Last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show caused a bit of an uproar when it was revealed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ instruments weren’t plugged in. It was somehow more scandalous because we associate lip syncing strictly with singers, so the confession that the musicians were now also faking their guitar parts was a pretty big letdown, especially for a band like the Chili Peppers who pride themselves on playing “our guts out live onstage for anyone who wants to get their brains blown out.”
The NFL’s stance on this subject is staunch – the prospect of sound defects is near catastrophic to them, so they pre-record as much material as possible. I understand the sentiment; there’s a national audience watching, and you don’t want anything to go wrong. However, I think it’s a poor excuse for a sport that historically takes pride in their musical accompaniment. The Super Bowl should hold the same high standards for their performers, especially now that they want the artists to pay the NFL for exposure, as they do for the elite marching bands that rally teams throughout the country.
The argument stems from the small amount of time they have to set up the stage during halftime. However, the extensive preparation that goes into the Super Bowl should account for this factor. You can’t tell me that the pyrotechnics, laser lights, massive video displays, and elaborate interactive moving sets the artists perform on are less difficult to pull off than successfully turning on a mic and amplifier.
Our plastic-surgery-happy, auto-tuned culture puts such a high price on perfection that we have become terrified of the very nature of being human – making mistakes. But it’s not like these performers don’t know what they’re doing. With the exception of Britney Spears, they can all really sing and play their instruments. The likelihood that they’re going to mess up their own songs is slim to none, and if they did, it would still be far from the Super Bowl’s most controversial moments (e.g. Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, M.I.A.’s middle finger to the world).
If the singers of the National Anthem are supposedly really singing, then why aren’t the Halftime Show performers? How is Diana Ross being lifted off the stage via helicopter less anxiety-inducing than a band forgetting their lyrics? The NFL needs to man up and let their star attractions do what they do best – perform live. Stop pretending the professional sound techs and stage crew can’t get it right. If I wanted to hear previously recorded music, I’d listen to their album, not pay hundreds of dollars to see something that is fundamentally fake.
Ultimately, lip syncing is for hacks. Go big, or go home. Will you let me down this year Katy Perry? Probably. But the NFL is the true root of the problem – too concerned about tarnishing their image to stand for honesty. Oh, but we already knew that. As if the Ray Rice cover-up wasn’t disturbing enough.
September 2014 © Comedy Central
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