At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter at all that Beyoncé, a longtime supporter of Barack Obama, didn’t perform her rendition of the national anthem live in front of 700,000 people Monday—except that it feels like such a violation of the spirit of the presidential inauguration.
According to people we spoke with yesterday, Beyoncé’s practice schedule for the Super Bowl, where she’s scheduled to perform in two weeks, did not make it possible for her to arrive in Washington early enough for a rehearsal with the Marine Corps Band.
Yes, that’s correct: Beyoncé was too busy practicing for the Super Bowl to practice for the presidential inauguration. If that’s not a perfect commentary on America’s strange priorities in the second decade of the 21st century, I don’t know what is.
Beyoncé sang the national anthem at yesterday’s inauguration ceremony for President Obama and received overwhelming praise for her performance, ranging from Business Insider (“It was just amazing”) to TMZ (“f*cking awesome”).
But to close observers, it appeared the performer was not singing live. To press seated just below the podium, in front of the “President’s Own” Marine Corps Band, it was evident that the band wasn’t actually playing during the song—even though band director Colonel Michael J. Colburn was conducting energetically and the band members mimicked blowing into their instruments. Separately, at one point during her performance, Beyoncé removed her earpiece.
A hint as to the actual origins of the version Beyoncé sang came from her own hand: On January 20, the day before the ceremony, Beyoncé posted pictures to her Instagram account that appeared to show her in a recording studio. In one, she holds a copy of the sheet music to “The Star Spangled Banner” in front of a microphone attached to a recording device, and in another she sits in front of recording equipment while members of the Marine Corps Band stand clutching sheet music behind her.
Miming along to a pre-recorded track isn’t unheard of at inaugural ceremonies. At President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, cold weather and wind meant that a live performance by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman had to be nixed in favor of a recording. But there are no previously known cases of a singer lip-syncing the national anthem during an inaugural performance.
UPDATE January 22, 3:15 PM: Colonel Colburn, speaking this afternoon to The Washingtonian, says that he can't confirm whether Beyoncé actually was singing. However, the band and the singer had decided Sunday night to use a precorded music track, since they were unable to coordinate a time for a full rehearsal. "She wasn't comfortable performing without a rehearsal, and I wasn't comfortable that either," he said. "We always knew that was a possibility." Every singer in yesterday's inauguration had a "safety" track at the ready in case weather, temperatures, or instrument problems arose at the last minute; Kelly Clarkson's was recorded on Saturday in Washington, although she did sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" live at the ceremony. The so-called "safety recording" for the Star Spangled Banner, done Sunday night with the Marine Band present by the singer when she arrived in Washington, was based on a practice national anthem the band had sent her earlier in the month.
For more news, photos, and recaps of the 2013 inaugural festivities, visit our inauguration page.
Where in the world is John Legend? Put it this way: If you don’t see him this weekend at one point or another, you’re probably doing something wrong.
The nine-time Grammy-winning singer and actor, best known for his 2005 hit “Ordinary People,” is scheduled to attend a whopping nine events this weekend. In case you’re out and about and wondering where to spot him, we’ve rounded them up below. If you see the man around this weekend, tweet us a picture @washingtonian or @afterhoursblog and add the hashtag #JohnLegend2013.
Friday, January 18
John Legend will participate in a panel discussion about STEM education at the Capitol Hilton with the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, and others.
Saturday, January 19
Legend will attend a 12:30 screening of Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In at Shiloh Baptist Church and participate in a panel discussion with Jarecki and Danny Glover after the movie.
He’s also on the lineup for the Kids’ Inaugural Concert at the Convention Center at 6 PM, along with Katy Perry, Brad Paisley, and many more.
Legend will then attend Ourtime.org’s Generation Now inaugural ball at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture with Will.i.am, Common, T-Pain, and others.
We know, we know (we really know). As much as everyone loves getting all gussied up and going to a ball, sometimes a $100-plus ticket is out of the question, particularly during the long stretch of January that happens to come right after the holidays. But never fear: There are plenty of free and inexpensive ways to celebrate inauguration 2013 this weekend. Know of any we missed? Leave details in the comments.
At the National Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein’s “The Oval Office” will be on display in the East Building’s lobby. Portraits of the first five American presidents by Gilbert Stuart are also on display in the West Building. Free.
Over inauguration weekend you can also see iconic images of President Barack Obama by two stellar contemporary artists at the National Portrait Gallery. Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” portrait of the President, donated to the museum by Heather and Tony Podesta, will be on display all weekend alongside two large-scale tapestry portraits by Chuck Close. Free.
Friday, January 18, Hot97 has a DMV Ball at the Howard Theatre, featuring Oddisee, Diamond District, Sean Born, Quartermaine, and more. Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 at the door.
Inaugural improv? Why not? January 18 and 19 at DC Arts Center, Aboulia hosts an improv-themed inaugural event featuring lots and lots of local comedians. $11.
January 19, Art Soiree presents a political cartoon event at Malmaison featuring a performance by journo-band Suspicious Package and an exhibition of work by Tom Toles, Jimmy Margulies, Ann Telnaes, and more. Tickets are $10 in advance; $20 at the door.
