles, Kenny Rogers, U2, Johnny Cash, Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, Ken Boothe, Boris Gardner, Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy, Frankie Paul + Jack Raddics (although these two mostly did covers) et al. This is so long I know I’m forgetting a TON of people. They all had one thing in common: they kill it live!

That’s why over the years I watch these music awards with such skepticism at the performance, knowing that much of it is a bunch of lip-synch. So it is only fitting to acknowledge the good stuff at this year’s Grammys:

Loved Adele’s performance. She actually sang. Rihanna was nice when she actually sang with Coldplay. It was cool to see the Beach Boys. Enjoyed Chris Brown in the techno set – the house DJs really did well (Brown as good too). Loved Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney. It goes to show you that as good as Jennifer Hudson is, she is nowhere near in the zip code to be able to bring I Will Always Love You to life like Whitney could. Foo Fighters did well, and of course Sir Paul knows how to close a place out.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not hating on Nicki or Rihanna. Their performances were cool. It’s just that it shows you how awesome Michael was – he both sang and entertained at the same time. His shit was completely live! The thing most people take for granted was how much stamina he had – it never looked like he was taking a set off – everything was full tilt. Some folks who are lip-syncing now don’t even hide it. There is such an art to knowing how to sing live that I just feel is getting lost now, partly because the audience doesn’t demand it from the artiste.

I went to see Prince here in NJ in December 2010. He completely killed it, along with Lalah Hathaway and Esperanza Spalding. What was so memorable about the concert was Prince did a ton of his earlier works – he had the audience singing along, and knew when to sing and when to get us to sing along. Such a complete spectacle it was – I will never forget it.

I guess I just want more for my money these days. I know I work hard for it, and I know if I want the record sound I can bust out my iPod or my Mozart’s Zune play and blaze away. Still, there is something mesmerizing about a life performance that just lifts your spirits that no record can, and it feels cheapened going to a live concert to see the artiste lip-sync a record.

With the passing of Whitney, that is one more link to the golden oldies that is now lost. Perhaps if I get fortunate enough to be a grandfather I can look more favorably onto the records of today’s great concert lip-synchers and long fondling for the old school performers of yester year…


8 thoughts on “The Grammys: Awards for Best Lip-Sync…”

  1. Interesting.

    Beach Boys were lip syncing. Chris Brown was.lip syncing during his first performance. The house DJ… Was and IS terrible. Guetta is mainstream so people who are unfamilar with house think that Guetta is good. Guetta us a disgrace to the EBM spectrum of the musik industry. The failure has been hacking away at DJ’ing since the 80’s and no one, even us people who are submerged in the EBM scene, had no idea who he was until he started jacking other artists successful music and remixing it with a SIMPLE, repetitively used, horrible sounding beat. Sure, this might work n the hip hop and pop industry where people can’t differentiate bad house from good house, but not over here in EBM land.

  2. NB:

    As a Rihanna fan ir kills me to say this but, she sounded like shit. Though, at least she wasn’t lip syncing.

    And, the controversial Nicki minaj; she was amazing. I wasn’t a fan until now. She has a strong voice, a strong beautiful body, something to SAY, and is very creative. I think she’s underestimate. If Gaga performed the same show everyone would have loved it.

    1. Let me first say that house music isn’t one of my specialties. But, I am inclined to agree with you on Guetta because the people I touch base with who listen to house periodically haven’t recommended me touch his stuff. Deadmau5’s set the part I was listening more to during that segment, quite honestly.SO yes, he was appropriate for a wider audience only, not for people who are deep in the scene.

      Also, i missed the opening part of the Grammys which included Bruno Mars and Chris Brown’s first song. During the house set, Brown didn’t sound like he was lip syncing as much and that’s why I gave him a pass. Beach Boys I gave a pass because they were the 98 Degrees of 50 years ago. I would take acts like The Tokens, Paul Anka, Bill Haley and the Comets among others over the Beach Boys. It was cute to have them there, along with Sir Paul to close the show out.

      Rihanna was so so. She sounded better with Coldplay because was was singing. There were spots during her solo performance that it was clear she was more concerned about getting the dance choreography down more than the actual signing.Perhaps she was burnt out, I’m not sure. Nicki was cool – she’s got some talent for sure. But she lip rapped a big chunk of it. I guess I’m still stubborn because I was trained that you look at sound first, then visuals at a live performance.

  3. I love that you highlighted the need for real singers in the light of Whitney’s passing. The music business has been so watered down when it comes to natural talent that I’d appreciate if people just sang live even if they don’t have the best voice in the world. After witnessing Celine Dion this year, she was nothing short of outstanding. She sounds just like or even better than the record.Also, I’ve been taking in live concerts for this reggae month and our Jamaican performers never lip-sync’s and they all sound so amazing live. This year’s Grammys weren’t all that to me honestly. Adele was great, Foo Fighters amazing and all the live stuff I appreciated. Chris Brown was disappointing and I know he has a great voice but all these tricks and stunts and gimmicks that our younger entertainers constantly give us is becoming so stale.

    1. The truth is that the Grammys and many award shows like it are not the same. It is more of a commercial event now than before. Live performances mattered at the Grammys because it was one of the few venues where you could reach larger audiences. Many old school musicians will tell you they toured and played in smaller, more intimate venues. This allowed them to have that connection with the audience, where it was easier to get the audience involved. It wasn’t merely about the artiste doing some fancy visuals, it was about hearing the talent first hand.

      To me the mark of an artiste is the ability to have your fan base grow with you as you career goes along. The old folks talk about many of the older artistes and they can tell you they knew when an artiste was at their peak or when they could hear the voice leave them. They can remember these performances more clearly than I did with the Prince 2010. These are concerts sold out and fans know all the “B Side” material as well as the hit singles. Some people enjoyed touring more than studio recording. Burning Spear is a great example of this – the reason for some of the wide gaps in his album releases was because he was out on tour so much.

      Schedules appear to be more demanding than before, and many artistes have other business opportunities to take care of. That kind of schedule can take a toll on any performer. Again, I’m not ragging on the modern day musical entertainer, but I guess I’m waxing poetic about those singers where touring and recording where the primary focus.

  4. We may not have been hearing much of Brian in the mix; however, the Beach Boys were not lipsyncing. What we were hearing was the backup band doing most of the heavy vocal lifting for the Boys. Heck, Mike’s lead vocal was weak enough that I can’t imagine anyone thinking he was faking it.

    Fyi…Michael Jackson routinely lipsynced on his tours, and Dolly Parton admits to lipsyncing. (Google it an you’ll find much documentation)

    1. Mike’s voice was so weak I did think that he was lip syncing at times. But I stand my statement – the Beach Boys get a pass because it was nice enough just to see them back on stage.

      Yes, I know that both Michael and Dolly did lip sync as well, but many of the other artistes I posted didn’t, especially the Caribbean ones. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that if one is going to lip sync, don’t be as blatant as Rihanna and Nicki were during parts of their performances…

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