No.014 “A Law Against Lip-Syncing”

Last week on the 10th I was reading the Asia section of the Asahi newspaper and there was an article about a new law against lip-syncing. It said that starting next month, the Chinese government is going to start enforcing a new law which prohibits singers from lip-syncing at concerts and other similar events.

Lip-syncing, one of those things that typically has an image of “cheating.” I, too, have done lots of cheating on stage, including playing bogus steel drums, a fake trumpet solo, fake tapping on a guitar without strings and so on, but lip-syncing is something I haven’t done. Yet.

But I’m sure that those who do lip-sync have their reasons for doing so. A very mean-spirited guess would be one having to do with a lack of skill on the singer’s part. For example, during recording they’d sing the song over and over and then just cut and paste only the good parts together, whereas singing it live would result in something sub-par. I’d think this sort of lack of skill is getting increasingly rare these days though.

Besides that, I can think of many other reasons for lip-syncing. I’ve heard shady stories of America — the society of contracts & court trials — where the artist will be approached just before their TV performance and be told that singing live and refusing to lip-sync will cause their performance fee to lessen by a digit. Not just that, but with programs where they demand in the contract that they get to mess with the sound and mixing to make it sound perfect before it airs anyway, I think many artists will just say “fine, let’s go with lip-syncing then.” So, it’s not always a case of wanting to cheat when it comes to lip-syncing.

The man known as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. There are theories that his vocals and most of what his band plays in concert are pre-recorded specifically for his live performances. There are a lot of rumors about Michael Jackson, though, so you can’t be sure of the authenticity of those claims. But if it is true, I’m sure there’s a very good reason for it. Because, man, his concerts are insane. They’ll raise up the entire set including the stage floor you’ve been watching up until now, and they’ll slide in a whole other stage set from behind. Wearing a space suit, Michael Jackson will get into a rocket that flies off the stage, and yet, just a couple of seconds later will emerge from a whole different part of the venue, lifted by a crane and wearing a different outfit. The stage setting is constantly changing. If you were to make it into a 100% live performance under those circumstances, it’d just be asking for trouble for the musicians. It’d be difficult even in places like Tokyo Dome that do a good job with their electrical systems and other equipment, but Michael Jackson does shows all over the world at baseball fields, soccer stadiums, or even huge plots of vacant land where they have to build everything from scratch. Since they tour and put on such large-scale shows in such varying circumstances, I think it’s only natural that they do it in “karaoke” mode to guarantee the show being a success for both the performers and the spectators. Even if at some point there’s a Michael Jackson dummy that lip-syncs, rather than a concert I’d personally just call that a pretty amazing attraction. When it reaches a point like that, I kind of don’t like how it being “karaoke” or “lip-synced” would be something controversial.

To get back on topic regarding this article on China’s law against lip-syncing: “China has put in place clear regulations in regards to associations for singers and performers: if there are repeated violations within a period of two years, their work licenses will be revoked. The Chinese government is striving to develop improved technology to detect “lip-syncing.” (People’s Daily)

Yep. I like how Beijing-y even the words “work license” sound in context, but more than that, I’m extremely interested in this “improved technology to detect lip-syncing.” Just how will it detect lip-syncing and in what way will it be used? And as for those who do lip-sync, will they also go on to develop new lip-syncing techniques through rigorous training and whatnot so they can remain undetected?

Mmm. I’ve developed a strange fascination with lip-syncing. The fact that it’s now “banned” in China works only to double the intensity of my fascination. I think I’ll have to try it out myself sometime if there’s a bit in my show that’s not working. …Well, I say “try it out,” but in my case I’ll seriously pull out all the stops doing it.

Now then, here’s a question for you.

Using Mandarin Chinese, the official language of China — the country who are enforcing a new law prohibiting lip-syncing — how do you write the word “lip-syncing“? Please select from one of these three and also try to imagine how it might sound when pronounced.

1. 対口形      2. 没唱儿        3. 口把克

※ Please see the correct answer at the end of the column after the next one.


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