Sheryl Lee Ralph Expertly Shuts Down Super Bowl Lip-Sync Chatter: ‘Does It Matter?’

Sheryl Lee Ralph performs 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' prior to Super Bowl LVII
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is loud. Singers lip-sync! Sheryl Lee Ralph reminded reporters of that following her splendid performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the 2023 Super Bowl where the Kansas City Chiefs reigned supreme.

Ralph performed the Black National Anthem on the 123rd anniversary of its first public performance (February 12, 1900) before the big game on Sunday, February 12 in Glendale, Arizona’s State Farm Arena. Some onlookers on social media wondered if she was lip-syncing during the song. She had a perfect response when reporters asked if she had after she stepped off the field.

“Does it matter? Does it matter? No. Thank you,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. And she’s absolutely right.

Lip-syncing at the Super Bowl is more common than some may realize. It even happens with instruments. At the 2014 Super Bowl, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed without his bass plugged into an amplifier. This is because the NFL requires bands and artists to pre-record backup tracks in order to avoid potential live snafus. When preparing for one of the most watched live television events of the year, they record things in advance as an insurance policy. The recording is often taken during a Super Bowl rehearsal, whether it’s for the national anthem or the Halftime Show.

Whitney Houston‘s mic wasn’t live during her 1991 Super Bowl national anthem (she was singing live on top of a pre-recorded track, but her mic was off), and it’s still considered the greatest of all time. Rihanna was singing live into a live mic on top of pre-recorded music during her soaring Super Bowl Halftime Show. Chris Stapleton was singing live during his bluesy national anthem. And Babyface sang live during his performance of “America the Beautiful” as well.

What all of these singers have in common is stellar voices. Whether lip-syncing over your own pre-recorded vocals, singing alongside them live, or singing live on your own, like Ralph said, it really doesn’t matter. They all have the chops! While singing live may be easily heard by those watching on TV, it could be difficult for fans at the game to hear the music overtop the roaring crowd (and during the anthem, the flyover). Making sure a performance is heard loud and clear is far from a bad thing.

Ralph moved on quickly from the lip-sync chatter when speaking with press, expressing her excitement over the consecutive milestone career moments she’s been having in the last year.

“It’s just so amazing that they chose me. And then the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. I mean, come on. You know God must be a woman because all of this is just too perfect,” Ralph said.

“Just amazing, just stunning,” she continued. “And the way people have been coming back, they said, ‘Girl, you made the pre-show look like it was trying to be halftime.’ They said, ‘The costume. The wardrobe. The hair. The shoes. The makeup.’ I was just like, ‘Well, thank you. Fenty of it all, hey.’”

The Emmy winner continued to gush over her connections to Philadelphia.

Abbott Elementary takes place in Philadelphia. My husband is a senator in Philadelphia. And this year the Eagles [went] to the Super Bowl — I had already been chosen to sing,” she said. Ralph’s Abbott co-stars, Quinta Brunson and Lisa Ann Walter, were in the crowd in Glendale, cheering her on with pride.

“It is absolute magic because Quinta literally chose me for this moment. She said, ‘Mrs. Ralph, they’re sleeping on your talent, but I’m not. Come take this journey with me.’ And everything that she said was going to happen. Here I am. It’s crazy,” Ralph raved of her now Emmy and Golden Globe-winning co-star. “This was a bit of a cherry on top. We’re a bit taken back by all of this. It’s amazing. We’re happy. We’re so happy.”

Thanks to Ralph, Stapleton, Babyface, Rihanna, the athletes, and the ads, the 2023 Super Bowl was certainly one to remember.