Girls’ Generation have been the focus of a lot of Netizen ire over the past few days (Authors note: This is a reclaimed article form July 2015 when this was a ‘hot topic’). Forums everywhere are abuzz with the shock that they used live MR. Fans have been quick to defend the girls – “everyone uses MR”… surely live MR is better?
For those of you who have been watching with bemusement, I thought now was a good time to post my second ‘idiots guide’ post and hopefully clear up some confusion.
What is lip sync?
Lip sync is where a track is pre-recorded and the artists don’t sing along at all, they just mouth along with the words. It comes in two types:
- Pre-recorded live vocal – they sing live, then perform along to what they sang.
- Pre-recorded studio vocal – stereotypical lip sync (they record it in a studio, then just mouth along as they dance). Usually the most noticeable and it’s increasingly rare for large chunks of a performance to be this.
What is MR?
MR is the music recording. It provides the instrumentals and sometimes backing vocals. Instrumental MR is fairly straight forward… Vocal MR comes in a few more colours. It can be recorded live, but most commonly is studio pre-recorded. Sometimes this is just to save other group members having to sing backing vocals as well as their main parts, although often it is the actual singer’s part and is designed to ‘boost’ their live voice. Often you will hear groups accused of having the backing vocals really loud so you can’t hear the true live vocal.
Why use Vocal MR and lip sync?
Vocal MR and lip sync can be used for a number of reasons including:
- The song requiring an ‘effect’ to be added to the voice.
- Poor singing ability.
- High energy dance routines that make it difficult to sing at the same time as they dance. This especially effects those who may be good vocally, but struggle with dancing (and vice versa).
- Allowing for the resting of voices. K-Pop has very packed promotion schedules and that much singing live, no matter how well controlled, can be damaging especially for those who are weak singers and those with large vocal parts.
- To ensure a polished performance. Live singing isn’t always perfect but in a lip sync world people have become hyper critical of these imperfections. So as a PR move, sometimes a company will decide that the lip sync performance is a safer move.
- Poor equipment/audio quality at venue. Let’s be honest some of those music show mics are BAD and if the equipment won’t do your artist justice you aren’t going to rely on it.
Music Core’s MR rules?
Ah yes, Music Core! Since 2014 Music Core! have had rules that are designed to preserve the idea that at least 50% of the performance should be live. This was a response to a swell in feeling against increasingly lip synced performances on live shows.
This has had a mixed reception with many doubting the rules are rigorously enforced for everyone and some fans saying they feel more cheated by poor live performance than good lip synced ones.
What about all these MR removed videos then?
Honestly? They don’t tell you anything. The only way to get a ‘true’ removal of the backing recording would be to have access to all the separate audio feeds and only listen to the mic feeds. These are rarely something that is saved, let alone something that the fans could actually get access to, so in actuality these ‘MR removed’ videos are an attempt to remove the backing track manually.
As this is an idiot’s guide, I won’t put my physics teacher hat on to explain this (yes, I have a day job :P), but basically what it boils down to is trying to isolate what you think is the ‘live’ part of the sound. You do this by effectively removing the instruments, etc. from the recording. In cases of live singing with backing, it is very difficult to separate the recorded backing from the actual live unless the two are completely different.
So basically, as long as someone is singing close to the recording, it is difficult to separate out the voice. I should point out that this is all assuming the person doing the MR removal is doing a good job. If they are doing a rush job, they will struggle just with separating instrumentals and other backing vocals before we even get this far. Of course this falls down completely with 100% lip sync. You can separate out the instrumental and be left with a beautiful bit of recorded audio… but that will be the only vocal… so nothing to separate it from.
So what does this mean for me as a fan?
Not a lot really. Even if you are a fan based entirely on vocal talent (in which case K-Pop would seem to be an odd genre to pick) this doesn’t affect you. Just because you can’t always hear a live performance does not mean an artist can’t do it. As mentioned above, there are a number of reasons for the practice.
Hopefully however, it does help you to understand the arguments about MR in performances and will help you make some slightly more informed decisions on how much weight to give someone’s argument.