My wife and I were (are) big Whitney Houston fans (though things definitely seemed to deteriorate in the later years). And for years I thought the highlight of Whitney’s career was that chilling performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Superbowl. Just leave aside legitimate concerns over nationalism and militarism for a moment to take in the performance:
I always assumed that Whitney sung this. Well she did sing it. Just not the day of the performance. Last year when I watched a biography of her life I learned that the performance had been prerecorded the day before. What most bothered me about this discovery was the nonchalant way that this fact was treated in the documentary with a sort of of course this kind of event would be prerecorded because you could hardly risk screwing up this performance.
Clearly this was intentional deception of the audience. The announcer plays into the deception by promising that Whitney will sing, not that she sang the day before and will now lip sync.
It’s still a great performance. More correctly, the recording the day before was a great performance and her lip syncing to the performance was itself a great performance. But that “compound performance” was not the live performance that the audience believed they were witnessing. And that is indeed deceptive.
I have nothing against lip syncing. Indeed, in a high school airband competition I nailed Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block in an unforgettable gala performance. But nobody thought I was really singing.