12 Biggest Lip-Sync Scandals In Music History

For many adults, going to live music shows is one of their favorite activities, and most people would probably agree that when you go and see a live performance, it's expected that the performance will actually be live. Anybody can listen to their favorite album at extremely loud volumes, and for lots of listeners, the whole point of a live show is the authenticity and experience of connecting with the performer.

That's why the idea of lip-syncing is so controversial among many music enthusiasts. Several performers have seen their careers completely destroyed over lip-sync allegations, and some have even been forced to quit the music business altogether. It's not so much the lip-syncing that's so upsetting, but the lying and pretending that often surrounds it.

Over the years, we've seen some pretty scandalous cases of lip-syncing, and a few of them have gotten ugly. On the other hand, some people have been too quick to point fingers and make allegations, only to learn a very expensive lesson about false accusations. From the New Kids on the Block to Milli Vanilli, these are the biggest lip-sync scandals in music history.

New Kids on the Block

If you were a teenager anytime from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, there is basically no chance you haven't heard of the New Kids on the Block. The all-male singing group featured the likes of Donnie Wahlberg and Jordan Knight, and was led by producer Maurice Starr. The band started when the guys were just teenagers, and their dance moves and singing voices made them extremely popular with similar-aged girls.

In 1992, the New Kids on the Block were still at their peak, but things would soon start to unravel. Unfortunately, lip-syncing allegations crept up at the same time. As reported by the Los Angeles Times in February 1992, the band's former music director, Gregory McPherson, accused them of lip-syncing their performances in a now infamous multi-million dollar lawsuit. McPherson said the lip-syncing dated back to the 1980s, and even claimed that the audio on their live concert video was completely fabricated.

The group forcefully denied all of the allegations, but it was a public relations nightmare. Yet, within three months, McPherson was recanting his accusations and had dropped his lawsuit (via the Los Angeles Times). To this day, there is no evidence that the New Kids on the Block ever lip-synced anything, and the group filed a countersuit against McPherson over his false public allegations. The group recovered and put out another album before splitting up, but it was an ugly scandal nonetheless.


Considering she is one of the most talented and successful artists of all time, it's usually pretty hard to find fault in Beyoncé's live performances. However, a minor scandal erupted in early 2013, over allegations that she had lip-synced the national anthem during former President Barack Obama's second inauguration. For her performance, Beyoncé sang while the United States Marine Band played behind her, and most observers agreed that it sounded fantastic. However, almost as soon as she was finished, questions started to emerge about the performance's authenticity.

Multiple news outlets openly wondered whether Beyoncé was actually singing live or miming to a track, and the Marines seemed to confirm as much the next day through a spokesperson. When Beyoncé finally commented on the allegations a few days later, she confirmed that they were correct, and that she had been lip-syncing during the performance. Her excuse was that she did not have time to adequately rehearse with the Marines before the ceremony, and she did not feel comfortable potentially flubbing such an important song at such an important event.

At first, there was backlash among fans and the press over the scandal, but it died down pretty quickly. Most people understood her reasoning for doing so, and her perfect rendition of the anthem at her press conference expelled any doubts about whether or not she was capable. Beyoncé came out no worse for wear, and basically nobody holds it against her today.

Britney Spears

Undoubtedly, Britney Spears is one of the most successful pop singers in modern music history. Since the 1990s, Spears has been electrifying audiences around the world with her provocative pop hits, and she was one of the music industry's biggest sex-symbols. Her records have sold tens of millions of copies, and she has some of the most famous pop hits in recent memory, including "Toxic," "Lucky," and "...Baby One More Time."

However, for as much success as she has had on stage, she has also been dogged by rumors of lip-syncing throughout much of her career. In recent years, some of the allegations have gotten louder. Fan-shot videos from Instagram have appeared to show times when she misses her cue and the vocals start without her, and her 2018 performance on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" was widely criticized for her alleged miming.

Sometimes, where there's smoke there's fire, and it turns out that might just be the case with Spears. During a 2013 interview with Billboard, her manager Larry Rudolph confirmed that she uses a backing track during her performances, which he chalked up to her extensive physical routine. Spears also seemed to admit as much in a 2017 interview in Israel, saying that while she sings live, she also has a backing track to help her out (via Rolling Stone). Still, Spears continues to perform to huge crowds, so it seems her fans aren't too concerned about her singing.

Milli Vanilli

By far, the most infamous lip-syncing scandal in music history belongs to the pop duo known as Milli Vanilli. Milli Vanilli burst onto the scene in the late 1980s, and consisted of performers Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan. Their combination of good looks and catchy tunes quickly made them successful both in Europe and the United States. They even won a Grammy in 1989 for best new artist on the strength of their debut album "Girl You Know It's True," which produced several huge hits, such as the title track and "Blame It on the Rain."

