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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term last week.

I mention that only because there’s a good chance you missed it. That news, after all, was overshadowed by an apparently more important story out of Washington. It was a story that, according to the New York Daily News, caused the public to react in “outrage,” a word The Daily Mail in London echoed. One poor fellow tweeted that his life was “shattered” by it. And a local anchor in D.C. even affixed the dreaded scandal suffix: “gate.”

Beyoncé-gate, I believe she called it.

As in Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, the pop chanteuse who, it was revealed last week, lip-synced her show-stopping performance of the national anthem at the inauguration, thereby causing earthquakes in diverse places, cats to mate with dogs, blood to rain from the sky and the Earth to begin a slow spiral into the sun.


We are not gathered here today to defend the lady. Or, for that matter, to bury her.

No, we are gathered only to say that, putting aside the high-profile setting of her chicanery, what she did is hardly unique. To the contrary… it is a sign of the times.

Ours long ago became a culture in which the end justified the means, even if the means were misleading or downright duplicitous. Fakery is now an everyday artifact of our lives, as witness the debacles of Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire, Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley and the U.S. economic meltdown. Indeed, we should probably be grateful Beyoncé at least lip-synced to her own voice.

Milli Vanilli, you may recall, did not.

I went to my first concert in 1973, and remember being disappointed that the songs did not sound exactly like the records. What I came to understand — and appreciate — was that a live performance was a different animal than a finished studio product. In live concert, the singer was working the proverbial high wire without a net, showcasing his raw talent in an unforgiving environment where there were no retakes or edits, producing a spontaneous, never-to-be-recreated moment where anything might happen and sometimes did. It was an act of artistic daring.

The key word in all of that being “was.”

Someone attending her first concert in 2013 would likely be appalled at the idea of accepting anything less than a note-perfect recreation of the audio — and/or video — experience. Which is how you get incidents like the one an engineer friend of mine once told me about. While working a live awards show, he had to use a machine to fix in real time the voice of a certain beautiful, but talent-challenged, singer. And this was in the 1990s.

So the furor over Beyoncé feels at once vaguely amusing, tediously overwrought and about a generation late.

Once upon a time, we sang the virtues of authenticity. “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” went one song title. “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get,” went another. But those songs — and virtues — are decades out of date. Beyoncé did not create the new Zeitgeist, she is simply a child thereof — and if her performance was an implicit untruth, well, the same can be said of much of our arts, sports, news media and certainly our politics, rife with talking points and message discipline but void of simple respect for your or my intelligence.

Lies, implicit and explicit, are woven into life to a degree that would have made a 1940s Hollywood press agent grin — and stunned a reporter who once kept Jack Kennedy’s extramarital secrets. And someone calls it an “outrage” that Beyoncé lip-synced “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

What’s outrageous is that authenticity is disappearing from whole sectors of public life like condensation from a pane of glass. And that did not begin last week. It’s been happening for years. It’s been happening all around.

With apologies to Beyoncé: Oh, say, can you see?

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at

(c) 2013 The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster, file

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4 responses to “We Shouldn’t Be Shocked — Shocked!! — Over Beyoncé-Gate”

  1. sleeve says:

    I hate to break the news but speakers were also used to make her sound louder than she can really sing. She claimed it was due to the large crowd. Ha! And President Obama used a teleprompter and likely his speech was written on a computer, all plugged into the electrical grid that did not exist when the Constitution was written. I am sorry to shock! everyone.

  2. m8lsem says:

    Much ado about nothing. When mainstream TV began obsessing over this I was really pissed. Not only were we dealing with inaugurating a President, but people were doubtless struggling in Syria, there’s an economy to consider, Egypt’s under some political stress, three for-instances, and much more going on in the world … and we’re wondering whether Beyonce lip-synced or sang? Give me a capital f break!

  3. mlg4035 says:

    “Fakery is now an everyday artifact of our lives…” You say that like it’s a *good* thing…Sad.
    Diogenes is roiling in his grave…

  4. countrydv1 says:

    Considering that it is fake Beyonce..I would not be shocked…….as always she tries to manipulate all of us all the time : namely a few : her songwriting credit (as an addition to the other three writers) titled to the Oscar nominee for original song from Dreamgirls, which had been denied eventually by the Oscar; the songwriter claim over her hit ‘If I Were a Boy’, which apparently belongs to Ms.Jean instead of her; the pregnancy bump folded during an Australian TV interview, as if she did carry Blue Ivy in the first place (very questionable, eh?); even lying bout her age, which according to Texas Birth Certificate dated several years older than what she states amongst the media …….apparently she just lost her touch with all those lies this time …LOL……

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