Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Lip-syncing divas

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Mariah Carey's accomplishments in the music industry are difficult to even approach. She is a bona fide superstar. I am a huge fan of hers and looked forward to her performance at the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival.

Reports had been circulating before the event regarding some sub-par performances delivered by her during the previous year, but I chose to ignore those reports, as Mariah, like the rest of us, is only human, and will not always be on the top of her game. Also, with her impending divorce and recently announced lawsuit by a former nanny for wrongful dismissal, I decided that I would cut her some slack and accepted the possibility that I may not see her at her best.

At the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium on the night of her performance, while awaiting her appearance, the anticipation in the audience was palpable. After a lengthy band change, an impressive montage was displayed on a huge video screen on the stage, showing clips of her videos along with pronouncements of her impressive, achievements, awards, records and accolades.

The excitement in the audience reached fever pitch. I recognised the opening bars of 'Fantasy' (the same nasty groove as 'Genius Of Love', that wicked jam by the Tom Tom Club), during which Mariah entered the stage and the crowd went out of its collective mind.

She opened her mouth to deliver and then something very strange happened. The flawless singing that we heard blasting from the sound system was totally out of sync with the movements of Ms Carey's mouth. It was reminiscent of those karate movies, or 'kickas', that I watched in my youth, where the actors spoke in Chinese but their voices were overdubbed in English, producing a rather comical effect at times.

I was confused and disappointed,  and judging from the multitude of dropped jaws that I observed around me, so were many of my fellow audience members standing in proximity to the stage in the VIP area.

I began to wonder if Ms Carey had tired of the singing business and decided to enter the field of ventriloquism, and was half expecting her to pull out a puppet from under her frock, shove her hand up its nether regions, and continue the show.

But alas, it was not to be. The harsh reality is that I was witnessing one of the most epic lip-sync fails in pop music history, probably only superseded by Ashlee Simpson's fiasco on Saturday Night Live in 2004 when the wrong song was played, including her vocals, and all an embarrassed Simpson could do was perform a comical 'hoe-down' dance, which only added to the bizarreness of the situation.

Ms Simpson could probably be excused, not being a singer who has achieved multiple Grammy-winning diva status. A superstar singing diva has no reason to lip-sync, right? Wrong.

Apparently, divas do lip-sync, but they usually do it well. In describing Whitney Houston's legendary performance of the American national anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner', at the 1991 Super Bowl, Rolling Stones Magazine editor Danyel Smith said, "It might well be the best Super Bowl performance of all time". It turned out that Ms Houston had lip-synced the song. So did Beyonce when she performed it at Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013.

And when Madonna was nominated in the 'live act' category at the Q Awards in 2004, she was publicly dissed by Sir Elton John who asked, "Since when has lip-syncing been live?" before going on to say that "Anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay 75 pounds to listen should be shot."

I can relate to Sir Elton's sentiments. When people pay good money and turn up to be entertained by a world-class vocalist, they want to hear singing, not see acting. Few people have a five-octave vocal range like Mariah Carey, but almost anyone can learn to lip-sync convincingly. Just check out the recent 'Tonight Show' clip with the hilarious lip-sync battle involving Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.

To me, lip-syncing smacks of dishonesty. It intends to mislead the audience. And speaking of misleading, why is the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival called, well, the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival? Where are the jazz and the blues? To me it is like having an event called the Jamaica Dancehall Festival, with no dancehall artistes, but having Michael Buble, Josh Groban and Harry Connick Jr perform instead.

Why not just rename it the Jamaica Music Festival?

Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.