Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ashlee Simpson is my schadenfreude

Some events - 9/11, JFK's assasination, the Challenger disaster, etc - we all remember watching it happen, or hearing about it. We remember where we were, what we were doing when it happened. This may or may not be one of them - Ashlee Simpson getting caught red handed with a vocal track - for the wrong song.

NEW YORK - Singer Ashlee Simpson's "extra help" may have been exposed when a "Saturday Night Live" audience heard her voice — singing the wrong song — while she held a microphone at her waist.

Her record company blamed a computer glitch and she blamed her band for Sunday morning's incident, which cut off her planned performance of the song "Autobiography" on the network comedy show.

Simpson had performed her hit single "Pieces of Me" without incident earlier in the show. When she came back a second time, her band started playing and the first lines of her singing "Pieces of Me" could be heard again.

She looked momentarily confused as the band plowed ahead with the song and the vocal was quickly silenced.

Simpson made some exaggerated hopping dance moves, then walked off the stage 35 seconds into the performance. NBC quickly cut to a commercial.

Contemporary Insanity has video of the incident and her blaming the band during closing credits.

Now, I don't think it's that big a deal for three reasons.
1. She isn't the first, and won't be the last, pop singer to lip synch during a TV performance, but read on for more on this.
2. I think she actually sang, and the vocal track was just there for support - for more on that, read on for the excerpt from
3. Her fan base probably doesn't care. People who care don't listen to Ashlee Simpson.

That said, I still think it's crappy. I don't care about lip synched performances per se. A lot of pop artists have vocal tracks because they do high-intensity choregraphed moves on stage, and it's impossible to lose breath and sing at the same time. Yeah, it is a bit disingenuous, but it's show business.

But Ashlee doesn't do choreographed moves. She stands on stage and hugs the mic (or hop in place when things get hairy). She is in no danger of losing her breath. Her entire claim to fame in being the younger, less attractive, smaller breasted sister of another pop singer, who herself had barely a career until she played a dumb blonde on Newlyweds. Her voice isn't special, even with the help of studio magic. How much worse could her voice be without a (backing) vocal track?

Blogcritics has a good take on it:
I saw the first song and she clearly did sing it live. When you can hear breathing, volume variability as a real person moves around and the mike varies in position relative to her mouth, and the musicality of vocals vary throughout the performance - ie, she hit some notes better than others - so this isn't really about lipsyncing at all. The recorded vocal track was support, backup, not the primary lead.

Clearly for the second song the sound engineer screwed up and played the wrong backing track, which included the backing vocals. The band started playing along, she just didn't know what the hell to do, because SHE HAD ALREADY DONE THIS SONG. She sort of danced around, tried to say/sing something, then gave up and walked off camera.

The sin wasn't that THE GREAT INDESCRETION OF LIPSYNCING ON SNL WAS REVEALED. All that was revealed is that she was using a backing track to go along with the live band and lead vocals; her sin was that she didn't just take control, stop the band, tell the sound engineer to turn off the freaking backing track, and tell everyone to start over again. that is what a seasoned performer, a professional, would have done. She could have simply started singing the correct song and the band would have joined in one way or another. She let the system and technology control her rather than she controlling it.

What he said.

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