However, a year later the jig was up, and Pilatus and Morvan were outed as phonies. Their producer Frank Farian gave them up when he admitted it wasn't really them singing on the records or during performances. Apparently, Pilatus and Morvan wanted to sing on the next record, but Farian did not like their actual voices and decided instead to blow the entire scam up. In their defense, Pilatus and Morvan claimed to have only participated in the lip-syncing to escape poverty in West Germany, and they ended up returning their Grammys.

Their record company was forced to give rebates to fans who had spent money on the records, even though it was unaware of the scheme. Today, lip-syncing and Milli Vanilli are practically synonyms, and it's almost impossible to talk about one without the other. 

Mariah Carey

For decades, "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" has been one of the most popular TV shows for New Year's Eve celebrations. Every year, there are fabulous musical guests performing all kinds of songs, and usually they get rave reviews. You would think that Mariah Carey would easily be one of the show's standout performers, but her appearance during the 2016–2017 show was unfortunately marred by technical malfunctions.

From the very beginning of her performance, it was pretty clear that something was amiss. Video uploaded to Twitter showed Carey appearing to be unable to hear the music she was supposed to be singing to, and growing visibly frustrated onstage. At one point, she completely stopped even trying to sing along to her backing track, and instead tried to pump up the audience. Fans immediately tweeted jokes comparing her to Milli Vanilli, and the entire set can only be described as a total disaster.

Luckily, Carey was a good sport about the incident and even tweeted her own response, complete with several emojis and an expletive. Reportedly, the issues did not occur during her sound check, and only began moments before she walked onstage. Carey still handled the incident like a champ, even though it was a less than ideal experience.

Ashlee Simpson

Besides Milli Vanilli, it's probably Ashlee Simpson who takes the award for the most infamous lip-syncing scandal. In fact, Simpson's might even be a little bit worse, because her scandal happened on live TV on one of the most-watched shows in history: "Saturday Night Live." Simpson appeared on "SNL" in late 2004 to support her debut album, "Autobiography," which had been released earlier that year. Ashlee is the younger sister of Jessica Simpson, one of the biggest pop stars in modern music.

On the night of the performance, Ashlee claimed to have come down with a medical issue which compromised her ability to sing. However, instead of canceling her appearance, her father and manager Joe Simpson decided she would sing over a backing track. During her performance, apparently the band started to play the wrong song, and when the vocal track turned on, Ashlee was not prepared and did not start singing. She confusedly started to look around, and after a few seconds of awkward dancing, she left the stage, and the show cut to commercial as her band played out the rest of the song.

Her performance was widely ridiculed in the press and by viewers, and even "Family Guy" made a parody of the incident. Ashlee's career never really recovered after "SNL," and her performance at the Orange Bowl in 2005 was nearly as disastrous. Unsurprisingly, Ashlee has not released any solo music since her 2008 album.

Luciano Pavarotti

In one of the more unusual cases of lip-syncing, famous Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti found himself in some legal hot water in the early 1990s. According to the Los Angeles Times, Pavarotti was performing in September of 1992 in Modena, Italy, and the BBC was broadcasting it live throughout the world on their radio station. Getting the rights to a concert like that isn't cheap, and let's just say the BBC was less than thrilled when news emerged that Pavarotti's performance that night had been completely phoned in.

Apparently, the executives at the BBC had known ahead of time that it was going to be a recording, but they did not raise any issues over it. They paid Pavarotti $40,000 for his appearance but eventually sued him to recoup half of it. For his part, Pavarotti did not shy away from criticism and openly admitted to using the recording during the performance. He also agreed to pay back the broadcaster's money, and he acknowledged that what he had done was wrong.

Interestingly, this wasn't the last lip-syncing scandal that Pavarotti would be involved in. His final performance before his passing was at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, but that was apparently lip-synced, too. Pavarotti was 70 years old and sick at the time, making a pre-recorded backing track the only option. Even though these were considerable scandals, they have done nothing to diminish Pavarotti's reputation as one of the greatest opera singers of all time.

Vince Neil

At this point, it's pretty safe to say that Mötley Crüe is past their prime. They still tour and perform widely, but they are well down from their peak in the 1980s and early 1990s. Case in point: Vince Neil and the various lip-syncing and miming accusations against the entire band. In recent years, Neil has been widely lambasted and ridiculed for his less-than-stellar vocal performances, with many music websites pointing out his inability to sing in key and his lack of stamina.

As the music blog Metal Sucks reported, videos have emerged of Neil singing onstage to what appear to be backing tracks. Fans have noted times when it seems as though you can hear Neil's voice, even when the microphone isn't next to his face. In addition, former Crüe bandmate Mick Mars recently sued Neil and the rest of Crüe, and as part of his lawsuit he alleged that Neil was lip-syncing during their 2022 stadium tour. In fact, Mars' allegations about faking performances onstage weren't limited to Neil — he also accused both Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee of using pre-recorded backing tracks.

