Artists can get a lot of flack for lip-syncing (Beyoncé’s national anthem debacle, anyone?). However, the Super Bowl halftime show is the one place where singers can — and should — be allowed to mime their acts. Before you have a heart attack, just hear us out.
Football stadiums are big, people. Very big. Plus, with tricky acoustics and an audience of 100 million waiting for you, the pressure can be enormous to put on the perfect show. Live singing in these conditions can generate some pretty horrendous results, which is why some of the most prominent artists in the biz — from Madonna to Janet Jackson — opted to lip-sync their halftime sets. Let’s break down the reasons why relying on a little playback isn’t so terrible during the Super Bowl.
You’re not paying for a ticket.
Back in 2009, Australian Britney Spears fans were enraged when they thought the pop princess was miming her way through her Circus tour. And rightfully so, when they were paying up to $1500 for tickets. However, you will more than likely be watching the halftime show from the comfort of your own home — for free. With such a low-stakes environment, you won’t be as PO’ed watching Madge mouth her way through “Vogue” as you would be had you paid $260 to sit in an uncomfortable seat. Let’s be real, folks: We’re not forking out the cash to see it, so why should we care?
It’s the only way to guarantee that no snafus occur.
This is live television, y’all. What if Jackson had agreed to actually sing during her 2004 show, then her mic malfunctioned (like her wardrobe — zing!) and we couldn’t hear her? What if her earpiece crapped out (à la Ashlee Simpson) and she delivered shitty vocals as a result? Do you see what we’re getting at here? Tons of things can go wrong when you’re preparing to sing live in an environment as stressful as the Super Bowl. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry; that way, artists can put on the most seamless performance possible. Not to mention a football arena lends itself to problematic acoustics. That’s why Shania Twain lip-synced her way through the 2003 Super Bowl halftime show despite being able to really sing. She didn’t want the venue to prevent her from sounding crystal clear, so she kept it low risk and scrapped the live vocals. And it paid off: Her performance was so much fun.
You’ll be able to dance and put on a show without sounding out of breath.
Unless you’re Beyoncé — who sang and danced simultaneously during her 2013 show and sounded flawless — it’s very difficult to pull off elaborate choreography without getting a little out of breath. And with so many eyes on an artist during the Super Bowl, appearing less than top-notch is a big no-no. Lip-syncing allows the musician freedom to pull out all the stops — i.e.: drummers, crazy dancing, a full fucking choir — and still sound amazing. Live singing amidst a theatrical cluster can generate a painful and confusing halftime show. This is exactly where The Black Eyed Peas went wrong during their 2011 performance. The Auto-Tune-heavy band opted to sing totally live during their neon/electro-tinged set. The result was a lot of pitchiness, mismatched images and awkward movements. Had the band decided to lip-sync their act, the “robo” motif of their show would have been much more cohesive. C’mon, even Michael Jackson mimed (we think) his 1993 halftime effort so he could focus on his amazing dancing. If the King of Pop does it, then it’s totally OK.
So, what does this mean for Katy Perry, this year’s halftime show headliner? Because the “Birthday” singer will more than likely be churning out crazy AF set pieces, nonstop choreography and probably ice cream or some shit, we actually wouldn’t mind if Perry mimed her performance. Instead of forcing her way through less-than-stellar vocals, hit the playback and focus on what football fans really want during halftime: A great show. (Now, this doesn’t mean Lenny Kravitz can fake play his guitar. That might be taking it a little too far.)