Finalists sang live during Idol’s group number, producer insists; video suggests otherwise

One of the more unintentionally entertaining parts of Thursday’s American Idol results show was the group number. Despite being choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance favorites Tabitha and Napoleon, it was a hot mess, as usual. While it seemed like the finalists were lip syncing their way through part of a singing competition, the show’s executive producer says they were singing live.

On Twitter, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe wrote, “I have no reason to lie to you all! I promise you they all sang live on top of a recorded a backing track with harmonies.” Nigel repeatedly insisted this during his normal battles with fans.

Two years ago, the show’s production company responded to similar claims by saying basically what Nigel did: they sing along with pre-recorded backing tracks. That prompted The New York Times’ skeptical reaction: “a subtle assessment might depend on how one defines ‘lip-sync.'”

Even if that’s what they’re doing, they do it badly. Thursday, their lips didn’t even match up to the actual singing, or they’d pull the mic away from their mouths and the singing would continue. And the whole thing sounds pre-recorded.

Just watch James Durbin sing “you’re stuck in the middle/the pain is thunder” about 30 seconds in: his mouth doesn’t line up at all with the vocals, and he drops the mic halfway through and the level doesn’t change. It’s clear the backing track is doing the heavy lifting here.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.