Neil and the rest of the Crüe have completely denied any allegations of using backing tracks, and they in turn have accused Mars of doing the same thing. It's an ugly situation for everyone involved, but hopefully for the fans the Crüe is true and not using any backing tracks.

Katy Perry

It's one thing to get caught lip-syncing, but it's quite another to be called out in real time on live TV and forced to start over again. Unfortunately for Katy Perry, she had to live that nightmare during a performance at the 2013 French NRJ music awards show. Perry was barely 30 seconds into singing her smash hit "Roar" to a live French audience, when the host of the show came back onstage and stopped her. There had been some technical difficulties during her set, which caused her to appear out of time with the vocals. The host shut down the performance, then asked her to restart the song, which an embarrassed Perry agreed to.

Even though it was a highly unprofessional moment on the part of the host, Perry handled the situation with incredible grace and dignity. It's pretty unfathomable to be ambushed like that onstage during such an important performance, but Perry did not show any ill will. Later, the awards show confirmed that Perry was not at fault, and that a malfunction was responsible for the issues (via Vanity Fair).

After she was forced to restart the song, the rest of the performance went fine and she was able to get through it without incident. Still, it was probably one of the most uncomfortable and awkward moments of her entire career, and hopefully one that will never be matched again.

Michael Jackson

Long known as one of the most electrifying entertainers in music, Michael Jackson was without a doubt one of the biggest stars of the 20th century. Few people can claim to have even a fraction of the success he had, both as a member of the Jackson 5 and as a solo artist. Yet, as it turns out, even the King of Pop was not immune to allegations of lip-syncing. It's long been somewhat of an inside secret, but most people think that he lip-synced his iconic performance at the 1983 Motown 25th Anniversary special, "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."

Jackson performed both as a member of the Jackson 5 and solo. He sang "Billie Jean" immediately following his performance with his brothers, and it's here that the accusations of lip-syncing arise. According to the fan website Thriller 40, the reason that it was lip-synced was because of the backing band, but it probably had more to do with his intensive dance routine during the set.

However, while the lip-syncing has always been a bit of a scandal for Jackson, most people don't care about it for one simple reason: This was also the performance where he debuted his famous moonwalk dance, and that's all anyone really remembers about it now. The moonwalk is one of the most iconic Jackson moves, and it definitely outshines the possible lip-syncing. The entire performance is widely regarded as one of the greatest of his career, lip-synced or not.

Jennifer Hudson & Faith Hill

When Jennifer Hudson and Faith Hill performed during the pregame show at Super Bowl XLIII, most people who watched them thought they sounded amazing. Hudson's performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" drew huge amounts of applause, and it showcased her incredibly powerful voice and strong range. However, for anyone who was watching closely, it was also pretty obvious she was singing to a backing track. It's not that Hudson did a poor job miming, but when you have 10 different cameras filming you up close in high definition, it's pretty hard to hide.

Within a few days, the producer responsible for the pregame show, Rickey Minor, had admitted it was lip-synced to the Associated Press (via ABC). According to Minor, he specifically wanted both Hill and Hudson to not sing live and instead use backing tracks. This was not due to a lack of confidence in either performer, but rather is actually the norm for Super Bowl performances. The practice has been around since the 1990s, and is probably a reason so many of the halftime shows are so unforgettable.

Some fans were rightfully upset over realizing neither the national anthem nor "America the Beautiful" was performed live, but at least the backing tracks sounded amazing. In addition, it's pretty hard to get upset at Hill and Hudson for doing something everyone else has done, and it doesn't even seem like it was their choice.

Whitney Houston

For many people, the best version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before a Super Bowl belongs to Whitney Houston and her iconic rendition in 1991 at Super Bowl XXV. Dressed in a bright white tracksuit with a matching headband and alongside a standing orchestra, Houston belted out one of the best-sounding and most heartfelt performances of the national anthem in history, or at least it seemed that way.

For years, most people thought that Houston had sung the song live and channeled the energy and intensity of the stadium through her voice. However, as her former music director Rickey Minor revealed in 2021 to Today, Houston was actually using a backing track along with her live voice. In a somewhat convoluted answer, Minor said that both Houston and a backing track were used, though it appears the audience mainly heard the track and not her live voice.

The use of a backing track has somewhat detracted from the prestige of her performance, but many fans still see it as legendary. According to Minor, the arrangement they used for the song was special, and it was specifically timed to get the most out of her voice. Lip-synced or not, Houston's performance has a very special place in many people's hearts, and will not be soon forgotten.