So Beyonce’s rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” was a lip sync. No wonder some in the crowd I talked to thought that she didn’t quite have the vocal force they expected, at least not like Whitney Houston.

But according to Entertainment Weekly, Houston’s 1991 version also was pre-recorded. Perhaps this latest dose of reality will open a whole Pandora’s Box of national treasured moments that aren’t quite what they seem. Actually, given all of the coverage and excitement around Monday’s inaugural, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that the swearing in was not really a swearing in. That was done the day before in the private quarters of the White House.

The same mini-controversy happened in 2009, when reporters quickly discovered that cellist Yo Yo Ma’s performance was prerecorded, as organizers feared that the cold weather would freeze up his fingers. There is no such explanation this time around, as the weather was slightly warmer, and other performers like Kelly Clarkson apparently performed live. I’ll admit that I didn’t notice anything amiss from where I sat, although reporters standing off to the side of the Marine Band said that they could notice that sound wasn’t coming out of the instruments.

A real inaugural performance may be when an artist is forced to improvise. Poet Robert Frost composed a new work for John F. Kennedy’s inaugural in 1961, but the glare at the lectern was so great that he couldn’t read the words, and he instead recite “The Gift Outright” from memory.

So perhaps that ought to be the threshold for future performers at inaugurals. The new president invites them to attend and then, after the swearing in, makes his request to sing a favorite on the spot.

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