Lip Synching A Crime?

Some people say that lip-synching performers are positively criminal. In China, lip-synching is now an actual crime. Two Chinese singers have already been forced to pay a $12,000 fine under this law for lip-synching at their pop concert.

Yang Peiyi (left) and Lin Miaoke

Lip-synching was banned after an embarrassing scandal at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. Lin Miaoke, an adorable Chinese girl appeared to sing “Ode to the Motherland.” a performance that captured her country’s heart and earned her the nickname “smiling angel.” Lin, however, did not actually sing the song. The real singer was Yang Peiyi, who was not considered to be sufficiently attractive to appear. When this truth was revealed, the Chinese government faced embarrassing backlash and ultimately passed a law that forbade lip-synching on any kind in live performance- even if the singer was lip-synching to a recording of their own voice. If a performer violates this law twice in two years, their performing license will be revoked. Ouch.

While I certainly applaud the principle that performers should have actual talent, this seems a bit extreme. Pre-recorded music can be a very necessary tool. In The Phantom of the Opera, for example, the first couple minutes of the title song are pre-recorded. The staging utilizes body doubles to create that famous eerie effect as Christine and the Phantom walk through the fog into his lair. Christine’s last note of that song, a very high E6, is also often pre-recorded in order to preserve the actress’s voice.

Lip-synching is also quite common in pop concerts. There have been some disasters when a performers use of miming was revealed (Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli, I’m looking at you). Its use is rather ubiquitous, however, and almost necessary for certain kinds of aerobic pop performances that we have come to expect. Most singers must also perform complicated dance moves, often while wearing rather restrictive costumes that make it difficult to sing. Such performances would not be possible without employing some amount of lip-synching.

That said, of course, such behavior does perpetuate a culture that values theatricality over talent, and I cannot disagree with the Chinese government’s motivation. The country’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television released a statement on its website demanding that concerts “choose performers with real singing ability.” Such a novel idea.

What do you think? Is this Chinese law too harsh?

Darcy Zacharias, CC ’10

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One Response to Lip Synching A Crime?

  1. following your blog, great stuff!

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