Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Mix Live Blog: New Year’s Eve Live…Or Is It?

Watching New Year's Eve on TV with family is always a bit of an adventure because I like to gauge their opinion of whether it’s live or Memorex.

New Year's Eve in Times Square. Photo: Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Photo: Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0.

Like many people, I turned on the tube on New Year’s Eve to bounce between a number of “countdown” entertainment shows. As has always been the case, these shows offered performances from popular recording artists. Notice I didn’t say “live performances.”

This year, depending upon which show you dropped in on, you had the option to see a wide variety of artists, such as New Edition, Farruko, Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, j-hope, Jax, REO Speedwagon, Tenacious D, Duran Duran, Sia, Liily, Rae Sremmurd, Latto and Patti LaBelle. Some of these artists were performing “on-location” at sites like Times Square in NYC, while others performed off-site with audio and video tie-ins (Usher, for example, who performed live from his residency in Las Vegas).

Mix Live Blog: ‘Bombshell’

Hanging out with my family to watch these shows is always a bit of an adventure because I like to gauge their opinion of whether it’s live or Memorex. Inevitably, someone will ask me if I think a particular artist is performing live and the answer is often “definitely not.” Then comes the discussion of why an artist would make an appearance on a nationally televised show and not actually perform. Here are some top reasons:

  1. The Artist Is Actually Not. Some pop acts are simply manufactured in a corporate boardroom. A group of good-looking kids singing catchy pop songs is bound to capture the hearts of adoring fans worldwide and make plenty of money for the record label. This goes back to the Mesozoic Era, long before The Archies sang “Sugar, Sugar.”
  2. Gotta Do Those Dance Moves. Given some of the amazing choreography displayed by pop groups, it may not be possible for them to sing and perform the dance moves at the same time. This is also the reason that superstar pop artists who dance their way through a show may have a recorded backing track at the ready to double or replace their lead vocal if they get winded.
  3. The Artist Has Seen Better Days. Some artists just don’t have it anymore and can’t sing their hits, so they rely on a recorded performance. This makes me sad.
  4. Hostile Environment. It’s tough enough to poke your head outside the door when it’s minus 10 degrees in January, let alone sing your hit song while the snow comes down. Cold, dry weather increases voice fatigue.
  5. Everyone Has a Bad Night Now and Then. Would you really want a massive audience to hear you sing on a night when you had a sore throat?
  6. Lead Singer Calls Out Sick. Not an option.
  7. Too Much at Stake. There are times when an artist simply cannot afford to turn in a bad performance because the audience is so vast. NYE broadcasts and that Big Football Game at the beginning of February are two examples of such career-critical events.
  8. The Band Wasn’t Invited. “Just send the lead singer, please.” Ouch. Stereo backing tracks are way easier and faster to deal with than 40 inputs on a live stage.
  9. The Record Was Epic, The Band Is Not. Who knows what instruments lurk in a band’s recording. Horn sections? Choirs? Full orchestras? Intricate parts requiring mega-chops? Arrangements of such magnitude are often not practical (or cost-effective) to pull off on a live stage. Back in the 1970s, even Queen—with all that talent—knew better than to try and perform live the operatic intro and middle sections of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It would have taken a cast of a thousand. For the record, Queen is epic, regardless.
  10. There’s No Time. Given the scheduling of many of these shows, there’s little time for soundcheck or rehearsal, so you may see the band miming their instruments while the singers actually sing.
  11. The Lead Singer Is a Loose Cannon. Yikes. Alcohol or drugs may be part of the equation. Do you really want that unstable lead singer to have a live microphone at midnight on national TV? Sad.
  12. Sounds Just Like the Record. Some artists can achieve this. Alas, others cannot.

Given all these concerns, it’s no wonder that many of the artists mentioned earlier lip-synched their performances. If you look at the ones who did perform live, you often find that they are well-established artists with a proven track record, those who’d rather take the chance of turning in a less-than-perfect live performance as opposed to being safe and singing to a recorded track.

I’ll take the latter, thank you. Warts and all.