Many people had a great time last week making fun of Mariah Carey, the pop diva whose New Year’s Eve performance went kerplop when technical difficulties made it clear her performance was lip-synced.
Every news show on the planet delighted in replaying the disaster. And of course social media exploded with snarky comments like “With 15 minutes remaining before the New Year, 2016 claimed its final victim: Mariah Carey’s career” and “Breaking news: Mariah Carey has just been invited to sing at Trump’s inauguration.”
There was even a popular Facebook meme with photos of an actual train wreck next to a photo of Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance.
I thought all of it was grossly unfair, and not because I’m a fan of Carey’s. I’m not. I think she has a great voice, but like most singers these days she prefers showing off her vocal range more than delivering a great song. I don’t like that style of singing. I think if you’re going to sing the word “love” it shouldn’t come out “LooOOOoooOOOoooOOOoooOOOve” and cover three quarters of the known human vocal range. But that’s just me.
No, I object to the tittering about Carey’s kerploppery on grounds that it’s a violation of the unspoken contract between modern performers and audiences.
Everyone watching knew she was going to lip sync. Human beings simply can’t dance around the way modern performers do and still sound great singing. It’s just not possible. That’s why most singers throughout history have stood stock still when they perform, with their only movements being maybe a dramatic hand gesture, a hair flip or a hey-baby-you-know-what-I’m-singing-about leer.
That all changed back in the ‘80s with the advent of music videos. Suddenly, people wanted live performances to match what they saw in the videos, which meant dancing, flipping, flying, sprinting, tumbling, hanging from drapery and so on, which meant lip syncing because without it songs would sound like this: “Ooo baby (pant, pant), I really want you (huff puff), I want you so bad … whoo boy, hold on a sec, everybody, I gotta catch my breath.”
That’s not very sexy.
Personally, I think lip syncing is silly, and I imagine performers feel pretty silly doing it. I know I’d feel pretty goofy giving a PowerPoint presentation by mouthing the words.
But the fact remains that modern audiences and performers have tacitly agreed that it’s OK for performers to lip sync their songs while zipping around the stage.
So when something goes wrong at a performance, I think it’s wrong for people to say, “See, she’s a fake!” because of COURSE she’s a fake. That’s what we asked her to be. So we can hardly blame or make fun of her for being what we demanded she be.
So to you, Mariah Carey, I say “You have nothing to feel bad or embarrassed about. In fact, you have every right to be mad at the people who have been making fun of you.”
Of course I’m not really saying that out loud. I’m just mouthing the words. But you get the idea.
Image credit: AJC1