In todays society obsessed with perfectionism, a question often raised is do K-Pop idols really sing live? To answer simply,yes... but also no.
When you scroll down under any video of a live performance by a kpop group you will undoubtedly come across a plethora of comments mentioning “eating CDs” - a phrase used to compliment an artist’s vocal proficiency when their performance sounds nearly identical to the studio version. As commendable as this seems, it does bring to light the false perception fans have of what a ‘live’ stage actually is.
Anyone interested in music production will know how prevalent vocal manipulation has become within the industry and the benefits it brings to the song writing process and performance. But to an untrained ear, any and all noticeable computer intervention is identified as Auto-tune and immediately subject to harsh criticism. Idols also face a lot of backlash when they are caught lip-syncing because fans feel their trust in the authenticity of the singer has been betrayed.
Granted sometimes complaints may be warranted if a music show claims to present live performance but elects to refine each note post-production. Shows like Produce 101, You Hee-yeol's Sketchbook and King of Masked Singer have all been exposed of doing this.
Youtuber 'YoungOne Blink4Eva' made a really informative video comparing broadcasts to leaked raw footage, see below:
The unfortunate truth is, most live performances will use some type of editing, be it pre-recorded backing track, pitch correction, or vocoders. With this advanced almost unnoticeable technology, audiences have become desensitized to what real singing sounds like and have set unrealistic expectations for artist to perform at a consistently flawless standard.
The popularity of MR Removed channels also feeds into this confusion as this process only minimizes the volume of the instrumental to hear the vocal line more clearly. Isolating that audio is not a representation of the artist's natural voice as contemporary pitch correction software is programmed directly into microphones and can be altered in real time, even in concert.
Realistically, the only way to be sure that an artist is truly singing is to see them perform without the use of a microphone. ITZY’s decision to post a stage practice during their ‘Not Shy’ comeback promotions, in which they unmistakably sang live whilst dancing what they claim is their most difficult choreography, is really admirable. They proved to the audience their skills, demonstrating insanely stable vocals.
Its such a shame that idols who have trained for years to dedicated professionalism are still subject to technological cocooning of their vocals. Although understandable why a company chooses to safety-net their artists, this can certainly back fire when any anomalous sub-par appearance is blindly compared to hundreds of edited fine-tuned performances.