I agree with r110 and r141 Singers are meant to sing. Performers perform. Whitney Houston is not a great comparison in this circumstance because that woman sang live, rain or shine, around the world, even in her most depleted voice. I loved her voice and her version of the Star spangled banner was not kept secret for long that it was prerecorded. It was some management decision, and she could have done it as well live. She sang it so spectacularly in rehearsal, that they already knew they would release it as a single and that is probably the reason she sang to the track.
I am a musician and for clarification, pre-recorded is the correct term. Just as a television show will post this was pre-recorded when the hosts are joking about Lindsay Lohan a week after she is dead, or when they don't want you to call in for your favourite on a repeat reality show. All things shown on television live or otherwise are recorded. Pre-recorded applies to Beyonce's singing, recorded before the telecast or concert.
The grammar girls don't get everything correct.
Beyonce was lip-synching, not singing to a track. There is a bit of difference.. singing to a track is more often used in a concert, or in a larger television production when a vocalist may sing along with the pre-recorded track adding depth to the sound while covering their sweaty ass. But at a simple podium, as in the inauguration, with a close up camera and that kind of intimacy, Beyonce was just moving her mouth and making silent breath and throat contractions to her own not so great pre-recorded track. She is talented at that.
This is not about how difficult the national anthem is, she just has an image that is so false and disappointing, as much about the wig as the singing. Beyonce can sing, but has some need to appear effortless, perfect, pretty and soulless. Her vocal runs are sometimes pretty but obviously meaningless without spontaneity.
A real singer sings, in cold weather with missed notes or not, especially on such an important occasion. I reaize this practice is going the way of nintendo and dinosaurs but it should not and that is why, I think their is controversy. If you wanted Britney Spears or Katy Perry or Rihanna, get them, but people expected better of Beyonce. I am not sure why.
I am posting a song from a more serious occasion, "America the beautiful" from the live 9/11 concert telethon. Celine Dion doesn't like being less than perfect, and I am sure that there is a note or two that she would have liked to have sung better, but she did OK and conveyed emotion. She forgets to take a breath for the last note. I am not even much of a fan, but I remember this performance.
I am a classical musician and a fan of all kinds of music. I go to concerts all the time. A singer should sing. Live.