Pop Stars You Don't Want To Hear Sing In Real Life

There are a few — key word few — pop stars who can sing, dance, and generally put on an incredible live show with vocals and visuals. Those pop stars are Beyonce, who blows every living human out of the water, Lady Gaga (big ups for her Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2017!), and ... almost no one else. In fact, these pop tarts should probably never ever perform on the same stage as the famous "Telephone" duo, because hardly anyone comes close to holding a candle to these two.

Taylor Swift

Aside from the astronomical ticket prices Taylor Swift is charging for her Reputation world tour, Swift's awkward dancing (that she somehow seems so proud of), frequent falling, and thin, pitchy vocals may inspire potential audience members to stay home.

To Swift's credit, though, she does perform at least her instrumentals live, and based on her frequent microphone malfunctions, she is singing, even if her background singers and occasional backing tracks often overpower her. When it's just her and a guitar or a piano and no choreography (as even the most minimalist moves seem to get her winded), she can hold her own, like in this moving performance of "New Year's Day" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon or this rendition of "Wildest Dreams" at the Grammy Museum in fall 2015.

Selena Gomez

Sorry, Selenators, but it's time to rip off the band-aid: Selena Gomez can neither sing nor perform well live, and her struggles are well-documented in a slew of YouTube videos dedicated to her worst performances through the years.

She was slammed after the American Music Awards in November 2017 for appearing to lethargically lip sync to her song "Wolves" with DJ Marshmello, but it was hardly the first time her live vocals came under criticism.

In August 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald reported of her local Revival tour stop, "Her voice didn't quite hold ... Gomez was relying more and more on her pre-recorded vocals and her two backup singers ... Her fatigue was particularly noticeable, when she struggled to reach her top notes and pulled away from her microphone to catch her breath."

During the same tour, The Straits Times noted, "Her fire dimmed noticeably at the halfway mark ... There was not much belting by Gomez ... One could not help feeling that Gomez had checked out and was just going through the paces."

In fairness to Gomez, she's struggled with lupus for years, which may have contributed to her lack of energy and lung power, but even Gomez herself admits to knowing of her own limitations. In summer 2015, Gomez told The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show (via Billboard), "I know that maybe vocally I wouldn't be the greatest singer in the world." No kidding.

Katy Perry

To Katy Perry's credit, when she stays within her range, she can project and carry a note, as evidenced in her isolated live vocals from this Today performance of "Hot n' Cold" in 2009. The problem is that her range is really, really limited.

However, Perry struggles especially when combining singing and dancing, because, well, she once described herself as dancing like "your mom," and that's not far off. She visibly struggles with choreography, and as her Saturday Night Live performance of "Bon Appetit" shows, she sometimes tries to play off her poor moves with humor instead of actually improving her skills. After years of focusing on her image instead of her abilities, when Perry sings, "Are we tone deaf" in "Chained To The Rhythm," we can't help but think her answer should be "yes."

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is a multiple-Grammy winner and a onetime soul ingenue ... so what in the fresh-faced Hell happened to her voice? As it turns out, years of overuse and poor technique: In 2008, Keys had to cancel two tour dates due to swollen vocal cords, and her pipes haven't been the same since. While performing a tribute to Whitney Houston during the pop legend's funeral in February 2012, Keys' voice was alternately scratchy, pitchy, and flat, which many dismissed as being due to her grief at the time.

Fair enough, but her voice never really got any better live: During an October 2012 taping of VH1 Storytellers, Keys' voice gave out several times. In December 2012, her voice cracked numerous times while performing at the 121212 Hurricane Sandy benefit concert.

During a January 2013 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Keys delivered a scratchy, strained, often off-key rendition of "Girl On Fire" that made many wonder if it was just her throat that was burning.

Ashlee Simpson

At this point it would almost be fair to call Ashlee Simpson a former pop star, but that's beside the point. When she was in her prime, she wasn't even really in her prime. After the horrific, infamous Saturday Night Live lip syncing debacle in October 2004, even when Simpson did sing live, no one really wanted to hear it.

During what was supposed to be a redemptive performance at the Orange Bowl in January 2005, Simpson's screeching and scratchiness ended in a cacophony of boos from the crowd.

