Is it Live or Chris Brown?

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Years ago, an iconic television ad featured a performance by singer Ella Fitzgerald while asking viewers “is it live or is it Memorex?” Well, it was neither Sunday at the annual Billboard Music Awards. It was Chris Brown.

The 23-year-old dancer defined himself as a willing dupe of the entertainment industry’s dregs with a shameless display of lip-synching that would have made the infamous Milli Vanilli blush. Brown and five others danced vigorously while a digitally enhanced recording blared out.

Why does The Cynical Times care?

We care because the 99% is being systematically misled by a corporate aristocracy that routinely lies to us. The cumulative impacts from these misrepresentations and misnomers is a society in which many Americans now willingly embrace the concept that truth, fame and elected office are all for sale to the highest bidder, with potentially devastating consequences for the greater good.

Brown, aka Memorex, wore a microphone as a prop (below left), which was clearly meant to mislead viewers into thinking he was actually singing during the so-called “live” performance. The painful truth is that he was either lip synching or has the most incredible control of his own breathing in human history, because there were neither audible inhalations nor exhalations during the aerobically demanding display.

The vocals played during Memorex’s dance routine also were bereft of the minor imperfections typical of a human voice which has not been digitally sanitized. Those imperfections are common in the performances by singer Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, who took home 12 awards Sunday including best performer and best album.

The rise of lip-synching during so-called live performances has paralleled the rise of a new kind of aristocracy here in the U.S., which merges fame, money and political power and selectively applies societal behavioral standards only to the 99%.

Case in point, Brown himself. The Virginia native pleaded guilty to felony assault of singer and then-girlfriend Robyn Rihanna Fenty (right) in 2009, and was sentenced to five years probation and six months of community service. Fenty goes by the stage name “Rihanna.”

Lip-synching for a professional singer is similar to beating your girlfriend black and blue or getting rich off the suffering of your fellow Americans in the sense that it’s the kind of thing no one is supposed to have to tell you is wrong. You’re just supposed to know. Clearly, Brown and the predatory bankers of Wall Street do not.

If Memorex were just a member of the 99%, it’s a safe bet he would have been fired out of hand for so much as looking the wrong way at a superviser at RCA Records, which is a subsidiary of Sony Corp. But the label never batted an eye at Brown’s behavior and makes no mention of it anywhere on their website.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans admire Brown simply because Sony spends lavish amounts of money on advertising meant to make him look cool and sell their products. He’s not.

Occupy Wall Street is cool. Memorex and the parasitic trash that works on Wall Street are simply people who cannot say “no” to money.

Entertainment and politics have borrowed greatly from one another in recent years, blurring the lines between them. We now have entertainers posing as politicians and journalists and vice versa.

The domination of the news industry by the wealthiest Americans, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, has also neutered a Fourth Estate that once functioned as a referee for truth and misinformation in our society.

The result is a society where the aristocracy’s attempts to escape their fair share of the cost of our government are given misleading monikers like “Americans for Tax Reform” and “Americans for Prosperity.” Where Fox propaganda bills itself as “fair and balanced” and its leading partisan propagandist – Bill O’Reilly – has the audacity to call one of his fixtures the “No Spin Zone.”

And where Chris Brown (above and right) gets to pretend he’s risking embarrassment with an exciting live performance when he’s really just lip-synching to a recorded track.

Is it all a conspiracy?

Does it matter if the impact is the same?

The painful truth is that the corporate oligarchy is now using technology to obviate the workplace meritocracies that once allowed talented people to reap great rewards for doing great things in a great nation. By upending the meritocracy and punishing workers for speaking up, the oligarchy has made personal honor obsolete and created an upside-down nation that favors silver spoons and ambitious lackeys.

Like Chris Brown. I mean Memorex.

And Tori Spelling, the wooden actress and daughter of Aaron Spelling who continues to plague celebrity magazines simply on the basis of her famous name and talented publicist.

Allowing Brown to market a lip-synching performance as a live show is inherently dishonest.

But who is hurt by these lies?

Collectively we all are. At the individual level, Memorex’s primary victims are the planet’s best singers. Like the late Ella Fitzgerald and other vocal performers who are actually capable of singing live. Several of them risked the wrath of the entertainment industry by speaking up Sunday.

“One day if I lip-sync, I hope I do it as well as him,” Alecia Beth Moore (left), who performs under the stage name “Pink,” said of Brown. “I stand behind, always have and always will, live singing.”

“What happened to people singing live?” wondered singer Joe Jonas.

Carey Hart, Moore’s husband and a noted motocross racer, also noted his displeasure with Brown’s performance in a twitter posting.

“I’m pretty sure I saw my wife (do) that same performance, but she was three months pregnant and actually sang the song,” Hart said.

They’re in good company. This is an issue that famed singer-musician Elton John (below right) also has championed. He slammed Madonna Louise Ciccone, who uses the stage-name “Maddonna,” for lip-synching during the “live” halftime show of the 2012 Super Bowl.

“Make sure you lip synch good,” Elton John advised her sarcastically during a TV interview prior to the show. Appparently, Elton John still hasn’t adjusted to the new norm – which is that he’s only supposed to be out for himself and is not meant to defend the interest of future generations of singers and composers.

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of sniping between entertainment insiders as the pointless rantings of the 1%. However, there’s more meat to the issue of false excellence in a world where Wall Street professionals have taken to describing themselves as “masters of the universe” and th rest of us as “muppets” and “losers.”

In short, we are living in a climate dominated by cheaters, to borrow the game theory terminology, where human excellence in a chosen field is no longer valued if it can be faked.

Parallels abound. Greatness is already falling by the side in Hollywood, where the children of the wealthy and connected are routinely elevated above their more talented peers. Meanwhile, members of the 99% are sometimes required to exchange sexual favors for roles via the infamous casting couch.

Increasingly, that’s also the case in other segments of the decaying American empire.

Lip-synching scandals have plagued the entertainment industry in recent years as it tries to derive the marketing benefits of a live performance while mitigating the risks inherent to them. It’s the same-old honorless “benefits without burdens” mantra of the predatory 1%.

One of the most embarrassing lip-synching failures occurred in 2004 during a muscial performance by Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live. Apparently, some underpaid member of the 99% accidentally on-purpose inserted a tape of the wrong song. Instead of just pretending to sing her own music, the flustered Simpson stomped off the stage.

So much for dealing with adversity.

Societal disgust with lip-synching also contributed to the demise of the group Milli Vanilli after it was revealed that neither of the two male models who served as singers had played a role in the song for which they accepted a 1990 Grammy Award as best new artist. One of them later died of a drug overdose.

All of which brings us back to the reprehensible lyrics made famous by rapper Tracy Marrow, aka Ice-T, when he sang “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

It’s a rationalization for the exploitation of one’s own countrymen worthy of the Jewish Sonderkommandos who collaborated with their captors at Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

We see things a bit differently here at Cynical, where we say “hate the player – hate the game.”

They’re both garbage.