Suspicions that the anthem performed by Beyonce and the U.S. Marine Corps Band used prerecorded backing tracks — as documented by L.A. Times reporters on hand for the inauguration, among others — were confirmed when Marine Corps band spokeswoman told the Times of London that Beyonce made a last-minute decision to use prerecorded music for her anthem performance.
“We did prerecord it and it was Beyoncé’s decision at the last minute to go with the prerecorded version,” the spokeswoman told British paper. “We prerecorded all music as a matter of course and have done since time immemorial,” she said. “This is our 54th inauguration .… There is no question of there not being any music — it’s not because the performer cannot do it.”
There's long precedent for using prerecorded music at inaugurals, due to the District of Columbia's tendency to be frigid in winter months, making it difficult for brass- and drum-heavy military bands to perform. Yo-Yo Ma used a similar tactic during his performance at Obama's last inaugural, as the temperatures made his cello difficult to play in tune. And it's not yet clear if Beyonce was singing live to a prerecorded vocal track, or if she was lip-syncing entirely (we've reached out to reps for both the Marine Corps band and Beyonce for clarification).
Will fans be slightly let down if the Beyonce they heard wasn't the singer "flying blind" and nailing the anthem on our nation's most hallowed ground? Given the gravity and audience of the event, it would make sense to take all measures to ensure quality musical accompaniment, so as not to let mistakes distract from the main event.
Maybe fans should be happy knowing that she did give a ravishing performance of our national anthem — even if it was just in a studio, a few days ago.