Beyonce DIDN’T mime at the inauguration. BUT…

…she did sing along with a pre-recorded backing.

[Update – Beyonce has finally gone on the record about the “controversy” and confirmed this – for more info click here.]

The video above clearly shows Beyonce singing live at President Obama’s inauguration, despite the fact that many news outlets are claiming she mimed.

You can also clearly hear the pre-recorded backing in the video, made earlier in case of technical problems. (Thanks to Daniel Holter for posting a heads-up on this video.)

But the live vocal is the one most people heard.


The evidence

You can tell by listening carefully to the two performances audible in the video above and comparing them to this live feed:

For more clues that she sang live, listen for these points:

  1. When she starts singing, her voice is hard to hear – the microphone gain is too low. The sound-man quickly corrects this – but if we were listening to a recording this wouldn’t happen – in fact back-up recordings are used to solve exactly this kind of problem.
  2. At 1’16” in the video above, she tilts her head slightly closer to the mic and the sound gets suddenly more bassy. This is because of an acoustic effect known as the “proximity effect”.
  3. At 1’52” she takes out one of her earpieces. Some people are citing this as more evidence she was lip-syncing, but in fact it’s what singers do when they’re having trouble hearing the pitch of their own voice through the earpiece. By taking it out, she can hear her own voice more clearly and sing in tune more easily. (In fact, if the pre-recorded vocal was going to her earpiece, she may well have been finding it distracting.)
  4. At 2’17” she smiles slightly, and you can hear this “smile” in her voice.

None of these clues are conclusive, but to fake all of them, plus the details of the performance itself, would make Beyonce the best lip-sync artist in the world !

And anyone who has heard her sing live knows that’s not where her true talents lie…

[Edit – see below for more…]


So why are people saying Beyonce mimed ?

Because the band did mime.

Why ? Apparently Beyonce hadn’t been able to rehearse with the band, and wanted the security of using the version she had certainly been using to practise in the run-up. Or perhaps because it can be next to impossible for a large group of musicians to play in tune in extremely hot or cold temperatures – and it was cold at the inauguration.

The original reports were “confirmed” by representatives of the band, who said that Beyonce asked for the pre-recorded backing, and that’s almost certainly true. (The band has since issued a formal statement saying that “no one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre-recorded.”)

Any singer would find it seriously difficult to put on a great performance to a band that was struggling to play in tune, and for something this high-profile it’s understandable that you’d want the best chance to get it right.

But the video at the top of this post uses both audio feeds, probably by mistake, and combined with the other clues leaves me in no doubt that Beyonce sang live – and that her live performance is what most people heard.


So, it’s been 24 hours and Beyonce’s team still haven’t made any comment – meanwhile CNN are quoting an inauguration official who says she decided to use the pre-recorded version the night before.

There are several different versions of the video available, all with slightly different sound – how can this be ? Why are there two voices audible on some versions, and not on others ?

The answer is that it’s standard practise at an event like this for all the audio to be made available to broadcasters, so that each of them can do their own mix – their own blend of presenters, music and ambient crowd noise.

All of which makes it very difficult to know exactly what we’re hearing! And some people are even claiming that Beyonce’s mic wasn’t switched on at all.

Plot thickening

But here’s a clue I haven’t mentioned before – in the first WSJ clip above, you can clearly hear wind noise on the mic (and Beyonce’s scarf flapping) at 0’36”. This proves the mic was live – and that it was used in this broadcast, at least.

And you can hear the same thing in other versions, crucially in the video on Beyonce’s blog, too, at 0’48” – even though this version has been cleaned up to be the least “live-sounding”, with reverb and compression, and the wind noise reduced.


My verdict ?

  • The mic was live
  • Beyonce sang
  • Whether she wanted it or not, the live mic sound was made available and used in many, if not all of the broadcasts
  • Her 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 !”

We have no way of knowing exactly why Beyonce chose to use the recorded backing, or if she really wanted us to hear her live performance. But we did – and it was great.

She didn’t mime, she sang great – what’s all the fuss about ?

Update 2: Confirmation !

I think there’s a reaction to all of this from Beyonce hidden towards the end of this post from US Magazine, and I think she confirms exactly what I’ve been saying in this post…?

“She did sing,” the source explains to Us [Magazine]. “There was a [pre-recorded] track, but Bey sang 100 percent.”

“[Using a pre-recorded track at live events] is very very common,” the source clarfies. “The track was only there as a backup.”

“And the source tells Us that Beyonce is … disappointed by the hubbub”


Update 3: In detail

Since originally writing this post, I’ve become more and more convinced that not only did Beyonce sing live, but most of us heard her. To see exactly why, take a look at this video:


The Final Update

Beyonce has finally gone on the record about the “controversy” and confirmed that she sang with the pre-record – for full details click here.

facebook comments:


  1. LC says

    And yet the USMC said the band played EVERY OTHER PIECE OF MUSIC that day live, so why wasn’t Kelly Clarkson (who sang live) or anyone else worried about the band being out of tune due to the cold?

