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Obama's Hit Parade

Stocks in this article: SNE

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Beyonce and the Marine Corps Band lip-synched the National Anthem at the presidential inauguration Monday.

Do I care? Not really. My question is, what the hell was she doing there in the first place?

As tacky as lip-synching seems, it's understandable. Nobody wants to flub such an important moment. In fact Yo-Yo Ma and his pals -- all much more highly trained, talented and experienced as performers than Beyonce -- did the same thing during the first Obama inauguration.

Cold weather can do strange things to the voice or the tuning of an instrument. Millions of people watching; the brand new president of the United States standing over your shoulder as you sing the National Anthem; your performance guaranteed to be rebroadcast on TV news and YouTube for years. You don't want to leave a moment like that to chance.

So I can overlook the lip-synching. What's more disturbing, what I find harder to forgive, is the programming emphasis on pop music performers, including Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson, at the ceremony and elsewhere.

The parties before and after were saturated with pop acts, anchored, like shopping centers, by some of the top names in music retail: Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Marc Anthony, Usher and -- the topper -- at the private gala for the president and his staff, Lady Gaga. The amateur video clip below is one of many from the private event available on YouTube.

Nothing against any of those folks, individually. I don't mind a musician making it big. But as a group, they represent a buy-in to a highly commercialized view of culture that panders to the lowest common denominator, the most sensational and the most popular, a model propagated by the likes of Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi (VIVEF:OTC) and Sony Music Entertainment, a division of Sony Corporation of America (SNE).

Those two companies represent all the artists I've named so far. Companies like that have hundreds of employees that need to be paid; big name acts -- mostly pop stars -- make enough money to do that.

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