(Picture from Jezebel/Gawker)
Yesterday was a triumphant day for minorities. A black president's second term, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina to perform an oath of office, Richard Blanco, a gay Cuban-American poet, was one of the few poets ever to read a poem during a presidential inauguration, Rev. Luis Leon delivered the benediction and Beyonce sang the national anthem. I think this was one of the best inaugurations I ever witnessed (albeit from television).
Why did Beyonce lipsync? I've read several things. That it could be because of cold weather. That all performances are pre-recorded in case something happens. I also read that only once before, due to cold and wind, did musicians have to use pre-recorded music but other than that all performances are live. What gives Beyonce? We all loved your performance, how you tackled a difficult song with elegance, grace and talent but in the end you just pulled the wool over our eyes with your lipsyncing.
I know Beyonce is a talented singer and that she could have performed this live. While some people might think I'm over-reacting, I still feel betrayed. If she has the talent and the capabilities to sing this live, why wasn't it done? Why?
Then I started thinking of my one public performance of the national anthem. I'm a terrible singer now but I was a pretty decent when I was in elementary school. I was labeled something: Contralto? Alto? I'm not sure. But I was on the lower range.
In elementary school, during my fifth grade year, I signed up for chorus. I wasn't able to attend all the rehearsals and I missed a key one for practicing the national anthem. That rehearsal was for an upcoming performance in front of the school. I didn't get sheet music like I did for the other songs. I'm pretty sure the chorus teacher just expected us all to know the anthem by heart. I remember the recital. We were on standing bleachers and I chose the top left corner. BIG MISTAKE. A photographer from the local newspaper, The Milford Daily, was about to take pictures of us singing the National Anthem. The flag was hanging to my right and we all put our hands to our hearts and turned to face it. Because of this positioning, I was the closest to the flag so everyone's eyes and the photographer's lens were aimed straight at me.
My dilemma wasn't being shy, it was that I didn't know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner. I vaguely knew the beginning and I knew the last two lines but that was it. I was in big trouble.
It's partly my fault for missing the key rehearsal and not telling the teacher that I didn't know the lyrics ahead of time. In my defense, I was raised to be politically neutral and not patriotic. I, for the most part, sat out of the daily recital of Pledge of Allegiance. It was a religious thing encouraged by my mother. It wasn't a huge deal if I did recite the pledge because my mother wasn't very strict. Also, sometimes I faked it so the other kids wouldn't ask questions or think to make fun of me.
So there I was. A young girl, patriotically neutral, ignorant of the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner and with all eyes and one camera lens focused on me. I faked the anthem as best I could. I tried to mouth the words. My saving grace was that the photographer chose to take my picture at the moment when we all sang "home of the brave." I knew those words! I knew them. So I sang them confidently.
The picture that ran in the paper was of me and a couple of other students with our mouths wide open belting out that last word "brave". Or at least that's what it looked like. Phew!
I was just a little kid who tried to make the best of the situation. At least I didn't stand there and pick my nose or something. At least I had the sense to fake it so that I wouldn't look stupid. But I'm not a trained singer, a professional who was hired to perform publicly in front of millions of people. Thank goodness!
In the end, I'm not sure what to take away from the Beyonce situation. Should I forgive her because of my own personal experience, albeit a very minor one in comparison, or should I hold her accountable because she could have delivered but chose not to?
Here are the lyrics of The Star-Spangled Banner. Maybe I'll finally learn them one day:
O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?