    Also, this band plays outdoors in the cold all the time. It’s insulting them to suggest they’ve been doing so out of tune all the years, since 1801.

  2. Alexander says

    Thank you ! I was thinking the same way, and re-whatched the vidéo and couldn’t find out how Beyoncé could have lip-synced.. The video clears it all.

  3. says

    LC, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but as a lapsed trombone player I know first-hand how tricky this can be, especially since the tuning changes as instruments warm up and cool down. But, I haven’t heard the other performances, so I’m just guessing.

    There are other possibilities – headphone mixes are really tough to get right, it may just have been this instead.

  4. says

    Hey, thanks for the mention… much appreciated!

    I’m still amazed at how many people (especially “news” outlets) are just accepting the accusation that she was somehow faking it. Crazy.

    Next up on my blog: how That’s-Not-Sarah-Palin’s-Baby orchestrated 9/11.

  5. Tania says

    Hello LC,

    Not tryna be rude but she was in New Orleans and flew back to do the inaugaration and only had one day to practice with the band whereas Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor had a week. Bey doesn’t lip sync

  6. Christian says

    Another thing that shows that she wasn’t lipsynching is the fact that, when she starts on the part “And the rockets red glare”, if u have headphones on, you can hear the prerecorded version play “And” first and then her voice covers it up. You can hear the delay on that part. It goes quickly but it’s noticeable if you pay attention, because you hear two sounds on the “and” part.

  7. says

    Wait, actually no – listen to the speech at the start of the clip, you can hear that before he speaks, too ! It’s the different timings of the audio feeds and video caused by digital audio – we’re actually hearing the ambient sound before the main feed (which is in sync with the picture).

    No wonder this is so hard to call…

  8. rick says

    Thanks so much for making it know that she did not lip sync at the inauguration its ridiculous how she is getting so much hate for something that is false and the more articles like this come out the more people will feel stupid for dragging her down like that just too tarnish her name…
    i loved your article keep up the good work

  9. Jess says

    She was singing live! Crazy how stories spread and people believe anything without looking for proof.

  10. Julia says

    If you listen at 1:43 in the first video you can easily hear two voices. It’s obvious she was singing live.

  11. debbie says

    It does make allot of sense i did not even believe all of those rumors that were spread about her so called lip syncing and what the military or whoever they are released its clear as day she sang the hell out of that song and she did it AMAZING
    Thanks for proving all the haters wrong Ian Shepherd… your article is very good and your points are very strong and cannot be second guessed

  12. Alison says

    I never thought she lip-synched it. If I would have been singing one of the most difficult songs on the planet on a seriously cold day for the POTUS I would have used a recording for fear I would get a weird voice or have to clear my throat. Luckily, B is definitely a super professional and clearly aced it. I thought it was amazing, she did fabulous, and I was so proud of her. Even if a recording had been used, who cares? We want perfection right?

  13. Carol says

    Ian, thank you for trying to look for accuracy. I knew Beyonce was singing live when at first her voice was low, and you can tell she has a little look of concern on her face. I thought then the sound guy doesn’t have her mic turned up loud enough. She wants her voice to be heard. I knew when she threw out the earpiece that’s what people use to lip synch. If she was lip synching she would’ve kept it in. Another expert on ET said the same thing about the earpiece. That was an indication she was singing live. It was also another article on Slate that said real musicians know that Beyonce was singing live. The guy also said that Kelly Clarkson used a pre-recorded track to sing along to also. Katy Perry was at the inauguration and said Beyonce was singing live. But Ian’s piece was the first big story I saw that really digged deep and pointed to the facts of Beyonce really singing live.

  14. says

    Hi Carol,

    Actually pulling the earpiece out doesn’t prove she wasn’t miming – she would have had an earpiece in the other ear. She would have these even if it were live, so she could hear the band well enough – they were a long way away from her.

    As it happens we know she was listening to the recording, which was being used for the band’s sound – but that DOESN’T mean she was lip-syncing, either !

    To me it’s a very normal thing to happen in a live performance in tricky circumstances.


  15. Goldmember says

    She doesn’t even know the proper words and no one says that…she sings …” what we proudly HELD at the twilight’s last gleeming”…It is not HELD, you buffon but ” HAILED “ is extraordinary the illiteracy and mediocrity that is celebrated in modern America..disgraceful

  16. Goldmember says

    She doesn’t even know the proper words and no one says that…she sings …” what so proudly we HELD at the twilight’s last gleaming”…It is not HELD, you buffon but ” HAILED “ is extraordinary the illiteracy and mediocrity that is celebrated in modern America..disgraceful

  17. Adam says

    Well there is simple explenation for that event – breathing.Yes from medicine and physics compared toghetether – you can’t have the same inhale/exhale timing as on the record.The mic has anti wind filter but in live situation like this singer who has wind on his/her face have to inhale quicker to not overflow and have the buffer to set the correct notes without going to high or low (when she goes low tones you can clearly hear she got shorter but “louder” inhale :D ).

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