Is Beyonce Lip Syncing at the Grammys?

by Amy Roberts
Theo Wargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Let's be real about this. When it comes to live performances and award shows, even the most talented of performers can suffer from audio problems. As any musician will tell you, audio can be an unpredictable beast to tame, even at the biggest of events like the 2017 Grammy Awards ceremony. And though she might be the closest thing our planet has to an actual, legit superhero (I mean, come on), I'm sure those are facts that even Beyoncé can testify to. Which brings me to a crucial question: is Beyoncé lip syncing at the Grammy awards?

As most fans know, our Queen doesn't make a habit of lip syncing on the regular. However, there are several live audio challenges involved in some of her songs from Lemonade that may require some live audio augmentation. Fans will remember, for instance, Beyoncé's jaw dropping 2016 MTV VMAs performance in which she delivered a knockout medley of songs from Lemonade. Though she was clearly singing live for the performance, there were moments when it appeared as though a backing track was used (mostly for theatrical, spoken word sequences) to help the overall consistency of the performance.

And damn, the way that show turned out, it was clearly the best plan of action, because everything about it was flawless. But the Grammy Awards are quite a bit different to the MTV Video Music Awards, and, as a result, Beyoncé's audio needs could be different too.

For example, a show like the VMAs is concentrated as much on celebrating the visual achievements of music videos and replicating them on stage, as it is on the overall performance of a song (or set of songs.) The Grammys, on the other hand, is a showcase of absolute musical excellence. The performances that happen at the Grammy Awards are done to accentuate the sort of songwriting and vocal achievements that artists receive nominations and awards for.

It would be ludicrous, then, for an artist with as much evident talent as Beyoncé to not want to show off those skills on stage at the Grammy Awards. In 2012, the audio co-ordinator of the show, Michael Abbott, even told TV Technology that the Grammys don't allow lip-syncing and "are committed to having every microphone on stage be live," but went on to explain that some performances require additional live production services:

While we don’t allow lip-synch on the show, some performances are so demanding in terms of sound design that there has to be some of what we call track augmentation, which might involve Pro Tools or some other kind of playback. We do allow the artist to have their vision of what they should be looking and sounding like produced accurately... That can be a real challenge on live TV, especially in the context of Grammy events, where you might have live orchestra, huge choirs and lots of choreography

Which is completely understandable. It also goes some way to explaining why it might seem as though Beyoncé is lip syncing at the Grammys, even if she isn't. But some kind of backing vocal track or evidence of some form of additional live production tool doesn't automatically indicate than an artist isn't singing live. Instead, these sorts of tools are there to simply help bolster the live performance to sound as close to the original recording, as possible.