They're one of the cheesiest parts of each week's elimination show: the obligatory "American Idol" show-opening group sing-along. And now, according to season-one runner-up Justin Guarini, there's even more reason to scoff at the peppy time-filler, because the performances are lip-synched.
While the revelation is not exactly news to frequent "Idol" watchers, who have long suspected that the top contenders were not all singing live, Guarini spilled the beans on his TV Guide Network show "Idol Wrap" last week, when he said, "Every single year, we cannot stand the group performances. I know they can't stand it either. And I think what makes [the group performances] even worse now is that they're lip-synched. They're really prerecorded now."
Guarini then added, "You see them kind of do this with the microphone [pretends to hold a mic away from his mouth] and they're not even holding it to their face and they're laughing." An unidentified "Idol" source reportedly confirmed the news to E! Online, telling the site on Friday, "They do prerecord the chorus stuff. And they sing live their solos and sing over the track on live TV with the band playing live as well."
Even as he blew the lid off the mime act, Guarini said he thought it was actually a good thing, because it gives the harried, sleep-deprived singers "one less thing to have to sing, one less thing to have to memorize."
The fiery online debate over the revelation heated up on Tuesday, when Manfred Westphal, a spokesman for the show's producers, FremantleMedia North America, first told The New York Times that "the Idols don't lip-synch, period," then reversed course a day later. After some consideration, Westphal clarified in an e-mail that "due to extensive choreography and to balance their voices with open mics against a screaming audience, the Idols do sing along to their own prerecorded vocal track during the group performances only."
He clarified that the solo performances by the singers never use any recorded music or vocals, though the contestants do record their weekly song choice before the competition performance so it can be made available on iTunes after the show. MTV News could not reach a spokesperson for "Idol" for comment at press time.
The "Idol" controversy comes almost two months after news broke that Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill and Bruce Springsteen all sang with backing tracks during their Super Bowl performances and spokespeople for the Oscars provided vague answers about whether Beyoncé lip-synched her bits during a group tribute to movie musicals.
The Times said that visual evidence appeared to support the claims by Guarini, noting that two weeks ago, eliminated contestant Jasmine Murray appeared to be "at least a half-beat behind the music" during a Jackson 5 medley, and during last week's group take on "Trouble," Megan Joy held her microphone "well away from her face as she appeared to struggle to remember the choreography." The paper also noted that several contestants dropped their microphones to their sides last week at the end of the song, even though the booming final notes were still coming out of the speakers.
Guarini told the Times on Wednesday that he doesn't blame the producers for giving the singers a bit of extra help. "I know they are interested in making the best show possible and in caring for the contestants' voices," he said. "It's almost torture to watch the contestants sing and dance like they don't have a care in the world when in fact they're sweating bullets" over who will be eliminated.
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