Lip syncing is a widely controversial topic not just in K-pop, but in the entire world. Britney Spears received a lot of controversy for it back during her Femme Fetale tour, as did Ashlee Simpson on a particularly disastrous performance in Saturday Night Live. Lip syncing is just universally negatively received, as it gives the connotation that the artist in question is incapable of performing (whether it’s a matter of talent or not) and would rather cheat their audience of a live performance. And with all the vocally-lacking singers in K-pop, it’s a not an uncommon sight to see lip syncing in the K-pop scene. With Korea’s focus on image, companies would rather let their artist lip sync and bring out consistent performances rather than letting them perform live and expose their flaws. There are notable exceptions to this company mindset of course, but it’s come to the point where a major concern fans have for groups trying to reach out to foreign audiences is their ability to perform live.

However, there also seem to be legitimate reasons for artists to lip sync. Sometimes, the choreography can be so demanding that acts choose to perform a prerecorded track instead of compromising their vocals. Or sometimes, the vocals of a song are too demanding for an artist to perform at such a frequent rate — remember, idols average three to four performances weekly in a promotional period — that the artist chooses to occasionally use a prerecorded track to give their voices a break. Of course, there are still idols who lip sync for the sake of their image, but be it over-demanding vocals or dances, sick days, or even an unsuitable environment or equipment, there are understandable reasons for an artist to lip sync. However, can it be justified that an entire music program to opt for prerecorded tracks?

This is the topic being observed when the announcement was made that KBS‘s Music Bank was ordering their performing artists to prepare prerecorded music to perform with on the show due to the ongoing strike.

For those unaware of the strike, ever since mid-January, major broadcasting companies MBC, KBS, and YTN have been on strike, fighting for the resignations of their respective presidents and freedom of speech and press. Hundreds of reporters and workers have walked out of their jobs in protest, and shows were cancelled due to the strike. The strike was the cause of the delay of the finale of ratings juggernaut The Moon that Embraces the Sun and the lack of new material from variety shows Infinite Challenge and We Got Married, and it looks like it’s starting to affect the music shows as well.

Music Bank made this announcement as a precaution in fear of their audio team and other staff members being affected by the strike, but a little bit of deception can be seen in their move. Sources prove Music Bank asked performing artists to record their tracks to sound as live as possible, suggesting they had the intention of fooling viewers into thinking they were watching a live performance, when in truth, they were not. It can also be seen as a move to hide any apparent internal troubles as making the prerecorded track sound live as possible would give the illusion that things are running normally — that the audio team was still present and that the show is still capable of handling a live broadcast — when it truth, they aren’t. This move suggests Music Bank still wants others to see that their show is of the same quality as it was before the strike, which is honestly untrue.

And whether the deception was intentional or not, this move, in all cases, still cheats the fans. Fans tune in to the show or come for the live performance with the intention of seeing their favorite idols live, to judge whether their idols can hold a stage or experience something different. However, this move basically makes all that effort pointless, as what they’re being handed, a recorded performance, is already something they can achieve conveniently through simply listening to artists’ albums. Of course, fans will still show up and tune in despite all this simply to support their idols, but they can’t deny that they’re not receiving the full experience.

But while ordering artists to use prerecorded performances comes with its fair share of connotations, it is still a necessary move. The audio team is essential when it comes to broadcasting, even more so in a music program like Music Bank, so if they leave work to join the strikes, trouble and complications would definitely ensue. Music Bank trying to assure that they would still have a show even with all the complications is something nice for a dedicated fan to know, even if the said show would be a lower quality than normal. Also, having acts make their tracks at least sound live could even be seen as compassionate in comparison to say, having artists lip sync to the album track or cancelling the show altogether. And that at least shows Music Bank is willing to put in the effort to present a show as close as possible to their usual presentation.

So does Music Bank really have the justifications to opt for prerecorded show? With all the happenings of the strike and the probability of staff members leaving, the prerecorded tracks may be a necessary safety measure and an effort to give fans a show regardless of any complications. However the focus on making the track sound as live as possible is leading many to speculate a hidden agenda behind Music Bank‘s plans, an agenda to sell a show of lower quality for the same price.

Officials have stated that they will try to present live shows if the situation allows it, but the order of the prerecorded tracks alone already irks fans. What do you think Seoulmates? Do you think Music Bank is trying to deceive fans? Or do you think their move was a necessary precaution. Leave your thoughts below!

(KBS, MTV, Mnet Global, Korea Times, globalvoicesonline)