I gave that woman props publicly! I said Beyonce's performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" at President Obama's 2nd Inaugural was "pretty good," and considering I'm not particularly fond of Beyonce and think she's nuts, I thought that was pretty magnanimous of me. I also decided that it was kind of cool that Jay-Z and Beyonce were up there; it was certainly very American and definitely 21st Century that they were part of history. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, Beyonce. It all made sense, a shining new vision of America was on display, and everything was perfect... until we found out that Beyonce lip synched her bit, and now it's all ruined. OK, that's a bit of an overstatement. The rest of the Inauguration gleams brightly in my memory, but in retrospect, there's now an asterisk next to it.
Now of course there's another school of thought that suggests that it doesn't matter, and of course in the grand scheme of things, compared to global warming and the myriad issues confronting the United States and the rest of the world, it really doesn't, but I still think it's wrong to just shrug our shoulders and let Beyonce off the hook willy nilly. Now there's word that she didn't even rehearse with the band and that she didn't tell the organizers that she wasn't singing live until that morning, and something just ain't right about that. I'm also troubled by the fact that this whole hullabaloo follows so closely after the Manti T'eo "catfish" fiasco and the Lance Armstrong confessions to Oprah because Beyonce's lip-synching seems to just be more of that American phony baloney we love to consume until we find out what goes into the baloney. Then we get "outraged" before moving on so we can consume more phony baloney. Hey, maybe this whole thing is as American as apple pie and exactly what we deserve... but that doesn't mean we have to like it. I sure as hell don't.
There's also a school of thought that holds that maybe Beyonce lip synching was for the best because after all, if she'd butchered the National Anthem the knives would've been out, and indeed, that's certainly true. Like phony baloney, Americans also seem to love crucifying public figures (guilty as charged), and such a sin would've certainly produced a mighty hue and cry that would've gotten ugly (far uglier than this hullabaloo), but that's still no excuse. Nobody made Beyonce perform at the Inaugural (unless somebody did, which means her future autobiography is going to be muy caliente), and if she couldn't do it, she probably shouldn't have said yes. And then there's the popular theory that "everybody lip synchs," which is hilarious because the other performers at the Inauguration didn't (including an American Idol winner). Aretha Franklin didn't four years ago, and Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman pantomimed their bit four years ago because their string instruments weren't doing so hot in the frigid cold. Plus, we were were told at the time that this was the case; there was no attempt at subterfuge or shenanigans, whereas this Beyonce situation now wreaks.
No, there's definitely an asterisk next to this one. Sure it's not the end of the world or the most important thing we've got going right now in this county, but it does speak to an existential quandary this country is facing regarding our collective relationship to reality and fantasy that's potentially a tad too fluid for our own good. Sasha Fierce played us, pure and simple, and when you watch that upcoming HBO documentary by Beyonce about Beyonce and how tough it is to be Beyonce, remember that when it got tough she phoned it in, stunning the world with a performance of a performance before getting found out. They just don't make pop stars like they used to.
And dammit, I gave Beyonce props!
Special thanks to my brother who shamefully articulated those Beyonce forgiving schools of thought. And before you come at me with "but you liked M83 live even though they were playing to a backing track" please remember, they were playing live music on that stage... with some help. Not the same.