Feature

Our inhuman mania for perfection

Jennifer Hudson, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman all faked their recent performances, a deception turns art into mere artifice, said Eric Felten in <em>The Wall Street Journal.</em>

Eric FeltenThe Wall Street Journal

When Jennifer Hudson flawlessly sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl—her first appearance since the October murder of her mother, brother, and nephew—audiences marveled that she didn’t miss a note. Now we know how she managed it, said Eric Felten: She lip-synched her performance. Hudson is in good company. At President Obama’s inauguration, the quartet that included cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman also faked it, pretending to play as the audience listened to a recording. In both cases, the excuse for this deception was that the “slightest glitch” would have ruined the historic moment. Since when? In this age of airbrushing and Botox, perhaps “flawlessness” has become a requirement for models and movie stars. But musical performance cannot, and should not, meet expectations of perfection. Without risks, art is mere artifice, devoid of the humanity—and slight flaws—that gives great work its depth and allows it to touch our hearts. John Ruskin, the 19th-century British critic, was right. “To banish imperfection,” he wrote, “is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.”

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