Beyonce singing at Presidential inauguration
ABC News

The Most Infamous Lip-Synching Scandals of All Time

Whether they fooled us or failed to deliver, lip synching is an art. But it's still not singing.
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It’s no secret that major artists sometimes lip sync, especially pop artists. And if they put on a good enough show, we don’t always hold it against them. But sometimes, letting the whole world believe you’re singing when you’re not is deemed a much bigger betrayal than others. The people love a good lip-synching scandal.

Lip-synching and music television have a long-standing relationship. Most artists pull off the ruse with ease, but not always. From the Saturday Night Live musical guest who broke the cardinal rule to the biggest vocal artists of our time not even bothering to turn on their mics, here are the biggest lip-synching scandals ever caught on tape.

Beyonce

Queen Bey is one of the best performers/vocalists of all time, making this lip-synching moment all the more shocking. In 2013, she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Presidential Inauguration. Or did she?

Shortly after the pitch-perfect performance, it was confirmed she was lip-synching. For a fleeting moment, her crown was almost stripped, but her pop peers rallied behind her. Unable to get a soundcheck or rehearse with the orchestra, the self-proclaimed perfectionist explained, “I did not feel comfortable taking a risk.”

ABC News

Muse

While appearing on an Italian entertainment show, Muse wasn’t told they’d be lip-syncing along to their hit single “Uprising” until they were already on set. Apparently, the news was not music to their ears. And so, they decided they’d all swap instruments in protest and/or for fun.

Frontman Matt Bellamy vividly mimed the drums. Dominic Howard pretended to sing vocals that clearly weren’t his. The audience was amused, but those who invited them were not. “Apparently it completely came across that we were taking the piss out of the presenter, who is some X Factor judge that no one really likes,” Howard shared with Spinner. “The Italian press turned it into quite a story.”

Billboard

Ashlee Simpson

Obviously, the key word in Saturday Night Live is “live.” For musical guests invited onto the iconic stage, it’s also one of the most daunting aspects. With the world watching, getting everything right is critical. Most times, it’s a career-making or -breaking moment. Those who’ve flubbed up sometimes never bounced back. In 2004, many viewed Ashlee Simpson’s performance as the beginning of the end of her career.

Her first performance went well enough. However, when it was time to sing “Autobiography,” “Pieces of Me” started playing again, and so did her vocals. She looked lost for a moment, did what she later called “a hoe down” for comic relief, and fled the stage. When it was time to close the show, she blamed it on her band playing the wrong song and apologized, but she didn’t provide an explanation for her disembodied vocals. Later on, she blamed her lip-synching on acid reflux and her doctor’s orders, but it was too many excuses too late.

John Wong/NBC

Mariah Carey

Historically, Mariah Carey rarely drops the ball, but thanks to the most infamous in-ear monitor malfunction ever, things went horribly wrong during her Time’s Square New Year’s Eve Performance in 2016. When the wrong song started playing, the iconic singer began mouthing the wrong lyrics. Then she stopped singing completely, began pacing the stage, chatting with the audience about it, and asking fans to finish singing “Emotions” for her.

For the next week, the moment was all anyone talked about. Still, something about the incident still seemed on-brand for the unpredictable diva. In turn, it was more of a punchline than a total shock to the masses. She seemed cool, calm, and collected during what was a major disaster on live TV. And let’s face it, if Glitter can’t tarnish Mariah’s reputation forever, it’s safe to assume nothing can. From how she handled the moment, it’s safest to assume she knows that.

The Comeback/ABC

Public Image LTD

In a very punk moment, Johnny Rotten almost gave live TV producers full-blown heart attacks during a vividly dubbed-over performance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Refusing to behave, he sat on the floor of the studio, weaved in and out of the audience, and didn’t try very hard to make things look believable.

At one point, Johnny put his nose right up to the camera while his voice continued playing in the background. Soon enough, the audience followed his lead, breaking the rules right along with him. While Dick took the stunt well enough and played it cool for the cameras, they were never invited back. Imagine that.

Flowers of Romance/ABC

Whitney Houston

Beyonce wasn’t the first singing powerhouse to catch major flack for lip-synching the national anthem. In 1991, the Grammy-winning singer stole the show with her incredible rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The only problem was, her mic wasn’t on at all.

Rumors began circulating that the track was pre-recorded a few days prior. That turned out to be true, but Houston wasn’t to blame. The producers decided a live performance would be too risky, opting for a “protection copy.” Not only was she lip-synching, but every sound was canned. The orchestra director confirmed, “everyone was lip-synching or finger-synching.”

cljustice/Super Bowl XXV

Milli Vanilli

This list could not be complete without Milli Vanilli’s lip-sync scandal. It was the most uncomfortable, unfortunate, and world-shattering lip-synching incident ever. Because it wasn’t just a performance faux pas, their entire career was a lie. When the tape jammed while performing their chart-topping hit “Girl You Know it’s True,” it repeated “Girl you know it’s…” over and over and over. It was the skipping tape heard round the world. Something was clearly up, especially when they bolted from the stage. Everyone was confused at first, but the pieces fell into place pretty quickly.

At the height of their career, the whole world found out they’d been duped by the Grammy-winning duo. As it turned out, nothing about Milli Vanilli was true. The real vocalists had always been “behind the curtain.” Once the group of unknowns revealed themselves to be the real deal, it became the most scandalous lip-synching scandal in history. And yes, they lost their Grammy for best new artist. The group tried to come clean and sing for real, claiming that’s what they’d always wanted to do. But the public felt betrayed and no record label would touch them.

Honest