How did a 26-year-old computer art student from Connecticut temporarily tarnish Beyoncé’s good name? Actually, it was quite easy. All it took was a little pitch-correction software and a plug from Howard Stern for Matthew Zeghibe’s YouTube creation to cause considerable consternation for the pop diva yesterday, as a viral video of Beyoncé seemingly singing nightmarishy off-key made its way around the Net. Zeghibe’s clip — which claimed to be the real soundboard recording of “If I Were a Boy” from a November 2008 Today show appearance — was somehow discovered by Stern’s staff, and the shock jock played it on his Sirius Satellite Radio program Tuesday.
“I don’t even listen to Howard Stern,” admits Zeghibe, a “secret fan of Beyoncé” who studied at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. “I was just trying to make a point. I wanted to show people how easy it is to manipulate someone’s voice. If I can do it with a clip I pulled off of TV, imagine what they are doing on records and during live performances. The entire industry has been so manipulated, because there’s such an emphasis on perfection, so when something like this happens, it causes such a stir.”
Zeghibe says he made the video in January, and posted it on his YouTube channel mostly just for his friends’ amusement. He had nothing against B, it was just that the clip was so crisp and the audio so clear, “I knew I could do what I wanted to do and get away with it.” Before Tuesday, a mere 25,000 people have viewed the clip. By the time it was removed from YouTube the next day, Zeghibe says it had registered over 100,000 views.
“I knew something had to have happened to make it jump so fast,” he recalls. “It’s wild how much the story’s been twisted. It’s just always been fun for me to manipulate artists, and make it sound crazy. It was just for a good laugh. It was a goof, just for fun. I do a lot of parodies on my YouTube channel, and it just so happens this one got a little out of hand.”
While Zeghibe says he hasn’t heard from Beyoncé’s camp about the video, he was certainly surprised by the reaction the video received from the singer and her father. Beyoncé told MTV News that the timing of the video was perfect, “because I’ll be on the Today show tomorrow singing ‘Halo,’ [and] tonight, you can watch me sing live on David Letterman! It’s perfect promotion, whoever came up with that idea.” (Beyoncé did indeed perform “Halo” on Letterman last night.)
Her father, Mathew Knowles, was less appreciative. “At 12 years into her career, the last thing someone should be questioning is her vocal ability,” Knowles said in a statement. “That would be like questioning if Kobe Bryant could shoot a jump shot. The vocals were obviously altered.”
“I’m happy I could stir up the mixing pot for her,” says Zeghibe, adding that he’s also given the same treatment in the past to Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears before admitting he feels no need to apologize for the hoax. “I was just what I’ve learned in school, and it’s fun I could fool so many people and get away with it. A lot of people had a lot of laughs because of it, so why should I apologize? If you can’t poke fun at yourself, I don’t know what kind of person you are.”