Kolumn: Lip syncing needs to stop

There have been several controversies with lip syncing in the K-pop industry. Recently, girl group IVE was criticized for lip syncing to IU’s “Strawberry Moon” while sitting down. I was disappointed that the group reused the audio from their previous cover and didn’t bother to sing live for their fans.

Lip syncing is common in K-pop, since many idols have difficulty singing while dancing to intense choreography. Showcasing a stable vocal is essential for the idols and sometimes it is difficult for the artists to demonstrate their full vocal potential. 

There are various ways the idols perform live. There are basic All Recorded (AR) performances, where they lip-sync fully to pre-recorded audio, and Music Recorded (MR) performances, where they sing live on top of a backing track. It is more common in the industry to use live ARs or MRs, where the artists record songs solely for use in live performances, even recording breaths to make it seem as though they are singing while dancing. This allows the audience to believe that the idols are singing live even if they are lip syncing, which helps strengthen their reputations as performers.

The K-pop industry needs to stop allowing idols to completely lip sync their sets. (Illustration by Seoyoung Hwang)

The biggest problem with lip syncing is that the idols aren’t meeting the essential requirement of being a singer: to sing. As the K-pop industry grows, I’ve noticed several companies put focus on complex choreography or the stunning looks of the members to draw attention from the public rather than focusing on vocals. This leads to idols severely lacking in vocal skills, such as Shuhua from (G)-IDLE and Jin from BTS. And just like IVE, many idols are starting to lip sync even while sitting down due to their inability to sing well. 

For example, Momo from TWICE was heavily criticized for her vocal skills — she has a nasal voice and could improve her vocal techniques. However, she is a fantastic dancer and is considered one of the best in the industry. Even so, since she is a singer, she should be able to sing well. This is also a problem since Momo was previously eliminated from the survival show to pick members for TWICE, but was later added on due the need for a dancer in the group, taking away opportunities from more vocally talented contestants such as Somi and Minyoung, showing that the industry puts emphasis on looks and dance over the vocals.

The K-pop industry needs to stop allowing idols to completely lip sync their sets but instead sing on top of the track or without it to show their full potential as singers. K-pop is not just about stage presence and choreography but also the beautiful voices the idols showcase.