Have you seen Taylor Swift’s more recent performances where she stops singing in the middle of the concert but her vocals keep playing? It makes you wonder if she is lip-syncing on stage.
Taylor Swift does not lip-sync on stage. She uses a technique known as a backing track, which is very popular among all-genre artists where they will sing along to their own vocals. The reason many artists use backing tracks is so that they can add more complex elements to their performance or engage with audience members while on stage.
You can read more below about the use of backing tracks in live performances and Taylor Swift’s live performance progression.
History of Backing Tracks in Live Performances
Using backing tracks live isn’t really a new thing. The use of them actually surfaced sometime in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
The reason behind their use was due to the fact that recording techniques and technology had advanced so much it was easy to make a song that couldn’t be performed live.
A lot of performers weren’t sure what to do now that this issue had arisen. Some artists decided to not play these impossible songs live, while other artists and groups decided to take a shot at bringing the recording equipment on stage.
Bands like The Who and Pink Floyd were just some of the first to start using backing tracks for their live performances. They could now perform these complex songs that used an orchestra and fill the void of not having an actual orchestra at their concert.
Some musicians would also play along with a pre-recording of their own playing while on-stage. This presented some problems though.
As this article points out, “If you drop a drumstick, miss a beat or fall behind, a backing track WILL. NOT. STOP. It’s a relentless juggernaut which will plough on with or without you.”
With the rise of backing tracks, other new techniques were born like the use of it for vocals. This was where many artists have run into problems.
Back Tracking vs. Lip-Syncing
It’s interesting because when a band uses backing tracks for their instrumentals while on-stage no one really bats an eye. However, if a vocalist uses it during their performance people freak out and accuse them of lip-syncing or using auto-tune.
There have been instances of artists actually using it to lip-sync. This Forbes article highlights just a few of those instances.
They point out that the most famous incident of lip-syncing was probably when Milli Vanilli was outed for lip-syncing during a 1990 concert. After that, it was revealed that they were complete fakes not even singing their own music.
Other famous instances of lip-syncing were Ashlee Simpson’s 2004 SNL performance, 50 Cent’s 2007 BET Awards performance, and Jennifer Hudson’s Super Bowl XLIII incident.
While Taylor Swift, like Ashlee Simpson, has been accused of lip-syncing on SNL before, in general, her use of backing tracks has increased as her on-stage performances have evolved.
You can watch T-Swift’s 2017 SNL performance below.
Taylor Swift’s Live Performances
Taylor Swift has come a very long way since her debut album Taylor Swift was released back in 2006. She started out as a country singer and was nowhere close to the pop icon she is today.
In fact, she was only 17 when her debut album came out. Considering how well the album did it’s no wonder Taylor Swift was able to evolve into the massive success she is today.
Swift started out performing on stage with only a microphone and her acoustic guitar. She was an opening act for bigger country artists like Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Brad Paisley, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s joint tour.
Swift finally got her first headlining tour with the release of her album Fearless in 2008. Still, her concerts featured minimal costume changes, choreography, and focused more on her playing front and center on her acoustic guitar.
Her tours for her albums Speak Now and Red both follow a similar pattern in that they didn’t have too much choreography or costume changes. With the release of her album 1989, a lot of things seemed to change.
Swift’s music changed from a mixture of country and pop to synth-pop. Her on-stage performances changed to having way more costume changes, a lot more choreography, and tons of guest musicians.
With that added complexity, you can see that Swift started to use more backing tracks for her vocals. 1989 was a definite turning point for Swift’s music and her on-stage performances because her shows got way more glitzy from there and she became a pop icon.