Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl
“It might well be the best Super Bowl performance of all time,” said Billboard magazine editor Danyel Smith. The only problem? Whitney Houston’s 1991 rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” was lip-synced. “The music was pre-recorded, and so was the vocal,” confirmed Houston’s former musical director Rickey Minor to ABC News last year. With all the crowd noise, a jet flyover, and the unpredictability of a live event, Minor said “that’s the best way to do it.” Houston’s performance came just as the U.S. entered the first Gulf War; a recording of the song, released by popular demand, reached the top 20 on the Billboard charts.
Ashlee Simpson on ‘SNL’
When Ashlee Simpson got ready to perform her song “Autobiography” on Saturday Night Live in 2004, she had no idea she was about to experience a moment that would come to define her musical life for years to come. You remember: the wrong song started to play—ironically, given the career-shattering implications, it was called “Pieces of Me.” Simpson slumped around for a bit, and then, in an awkward coup de grace, proceeded to dance what she later called a "hoe-down."
Elton John Insults Madonna at 2004 ‘Q Awards’
Hey Madonna, can you feel the love tonight? Probably not. Because back in 2004, Sir Elton John famously bashed your nomination in the “live act” category at the Q Awards, hosted by the magazine Q. “Since when has lip-syncing been live?” Sir John said. “Anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay 75 pounds to see them should be shot. Thank you very much.” He added some good expletives for emphasis.
Pavarotti at the 2006 Turin Olympics
Read this as an opera singer: Nooooooooooo! Turns out esteemed tenor Luciano Pavarotti lip-synced his virtuosic performance at Turin’s 2006 Winter Olympics. Conductor Leone Magiera reportedly wrote in a memoir that Pavarotti’s declining health, added to the brisk cold at the Games, made it “too dangerous for him … to risk a live performance before a global audience.”
Jennifer Hudson at the 2009 Super Bowl
Rickey Minor was at it again at the 2009 Super Bowl, when he insisted that Jennifer Hudson and Faith Hill lip-synch the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” respectively. “I would never recommend any artist go live because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance,” he said. And not singing doesn’t?!
50 Cent at the BET Awards
When the lyrics dropped out of his backing track at the 2007 BET Awards, 50 Cent decided to let the awkwardness hang in the air. Gunshot sound effects punctuated the auditorium as Fiddy waded into the audience to give out handshakes, before the music to “Amusement Park” returned in full, and the rapper continued lip syncing.
Milli Vanilli at…Always
“Girl You Know It’s True”…that Milli Vanilli didn’t sing any of their songs. Ever! When the pop group had its Grammy revoked in 1990, it was the culmination of the greatest lip-syncing scam of all time. We’re still not sure if their hair was real.
Britney on her ‘Circus’ Tour
Oops… After Britney Spears’s comeback tour sparked controversy over accusations of lip syncing, John Mayer tweeted, “If you're shocked that Britney was lip-syncing at her concert and want your money back, life may continue to be hard for you." Enough said.
Beyonce Obama’s Second Inauguration