There’s no denying Britney Spears’ immediate impact: She’s ignited more debate in one week than any Las Vegas headliner in recent decades.
Music critics came out of the woodwork to review Spears’ headliner launch at Planet Hollywood Resort.
Many a review addressed the lip-syncing issue. Some asked if it really matters. Her management denies it.
Spears’ rabid fan base basically responded with: Get over it.
An out-of-town friend may have best explained Spears’ defenders: “A deejay friend told me, ‘People want to hear the song more than they want to hear the singer.’ ”
That’s where the trend is going, fear some old-school members of the music community.
“It’s style over substance,” said Bill Fayne, longtime musical director. “We can’t go back to the way it was so you have to learn to roll with it.”
His colleagues shudder at the thought.
I asked if they considered lip-syncing cheating.
“It is to me,” said another veteran musical director, one of several local music veterans who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A prominent entertainer compared it to “a basketball player shooting a video in practice, editing it and saying ‘look at me hitting all those jump shots.’ ”
One conversation went like this:
Entertainer: “The kind of artist she is. …
Musical director: “You can’t use that word.”
Entertainer: “O.K., she’s a pop star. From what I understand, there’s a lot of dancing, a lot of movement, which makes it difficult. I personally don’t regard her as a singer, anyway. She’s a pop star. The people who come to see her, by and large, are her fans. They don’t mind hearing (their favorites) perform exactly as the record is.
“They’re not interested in any embellishment or in-the-moment stuff. They want to hear the record (they love). They want to see her in person and they want to see a spectacle. I hear the spectacle is very good, she moves well and she gives them what they want. So, on that level, it is what it is. Being someone who cares about the art form, I’m not interested in seeing it.
He continued, “Ann-Margret, Gwen Verdon, Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley MacLaine … there is a precedence for a singing-and-dancing artist, so I can’t give her a complete pass that because she dances she shouldn’t have to sing. That’s what those people did.
Musical director: “I played for the people he’s talking about. They did it all. Music is a reflection of our culture and our culture has become low-class, for the most part. Thirty-five to 40 years ago, this town had the greatest entertainment in the world, bar none. Greatest musicians, the greatest performers. Today, there’s no question that the production level of the technology is incredible. They do magnificent things. But where is the deep talent? The Sinatras, Dean Martins and Sammy Davis Jrs.?
“I played for Sammy Davis and I could hardly play because he was so incredible. He’s Mr. Bojangles, he’s singing and dancing at the same time.”
Both said they understand why Super Bowl singers lip-sync.
“Sometimes it’s site sound issues,” said one.
“I played for singers who performed at Super Bowls,” the other interjected. “It’s insane. It’s difficult. It’s a different thing.”
I asked if they considered lip-syncing cheating.
“It is to me,” said the musical director.
Entertainer: “It’s like a basketball player shooting a video in practice, editing it and saying ‘look at me hitting all those jump shots.’ ”
Musical director: “Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy. They never overdubbed anything. They sang it live. If a mistake was made, you went back to the beginning and started over.”
Entertainer: “Auto-tuning is part of the culture. It’s a different time. You have to look at that too.
“It’s not something I’m interested in. It’s like rap. I’m not particularly interested in rap, but if I listen closely, there are some interesting things people are saying.”
Musical director: “But there are some disgusting things they are saying too. You listen to the entire great American songbook and there’s no disgusting lyrics whatever.”
Bill Fayne, musical director: “For the younger generation, it probably doesn’t matter because they just want to see the spectacle.
“From what I understand, the dancing is tremendous and it’s great eye candy. But if in fact she’s lip-syncing the whole show, it’s the way of the world. We can’t go back to the way it was so you have to learn to roll with it.
“Same thing happened with Beyonce at (President Barack Obama’s) inauguration. She lip-synced ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’
“It’s been happening for many years. It’s style over substance.”
Pia Zadora, singer: “It’s been such a mystery and such a controversial aspect of her career. It’s really almost unfair. People pick on her so much. Take it for what it is. That’s what she does. The bottom line will be if people come and see her. If she really wants to turn everything around, she should just throw out all those tapes and get out there and sing.
Mike O’Brian, KKLZ deejay: “My daughter Kelly went to the show and said it was ‘fun!’ She knew going in there was a huge chance of lip-syncing and really didn’t mind it. With all the dancing and production that goes into a show like hers, I think at some point you have to know why you’re going. Is it really to hear her sing or for the entertainment value?
“Heck, when she opened for ‘N Sync in the late ’90s at the Thomas & Mack, she lip-synced back then, and even after a small snafu, she got back on track, but her fans didn’t mind and the show went on.
“She’s not the only one that does it … there’s probably more lip-syncing and ‘tracking’ that goes on in shows and concerts then people realize nowadays, with a few rare exceptions, but we still go.”
Mercedes of Mark & Mercedes, KMXB-FM, 94.1
“I don’t think that Britney allegedly lip-synching bothers her true fans because they are just happy to be in her presence. Visually, the show is great. The dancing and sound is incredible. When you reach the level that Britney is at, your fans just want to be near you and be a part of the party. If you’re a fan, you feel like you’re at Britney’s party.
“I can see where other performers would be upset if she’s lip-synching. But you have to realize, this is not an Adele concert. The feedback that I’m getting from her true fans is that they don’t expect stellar vocals. They expect dancing, amazing effects and Miss Britney in the middle of it all. I’ll tell you, I was there opening night and I had a blast!”