Bruno Mars, Houston, 2010

After meandering on Facebook this morning I came across a surprising number of people accusing Bruno Mars of lip-syncing during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and Renée Fleming of being “pitchy” as she sung The Star Spangled Banner. My favorite comment was from someone who said, “I’ll always prefer the traditional R&B version of the National Anthem.”

Bruno Mars Lip-Synching Allegations:

As a vocalist myself – and after watching Bruno Mars’ performance a few times on YouTube – if Mars is lip-syncing, that’s the best darn lip-syncing performance anyone has ever done! In fact, I sincerely doubt it could possibly be lip syncing. Some singers really are just THAT good without having to pull studio tricks on the audience.

Don’t get me wrong, the band may have used some backing tracks to add orchestral oomph or whatnot, but who doesn’t these days? An artist of Mars’ versatility (playing drums, piano, singing, dancing, etc.) demands respect from everyone, even those who aren’t fans of his genre.

I’d also like to point out that lip-syncing – while it may seem like cheating to some – may be a necessity in a giant acoustically inept venue where you’re expected to dance around like a maniac.

I remember a few years back I was asked to sing The National Anthem at Lone Star Stadium in Conroe for a political event. As I began singing – to my utter horror – I realized the crowd was singing with me and they were singing lyrics about three whole seconds behind me. They were hearing a delayed version of me, and I was hearing a delayed version of them. In addition, I could hear my own voice echoing back to me about 5 seconds late. It was incredibly confusing! Looking back, a lip-syncing track – at least one only I could hear through an ear piece and sing along with – would have been AWESOME! But alas, we didn’t have that kind of tech.

Renee Fleming, 2009

For Renée Fleming & Opera Naysayers:

As for Renée Fleming’s so-called “pitchy” opera performance of The National Anthem, here’s what I saw some folks saying:

I hope they never book another opera singer for the Super Bowl.”

I prefer the traditional R&B style for the song.”

Firstly, let’s have a little history lesson.

The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. R&B is a musical genre that originated in the 1940’s. So, unless Mr. Key time-traveled hundreds of years into the future and wrote The National Anthem with artists like Whitney Houston or Beyoncé in mind, R&B and contemporary pop are definitely not the “traditional” ways to sing the song. Actually, some kind of casual folk vocal styling is more likely what the poet envisioned. After all, the melody was taken from a popular British drinking song composed by John Stafford Smith for the entertainment of a men’s social club. Yep. It’s a drinking song.

Secondly, Renée Fleming’s performance was definitely not “pitchy.” I think the word said dissenter may have been searching for was, “vibrato,” but I can’t be certain.

Again, let’s look at history. Opera originated in Italy in the late 1500’s. No doubt the techniques that were combined to develop opera were around even before then. Upon the foundation of opera, all modern singers (and yes, even rappers) depend. Whether they’re incorporating operatic breathing techniques, tricks to hit high notes with soaring accuracy, posture stances to improve projection and breathing, or intonation techniques to maximize power and beauty, they’re referencing and utilizing aspects of the extraordinary science that is the art of opera. The reason that the greatest rappers can squeeze all those rhythmic words into a single breath is because they’re breathing (albeit possibly unintentionally) like Andrea Bocelli.

In a Nut Shell:

Saying you hate opera but love R&B, pop, rock – or really just about any vocally-driven genre – is kind of like saying you love CiCi’s pizza but hate Italian food.

Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also ironic.

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