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10 Singers Who Got Caught Lip Syncing

by Paul Medina
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Some people have a knack for rising to fame and fortune without so much as moving a finger…or their lips. Yes, some celebs can lip sync so well that we could maybe even pass it off as a skill. After all, it isn’t all that uncommon for singers to use backing tracks, especially when there’s a large, outdoor arena with wind or other factors which would impact the sound quality. Several singers lip sync during the Macy’s Day Parade for better quality on the floats.

Despite the fact that backtracking and some amount of lip syncing are common in vocal performance, it’s understandable why fans would be pretty disappointed. Would you be happy paying hundreds of dollars for front-row seats at a concert only to discover the show wasn’t even live? And usually, when someone’s caught, it isn’t even good lip syncing. But just like performers, sometimes sound technicians mess up, too, leading to some pretty embarrassing moments.

It would be impossible to recount every lip sync fail that hit the headlines, but here are ten performers who were caught in the act…the act of lip-syncing, that is.

Related: Top 10 Times Musicians Lost Their Cool Onstage

10 Audrey Hepburn (1964)

My Fair Lady – Show Me – Marni Nixon/Audrey Hepburn

Our first performer on this list doesn’t exactly fit the profile for a lip-syncer who got “caught,” but it’s worth noting the history of lip syncing. The idea of using a track in movies and live performances isn’t exactly a new concept. Plenty of Hepburn fans found themselves disappointed after learning the My Fair Lady female lead didn’t actually sing most of the songs that made the 1960s film.

The real voice behind such favorites as “I Could’ve Danced All Night” and “Show Me” was Marni Nixon. Marni Nixon is not only the “ghostsinger” behind Hepburn, however. She’s been the real voice behind the Hollywood star in numerous musicals, including The King and I, Westside Story, and others.

Sorry to ruin all your favorite classic films for you in one paragraph.

Audrey Hepburn sang a few of the songs, and she does have a decent voice. She’s not awful by any means, but ultimately the acting went to Hepburn while the voice went to Nixon. So next time you watch My Fair Lady, just remember to give a little credit to Marni Nixon.

9 Milli Vanilli (1989)

The Milli Vanilli Tragedy

Girl, you know it’s NOT true…if you’re talking about the singing of the duo that made up Milli Vanilli. The pair consisted of R&B singers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. Hired by German producer Frank Farian, these two quickly rose to fame and fortune in1988, but after a late 1989 MTV performance gone wrong, it was discovered the two were lip syncing, which wasn’t entirely surprising considering how much dancing around they were doing.

In any case, that was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli, and their fifteen minutes of fame eventually ended after a series of lawsuits over disagreements with the producer about ownership and fraud protection.

8 Ashlee Simpson (2004)

Ashlee Simpson Lip Sync Fail On Saturday Night Live (2004)

Here’s Ashlee Simpson blaming her sound team for her embarrassing moment. At least she did a nice jig there at the end. Unfortunately for Simpson, she became the butt of a joke on Family Guy, which might’ve portrayed a superior performance than the actual one.

Her response might’ve gotten her more backlash than the actual incident, which provides a lesson to other singers out there: When things don’t go well, just own it. Don’t go blaming the tech team.

7 Lindsay Lohan (2004)

lindsay lohan – rumors (live on good morning america)

Lindsay Lohan, the star of The Parent Trap and, later, Mean Girls, had a long-time career goal of releasing her own album. In 2004, the album Speak came out, featuring the single “Rumors.”

The punk-style young new artist emerged to promote the new album on an episode of Good Morning, America. The performance sounds good but uncannily like the recording on the album, which seems like a pretty good sign someone is lip-syncing.

To be fair, though, Lohan denied the accusations back in 2004, explaining there were some backing tracks for the first song, but only of the background singers. What do you think? Considering she’s since released another album and several singles, including “Back to Me” in 2020, the questions didn’t seem to cause ripples in her career the way Ashlee Simpson’s awkward performance did.

6 Sarah Harding (2000s)

Sarah Harding lip syncing on Lorraine – threads full performance

Singer Sarah Harding passed away from breast cancer last year, so I think it’s fair to include her here as a sort of tribute. Yes, she did lip sync as most artists have done, but as you can see from other performances, it wasn’t as if she couldn’t sing, which is really the case for most of these artists, to be fair. But it doesn’t help with the embarrassment at the moment.

Supposedly, she didn’t do a very convincing job of lip-syncing the song “Lorraine” during a performance in 2015. Considering it was that obvious, maybe the singer learned her lesson.

5 Britney Spears (2007)

Britney Spears Lip Syncs to WRONG Voice! – Sia “Perfume” Audio Fail Caught in Vegas

Unfortunately for Britney, much of her career was overshadowed by accusations of lip-syncing most if not all of her performances. According to the singer, this is not true, and she just got caught in a few unfortunate incidents.

One of the most embarrassing was her performance at the MTV awards, circa 2007. Unfortunately, her lip syncing wasn’t exactly in sync. Things weren’t off for a great start into her return from an already rough year. If you were following the early 2000s Britney saga, you’re aware her marriage ended in 2006. The media can be cruel, and she had to deal with not only the collapse of her own family life but with the visceral reactions from the public, accusing her of not being a good mother and other similar comments.

Considering all she was going through, I think we can all stretch a little sympathy for the fact her heart may not have been completely in her performance of “Gimme More,” but it certainly didn’t help the situation.

It tarnished her reputation enough that the talk of lip syncing her performances continued without much of a break, eventually earning some frustration from the frustrated star.

4 Beyonce (2013)

Did Beyonce Lip-Sync National Anthem?

This one was a bit surprising considering the huge brand Beyonce has built for herself, and she’s obviously talented, so why lip sync?

This one wasn’t some accusation. Beyonce did lip sync the national anthem at the inauguration in 2013. When asked about it, she didn’t deny it. However, she defended her decision, claiming she wanted to ensure the focus was on the president, not her performance.

She also said she didn’t have the time to rehearse with the orchestra. So to be fair, we can all recognize the national anthem is a pretty big deal, and everybody knows if you screw up. Can we blame her for playing it safe at something so high-profile? Plenty do.

Nevertheless, lip syncing the national anthem didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect on Beyonce’s fan base.

3 Katy Perry (2013)

Katy Perry Fail 2014

I have to give her credit. Katy Perry saved herself in this one—I would’ve wanted to roar. In any case, this is an example of saving the performance. It’s obvious from the second take that Perry is singing live, and she pulls it off without making too big a deal of starting over.

Though it seems embarrassing to be caught lip syncing your own single at a music awards show, it is obvious from the list it’s fairly hard to tell the reasons performers choose to lip sync. She saved it on the second take, though, and you can tell from the cheering in the crowd nobody seems to have held it against her.

2 Selena Gomez (2010s)

Selena Gomez Lip Sync Compilation

Selena Gomez, who released her debut solo album, Stars Dance, in 2013, continues to undergo scrutiny over lip syncing. Pair that with her public outbursts, sometimes in the form of expletives on a hot mic, and you end up with a lot of disappointed fans.

Fortunately for Selena, her career seems to be going strong, topping the charts of Billboard in terms of singles, and millions of downloads testify to the star’s popularity even after her Disney career.

1 Mariah Carey (2016)

Mariah Carey’s AWFUL performance on New Years Eve 2016

This isn’t the only video of one of Mariah Carey’s performances gone wrong. This one’s pretty darn bad, though. She seems to realize within about four seconds that there’s really no bouncing back and doesn’t even attempt to salvage the illusion. At least she has a sense of humor about it, I suppose, but talk about dropping the ball…

fact checked by Rachel Jones