Yes, Alicia Keys’ Super Bowl performance was fixed afterwards – but why do we care?

Is it really so egregious when we’re talking about one of the most carefully choreographed shows on Earth?

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Alicia Keys performing live during the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Yes, Alicia Keys’ Super Bowl Halftime Show performance was dubbed, with a clear voice crack moment fixed before its upload to YouTube. But should we really care?

The moment came as the singer played If I Ain’t Got You, the hugely popular ballad taken from her 2003 sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys. After nailing the track’s soft intro, many viewers – of the 123 million in total – caught a glaring vocal error as she entered into the chorus.

It’s no surprise, then, that many of those who spotted it have flagged the very different version heard in the official performance video uploaded to the NFL YouTube channel.

But why does it matter? It’s common knowledge that a good chunk of official live releases – probably most – are overdubbed, edited, tweaked, or fixed in some way before their release to a wider commercial audience, right?

The fact that Keys’ voice crack and subsequent correction have hit the headlines shows we in the music world may be blind to the reality that the average consumer isn’t aware of the audio manipulation that takes place in these instances. So is it perhaps an issue of a lack of awareness?

Of course, it should be mentioned that it’s unusual for a live broadcast – one of the most tuned-into in the world – to be corrected in such an obvious way. It was perhaps wishful thinking on the part of the producers hoping many of the tens of millions of spectators wouldn’t notice.

However, whether you’re outraged at the correction, aware and accepting of the practice across the industry, or simply indifferent, it’s a promising takeaway from the whole debacle that Alicia Keys was actually singing live.

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is notoriously run like clockwork, with a hell of a lot of moving parts having to sync up in the 12-15 minutes allotted. Therefore, the authenticity of artists’ performances is sometimes put into question.

When our friends at highlighted H.E.R.’s guitar solo during Usher’s set, many on social media were quick to cast their doubt. “Wait: Did you guys just describe an air guitar performance as a “breeze” in a headline?” one user wrote.

To be fair, some of H.E.R.’s hand movements don’t exactly match up with what we hear on the official audio. Was some of Usher’s set pre-recorded and some performed live? We won’t open up that can of worms.

All things said, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest spectacles on Earth, so should we really be surprised that producers want to make it sound as perfect and pristine as possible? It’s probably not worth losing sleep over, to be honest.

[Editor’s note: and MusicTech are both part of Caldecott Music Group.]


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