Sunday, February 16, 2014

Superbowl Halftime Show: Audience Perspective (From February 4 2013)

Time for my yearly comment on this year’s Super Bowl half time show! All I can say is.... thank god MTV brought back the glory of the pyrotechnics! (oh wait, MTV didn’t produce it this year?)

Anyways, so much better than... I am sorry.... The WHO.  At least it was relevant and in this generations’ attention span. 

Now: Musical Stuff

Sennheiser looks like they were all over the wireless again this year. And yes.. Beyonce was not lip syncing... most of the time. You could plainly tell... because she wasn’t singing half the time. Most of her singing was within an octave for the first half of the concert. She when she wasn’t “singing” she was mostly counting or yelling “yeah” to the crowd. 

From a critical listening stand point there was about a 300ms delay (which would be considered an echo) that was audible most of the time from the main vox mic. That’s your cue. If you can hear the room in a big stadium like that, then your mic is live. 

What was not live however.. was Destiny’s Child’s performance. Oh yes, their mics were on.. but very low.. Proof when they tried to do more crowd work, you could barely hear them. 

But I wanted to explore a little bit beyond the concert to the whole notion that people are criticizing musicians for not being able to sing live. Listen... Beyonce can sing, she is a phenomenal singer. But you are not asking your singers to just “SING” you are asking them to get up and do a vaudeville act, dance and do gymnastics all while trying to hold pitch. Now I am not saying that these musicians can’t do it, of course they can... but to do it for an entire concert? No way, they are perfectionists so if they can’t give their audience the show that they paid for, the would want help. 

(try this experiment, try singing “The Star Spangled Banner” next time you go up two flights of stairs. You will notice that your voice naturally wobbles with every step you take, not because you are out of breath, but because of pure mechanical motion)

Let us think beyond the lip synching for a second. Let us think about what brought us here? It’s the market. People are expecting much more than what can be provided by musicians on stage. People want to hear their favorite albums (or now singles) on stage, not an actual performance of the song. If they wanted a performance, they would appreciate the differences of the song between their live version and the album. This is why everybody wanted to see “The Grateful Dead” live, (well mostly or the music) because they never knew how their favorite song would blossom to a 22 minute jam session.  

So how did we get here? It’s the market and by that I mean all consumers. We all purchased N’Sync and went to their live shows where they just danced around to a backing track. The marketers and publicists took note and now here we are. Consumers don’t want to see a live show for the performer, they want an epic experience every time. That’s not music, that’s theater. But lip synching is not new, it’s been around as long as at least Milli Vanilli and probably before Michael Jackson. 

I am actually kind of happy that people are this up and arms over Beyonce and the national anthem. Maybe we will start to focus on musicianship again and not choreography. 

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