Beyonce Cancels Shows: Dehydration and the Voice

About Dr. Reena Gupta

Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at OHNI. Dr. Gupta has devoted her practice to the care of patients with voice problems. She is board certified in otolaryngology and laryngology and fellowship trained in laryngology, specializing in the care of the professional voice.

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Beyonce announced the cancellation of a show in Belgium.  The May 14, 2013 show was cancelled under doctor’s orders, reportedly due to “exhaustion and dehydration.”  But the rumor mill churned out tales of pregnancy, and speculation began as to whether or not this was the real reason for the cancellation.

Can dehydration and exhaustion affect the voice?

How does dehydration affect the voice?

Hydration is extremely important to vocal function.  The vibrating layer of the vocal cords is called the superficial lamina propria (SLP).  While the scientific name is complex, the concept is that this gelatinous layer, located under the vocal cord lining (epithelium), is responsible for vibrations of the vocal cords.  Vibrations are what produce sound; therefore, keeping the SLP fluid is critical.

The SLP is responsible for the vibrations seen in the vocal cords in this video of the singing voice.

Mucous is normally produced by salivary glands in the body, including those located in the larynx.  The mucous will be thick or thin according to the amount of fluid in the body.  The more hydrated the person, the thinner the mucous and the less likely it would be to cause interruptions in sound.

There are many remedies that circulate throughout singing circles about quick fixes and ways to make the voice work.   Advice spans from tea with honey to steroids to silence the day of a performance.  One of the few that is actually true is that drinking fluids helps the voice.

How does exhaustion affect the voice?

Singing is an athletic task.  Singers function muscularly like athletes, using lungs, muscles of breathing, and muscles of voice support to their maximum capacity.  It requires significant muscle strength, breath support, and energy to sing professionally.  Exhaustion, when significant, limits the ability to access the energy needed to drive healthy sound.  When this happens, the singer relies on accessory muscles to produce sound and this increases the risk of injury dramatically.

Resting before a performance and performing while healthy are critical for injury prevention.

What does this mean for Beyonce?

While it is not useful to guess whether the cited reason for cancellation is true, it is fair to say that this is a reasonable explanation for a cancelled performance.  It remains to be seen if, in reality, she is pregnant but even if she is, that too  is a reasonable explanation for a cancelled performance.  Regardless of the reason, fans of Beyonce would agree that the show goes on when it can.  The athleticism and vocalizing that her shows require would demand she be in good health so it behooves us to wait for her to feel ready to perform so we can fully enjoy her musical gift.

Read patient stories about Dr. Reena Gupta from The Division of Voice at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute.

To learn more about the voice, click here.