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The Globe and Mail

In photos: From Milli Vanilli to Beyoncé, a history of lip-synching scandals

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Rob Pilatus, left, and Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli are the godfathers of lip-synching. They were outed in 1990 during a live concert when the track they were singing to started skipping. It later emerged the Grammy-winning duo didn’t even sing on their studio albums. They returned their Grammies, lost their recording contract and fell into disgrace, but today the musical duo might be seen as pioneers in what has become a totally acceptable, even expected, practice (the lip-synching part, not the never-singing-at-all part).


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Ashlee Simpson was betrayed by her backing track during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2004. She started singing one song and the machine started another. She slunk off the stage. The incident didn’t hurt her career, though; her second album, in 2005, opened at No. 1 on the charts.


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Opera giant Luciano Pavarotti, seen here lip-synching during the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, justified his decision to fake it on the grounds that his voice could not have tolerated the cold air. Problem was, no one told anyone he’d faked it until days after he was given a massive standing ovation for his "performance."


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Britney Spears has rarely done anything else but lip-synch during her live shows, but that didn’t prevent angry Australian fans from storming out of a 2009 show in Perth. There’s a video on the Internet of her breathy, off-key singing voice during a concert. It’s not pretty, but no one really cares any more.


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Today, Beyoncé lip-synching the American national anthem at the inauguration of a president barely registers as a scandal. Sure, teenage wannabe pop stars can nail the anthem a cappella in minor-league sports stadiums every night of the week, but stars have to be stars, and they shouldn’t have to rely on their natural talents to do it, right?


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