January 19, Tilted Torch hosts a Vaudeball at 9th and Beats. The burlesque-themed event claims to offer hula hooping (perhaps in honor of our first Hawaiian President?), belly dancing, contortionists, and music, of course. $15 in advance; $20 at the door.
Remember on Tuesday when we hinted that Katy Perry would be coming to perform at President Obama’s inauguration? We were right. The Associated Press reports today that the “Teenage Dream” singer will perform at the official inaugural balls on January 21 and at a children’s concert on January 19, along with Usher, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, and the cast of Glee.
Also on the lineup to perform at the three official inaugural events are Fun, Far East Movement, Mindless Behavior, Nick Cannon, and Marc Anthony. There’s also a rumor that the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be performing at the January 22 ball for staff—you may remember Jay-Z rapping “I got 99 problems but George Bush ain’t one” at 2009’s event. Will you be able to get tickets to any of these events? Almost certainly not, unfortunately.
What will hosting a $40,000-a-plate fundraiser for the President get you? An iconic moment in history, it turns out. Beyoncé Knowles, who helped raise $4 million for President Obama’s reelection campaign when she hosted an event with her husband, Jay-Z, in September, will sing the national anthem at the January 21 inauguration ceremony, it was announced late yesterday.
Folk singer-singwriter James Taylor will also perform “America the Beautiful,” while pop singer and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson will sing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” at the Capitol.
Taylor is also known for his outspoken support of the President—in an event late last year at the National Press Club he described Obama as a “wonderful President,” and has stumped for him on numerous occasions, playing five free concerts in North Carolina during the 2008 campaign.
Clarkson’s political views, meanwhile, are best known for a December 2011 tweet supporting Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, although she later stated that she “voted for Barack” during both elections.
Never let it be said that the Kennedy Center doesn’t respond to criticism. After an extraordinary firestorm following the announcement of last year’s Honors recipients, during which chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts Felix Sanchez said he was sworn at by Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser, the institution announced today it’ll host a star-studded inauguration event honoring Latino culture January 20.
The evening, hosted by actress and Obama campaign bundler Eva Longoria, will culminate in an event titled “In Performance at the Kennedy Center,” featuring George Lopez, Chita Rivera, Mario Lopez, Robert Rodriguez, Melanie Griffith, Rita Moreno, and more, as well as Ballet Hispanico, the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, and Coro de Niños de San Juan. The performance is part of a three-day symposium at the Kennedy Center called “Latino Inaugural 2013.”
The announcement of the event coincides with yesterday’s news that the Kennedy Center would review the selection process for its Honors ceremony, following criticism from Sanchez and others that the event has only celebrated two Latino artists out of 180 in its 35-year existence. The review panel includes cellist Yo-Yo Ma and actor Raúl Esparza.
It’s that time of year again. Fans camp out outside the Four Seasons, fully loaded Lincoln Navigator drivers earn enough overtime to get them through the rest of 2013, and even the most jaded Washingtonians geek out at the sight of Jay-Z in a mink-fur hat. Yes, friends—it’s inauguration 2013.
While this year’s event isn’t anywhere close to the scale of President Obama’s historic 2009 inauguration, fear not—it’s highly likely our fair city will be hit by a good number of celebrities. To assist you all in your best stalking efforts, we’ve attempted to narrow down who they might be; we’ll update as more guest lists are confirmed. [Ed. note: The Washingtonian is hosting its own inaugural ball, though celebrity attendance is unconfirmed.]
Beyoncé Knowles, James Taylor, and Kelly Clarkson have been confirmed as performers at the inauguration ceremony outside the Capitol (Knowles is singing the national anthem).
The Creative Coalition Ball on January 21 has confirmed that a number of celebrities will be attending, including but not limited to: Kirsten Dunst, Ashley Greene, Matt Bomer, Chelsea Handler, Johnny Galecki, Eric Stonestreet, Connie Britton, Paula Abdul, Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring lives!), Melissa Leo, John Leguizamo, Marlon Wayans, Taraji P. Henson, Omar Epps, Evan Handler, David Arquette, and Creative Coalition president Tim Daly. And the Goo Goo Dolls will perform just in case the presence of Paula Abdul isn’t enough of a throwback.
Russell Simmons has announced that he’s hosting a Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball on January 20. We don’t have details on the guest list yet, but it’ll almost certainly be a good bet for spotting music stars. Lala Anthony and Terrence J are also hosting.
Ke$ha will headline the Musicians on Call inaugural charity benefit on January 21.
The Kennedy Center hosts "In Performance at the Kennedy Center," honoring Latino culture and featuring Eva Longoria, George Lopez, Chita Rivera, Mario Lopez, Robert Rodriguez, Melanie Griffith, Rita Moreno, and more.
For those of you who prefer a more erudite crowd, the Peace Ball is also returning in 2013, with confirmed attendees Alice Walker, Ralph Nader, Danny Glover, Barbara Ehrenreich, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Van Jones, and more. Musical guests include Moby and Sweet Honey in the Rock.