Her career never recovered from the mess, but she continued touring with mixed results: In December 2005, MTV News reported that while Simpson was on tour in Japan, she abruptly left the stage mid-song, then returned to announce she was losing her voice. She collapsed after the performance and was hospitalized.

Adam Levine

Considering Adam Levine is a coach on The Voice, you'd think he'd utilize his own voice a bit better than he sometimes does. After this performance of "Lost Stars" at the 2015 Academy Awards, Levine's falsetto was ripped apart on social media for being almost constantly off-key compared to the studio version of the same track.

In June 2014, The New York Daily News described Levine's live vocals during a concert in the Big Apple as "even narrower than his figure. It's a pinched whine, passable in ballads but murder on a form like funk, which demands something meatier. That's a sizable problem because rhythmic music — either funk or reggae — makes up a core element of Maroon 5's canon." Ouch! Would Levine even hit the red button for himself?

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera was lauded as one of the only members of her generation of Disney pop stars who could actually carry a tune, and there is no question that she has an incredible voice and is also a great dancer. However, what many don't realize is that despite being a coach on The Voice and even offering singing lessons online, Aguilera's actual vocal technique is awful.

If you've ever tuned into an Aguilera song or performance and felt like it sounded more like yelling than singing, there's a reason for that: Throat tension, which manifests itself in Aguilera's vocals as a lack of vibrato and a lot of straining in her neck, as seen in her February 2011 Super Bowl performance of the National Anthem. Add to that her chronic oversinging and use of melisma (you know, when she sings one syllable for about 30 notes in an effort to show off), and you have a pretty exhausting experience for the audience.

Britney Spears

Unlike Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears never pretended to be able to belt out a tune, and her success was largely due to her image and dancing over her abilities as a vocalist, as these isolated live vocals clearly show.

Spears can still put on a quality show in terms of visuals, though she admits to using a backing track when she performs live.

"I'm glad you're addressing this question because it's really funny. A lot of people think that I don't sing live. I usually, because I'm dancing so much, I do have a little bit of playback," Spears admitted to an Israeli TV show in June 2017. "But there's a mixture of my voice and the playback ... It really p**ses me off because I am busting my a** out there and singing at the same time and nobody ever really gives me credit for it, you know?"

Perhaps because she's so often criticized, Spears feels pressure to prove herself live: In August 2017 she performed a rendition of Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About," and while she did in fact sing the entire song live, it showcased her severely limited octave range.

Justin Bieber

When Justin Bieber is putting his heart and soul into a performance, he is an extremely talented guy — his voice has a beautiful tone, as seen in his emotional Manchester One Love performance in June 2017, at the BRIT Awards in February 2016, and at the Jingle Bell Ball in December 2015. Bieber's issue is that in his most recent live excursions, he's been phoning it in in a big way, like in this performance when he partially lip synced and limply trudged his way through a performance in India in May 2017, or when he forgot the lyrics to "Despacito" later in the same month.

Bieber's issue isn't a lack of ability so much as likely being overworked to the point of losing his passion. Shortly after his performances became lackluster, he bailed on another leg of his Purpose tour, with a source telling People that he was "super exhausted ... He actually does like being on tour, but he's been touring for 18 months straight and it takes a toll."


Like Justin Bieber, Rihanna can do amazing work onstage when she puts her mind to it (and when she actually shows up), like in this performance of "Love On The Brain" from the Global Citizen Festival in September 2016 ... but she doesn't always feel like putting in work (work work work work).

Take, for example, this painful note at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards while performing "Needed Me," this lazy choreography and vocals from circa 2012, this barely audible rendition of "Man Down" from Rock In Rio in 2011, and the abundance of off-key notes in this 2010 performance of "Only Girl (In The World)" on Saturday Night Live.

Lana Del Rey

Describing Lana Del Rey's now-infamous January 2012 Saturday Night Live performance as "awkward" may have been the understatement of the century — it was so bad that actual unedited versions of it seem to have been scrubbed from YouTube, so you'll have to watch it here. Since then, she's improved at least slightly, but as seen in this performance of "Ultraviolence" from the Glastonbury Festival in June 2014, Del Rey still appears uncomfortable, slightly lethargic, and rather nervous onstage, and at times her vocals are barely audible.

Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea is stunningly gorgeous and a great dancer. Unfortunately, that can't save her from her live raps being often unintelligible, like in this live performance from 2015. A lot of the lyrics are explicit and NSFW, but her delivery is so jumbled that you'd never know what she's actually saying.

It was far from the first time the Aussie M.C.'s enunciation was a problem. In March 2012, she performed with mentor T.I. in Atlanta along with a backing track to her song "Murda Bizness," and while this video and the basement venue's audio issues may have to take some blame, most people still can't understand a word she's rapping — though T.I. comes in loud and clear. During a Vevo Certified SuperFan Fest performance, she sounded completely marble-mouthed while rapping to "Change Your Life" and "Bounce."

Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne isn't always pitchy and off-key live, but she is often enough to give ticket-buyers pause. In fairness to the Canadian faux-punk rocker, she suffered from Lyme Disease for several months before she was even diagnosed with the condition, which may well have contributed to her vocal and energy issues.

Jason Derulo

When he's not busy reciting his own name more than a Pokemon, Jason Derulo is usually dancing his taut behind right off. As a result, though, his live vocals can sometimes suffer, and he noticeably avoids certain high notes and falsetto tones during performances, perhaps due to the breath required to do the aerobics of dance combined with belting. Still, Derulo has enough presence and sophisticated enough choreography to put on a decent show — it just depends on whether you're there for the singing or for the spectacle.


Halsey claims to be "Bad At Love," and she may also be bad at singing live often enough for a casual listener to hesitate to buy her concert tickets.

This video compares her recorded studio vocals with her live renditions of her songs, and at times, there's a clear difference in the power, tone, and clarity of her voice. It wouldn't be fair to say Halsey is a consistently poor performer, but maybe the "H" stands for "Hit or miss."

The Chainsmokers

Halsey's "Closer" collaborators The Chainsmokers struggle live much more than she does. Vocalist Andrew Taggart's vocals at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards performance of the duet was atrocious, with Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, and The New York Times all calling it the worst moment of the entire show.

At least they're somewhat self-aware: Taggart told Billboard, "It sounded like s**t. We were told my voice was going to be mixed well, but there was no reverb and it was way louder than the track for the broadcast. I was set up to fail. Nearly every other person lip-synced it, and we knew because we had them in our ears. So now I know why you lip-sync."

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez has never been a vocal powerhouse, but the woman can put on a show. Her choreography is pretty much unmatched, and there's a solid reason she was named People's Most Beautiful Woman when she was 41 years old. Like with Jason Derulo, if you're in the market for a spectacle of dancing, sparkly outfits, and shaking derrieres, you'll love a J.Lo performance.

However, if you're looking for powerful pipes, you may be better off booking tickets for a different Las Vegas residency, as Lopez's vocals are often thin, somewhat pitchy, and unimpressive, albeit never outright unpleasant.


Early in his rap-singing career, Drake garnered a slew of criticism for his weak live vocals compared to his often-autotuned studio delivery — and he admitted that he couldn't sing well live, as evidenced here in these comparisons between his vocals with and without AutoTune.

He told Vibe in 2010, "I could never really take singing on the road the way I can take rapping on the road. I can't get on stage and blow people away with my range and vocals. I'm a studio singer because I can convey emotion and I have unique melodies, so that's kind of what I pride myself on, but that's where it stops ... Not to wish that I couldn't sing better."

However, Drizzy has improved thanks to vocal coach Dionne Osborne. Osborne told Jezebel in November 2014, "One thing we worked on right away was his live sound — he had this tone that he didn't use in his recordings, this thin tone to make the sound cut ... He was worried it wouldn't sound cool enough or hit hard enough live."

"Part of the problem was his approach physically," she added. "He'd be bending over to the floor and doing all of this crazy stuff and I'd be like, 'What are you doing? Your diaphragm is totally curled over.' We talked a lot about body structure, too ... We grounded his sound. Made him support more from the diaphragm and the lower abs."