Thursday, January 24, 2013
Read My Lips
Even Morning Joe -- Morning #@*%^& Joe!! -- wasted precious time this week blathering on about this "scandal," even as it is an undisputed fact that Yo Yo Ma and his quartet of musicians pulled a similar mock-performance four years prior, even as we know that Whitney Houston lip-synched the most successful and famous rendition of the same song in 1991.
What apparently makes Beyonce's fakery so unforgivable is that Kelly Clarkson stepped onto the same stage under the same conditions -- and under the penetrating drooly stare of Bill Clinton -- and kicked her song's ass live and in real time. Some have also mentioned James Taylor. Which makes me laugh.
James Taylor is folk rock on several pounds of cannabis. In his entire CV, he has perhaps four notes that require any level of sustainability or reach. I do not criticize Mr. Taylor for this -- I hold his music in high regard -- but there's a reason you don't hear too many of his hits duplicated on American Idol.
The Kelly Clarkson comparison is, on the surface, a more fair one. But Kelly is a rock star of the Pat Benatar variety trapped in the preconceived demands of the venue that gave birth to her. That which provided her fame is that which entrenched her in a sugar-pop persona that she hasn't always appreciated.
Beyonce is a Diva. She is cut from the same cloth as Whitney and Mariah, and quite intentionally so. She is more beautiful and comes equipped with more jaw-dropping, um, assets, but her purpose on our planet is to be a Musical Diva, and those creatures are expected to be perfect and perfectionists. That's what they exist to be, culturally.
If Kelly Clarkson's voice cracks and turns gritty while she goes for that killer note, such a moment is a part of her style. Indisputably, the banshee-like power in her lungs is the very thing that makes her music better than it deserves to be. Kelly made her name on the ability to do live karaoke versions of other people's songs; to shy away from doing a live version of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" would go against her greatest strength! That moment is her wheelhouse.
Let's put this another way: Just because Charlie Daniels might play his fiddle hot and live at an inauguration while Itzhak Pearlman would not does not mean that Charlie Daniels is the better fiddle player. Maybe, just maybe, they play a fiddle in different ways, to evoke different sounds at different levels of technical difficulty. Maybe Charlie D can wail away and miss a note sharp here or flat here because his is a sonic assault. Maybe Itzhak needs a bit more precision for his sound.
I refuse to give this scandal 500 words. I don't like Beyonce's music enough.
But I'll bet you a dollar to a dime that she sings the Super Bowl live.