Monday, October 25, 2004


"The secret of drama is
To make the expected into the unexpected."
Peter Lorre
'Route 66'

Ashlee Simpson had a microphone malfunction on 'Saturday Night Live', scurrying off stage when a production glitch caught her lip-synching the wrong tune.

Simpson, who is the younger sister of singer and TV star Jessica Simpson, sounded great belting out "Pieces of Me" in her first segment on the show. And now we know why - lip-synching!

It was the same song that she butchered at August's MTV Music Video Awards, drawing withering reviews for a flat, out of key performance.

But when she came out to debut the song "Autobiography" for a second set, the hell of live TV bit her in the ass. Whoever was responsible for piping in a studio-engineered rendition for Simpson to mouth screwed up, playing "Pieces" once again.

D'OHHHHHH! (as another Simpson would say.)

Simpson hopped around briefly, looking like a badly manipulated marionette. Then she got off the stage with her tail between her legs as her band half-heartedly faked away. Luckily, mercifully, for them, the show finally cut them off and went into the salvation of a commercial.

When the cast of the live show came out to bid the audience good night, actor Jude Law tried to explain Simpson's slipup."What can I say folks, live TV," Law shrugged.

''Exactly,'' Simpson said. ''I feel so bad. My band started playing the wrong song. I didn't know what to do so I thought I'd do a hoedown.'' A still-humiliated Simpson apologized to her fans - and blamed her band for playing the wrong song.

What might hurt her most about the incident is that she bragged in print about how she hated the practice of lip-synching. "I'm totally against it and offended by it," she said in the magazine "Lucky". "Personally, I'd never lip-synch. It's just not me."

She said, "I'm going to let my real talent show, not just stand there and dance around."

With the technical glitch, she was exposed as not having any real talent and in the end she couldn't even pull off the dancing around.

I had taped the show because I was going to be at work at that time. The story was in the Sunday morning New York Daily News, so I was prepared to see it. Now, I'm one who relishes the sense of scheudenfreude, (forgive me if I spelled that wrong!) that particular delight in the misfortunes of others. And yet even I was left uncomfortable seeing her squirm about onstage, not knowing what to do. But them's the breaks when you try to force yourself onto the public as a "pop star singing sensation" by riding on the dubious coat-tails of your older sister. (And whether or not Jessica Simpon's talented is something I can't figure out.)

It didn't take long for critics to vent their rage on Ashlee Simpson's official Web site.

"Finally, you're exposed for the fraud that you are," wrote an E-mail poster named drdrewby minutes after the embarrassing performance. "You have cheated your fans and people who actually thought that you had a lick of talent. You should quit the music business because you are now and always will be a complete and utter joke."

Said CowboyJeff99: "I knew she sounded like crap live, so I was 'wondering' what was going on when her voice sounded just like the radio edit."

On, Michael Allison wrote:

"Concerts and television broadcasts should be required to specify when a performance is not LIVE both vocally and visually. I've been sitting here for twenty minutes trying to figure out a politically correct and kind phrase to serve as the disclaimer for this new rule, but so far I've come up empty.

No one is going to warn viewers or concert attendees that their performance is going to be lip-synched. Perhaps they could label it a "dramatic performance" which would at least admit that they are 'acting' like singers, without actually singing.

Obviously this wouldn't apply to scripted television (such as sitcoms) and movies where the audience expects to see acting and special effects, but when someone gets on stage at a concert or televised show (SNL, award shows, Variety shows, etc) there is an expectation of a genuine musical performance.

Live should mean Live, and if it's not live be honest about it!"

And on the Idiot's Delight Digest, my fellow Iddiot, Tim Hibbs wrote:

"Personal to Ashlee Simpson:

Blaming your band for your lip-syncing breakdown on SNL was weak, girlfriend. Judging from the scuttlebutt I heard my daughter and her friends tossing around this morning, you’d better do some damage control quick before you totally lose your tweens. Right now, they feel like you’re a big phony. And by damage control, I mean SING THE FREAKING SONGS LIVE!!! Jeez, compared to what you did Saturday night, Avril looks like Lou Reed.

Rolling Stone’s David Wild had the best line about your second SNL “song” on this morning’s 'Today' show: “It was like watching the Zapruder film of lips-yncing- you couldn’t believe you actually seeing what you were seeing.”

Catch a clue from your big sis who, underneath all the tuna and buffalo wings jokes, really can sing. Who knows, maybe you can, too, but we’ll never know unless you actually try it live. Talk it over with your 'fatherger' and give the band a big fat raise."

Blaming the band at the end, that's what bugged me the most. I have no trouble with the notion of lip-synching. It's an accepted fluke in the TV Universe, right up there with vocal dubbing. Unlike the real world, there are those people in Toobworld whose lips don't match up to what they are actually saying.

And it's not like I would hold her totally responsible. I'd also lay some blame on Lorne Michaels. I've always had this image of him - and I can't say whether there is any truth to it, - as a tight-ass control freak on that show. Now, the regular cast would probably adhere to his rules; they're under contract and most likely wouldn't want to damage their future careers.

But as we've seen in the past, the musical performances - when they're actually "live", - are something that's outside of his control once they're in progress. The two best examples are of Elvis Costello changing songs without warning on air, and Sinead O'Connor tearing up a picture of the Pope at the end of her song and declaring the Pontiff as the real enemy.

Like Mr. Allison noted, lip-synching on a show that's supposed to have a live, anything-can-happen atmosphere - a show that even has "Live" in the title! - is fraud. But for Michaels, at least he can keep it under his thumb that way.

But what do I know?

At any rate, to pass the buck and play Beat Down The Band...... There was enough time before the end of the show for everybody to realize that the audio glitch had been obvious to all, that the empress was wearing no clothes. And yet Ashlee Simpson tried to continue with the lie and topped it off by shifting the blame to her band-mates in an effort to make it look like it was still a live performance.

If I was in her band, I'd tell her to go bleep herself and quit. It was the ultimate insult and would damage my credibility as a musician if I stayed.

But as Dennis Miller would say, that's my opinion; I could be wrong.

At least we now know that 'Saturday Night Live' still has some oomph in the TV Universe after all these years. The story was picked up world-wide and Simpson is being raked over the coals for the fraud she is.

This came from, a site out of India:

"Even as she took her position, the first track started playing again, words and all. As she awkwardly looked around while 'her voice' from Pieces… played on, the studio audience, as well as the world watching the popular television show, burst into raucous laughter.

The 'manufactured MTV darling', said the Boston Herald, has been exposed as a lip-syncing fraud.

The band tried hard to suddenly look like they were rocking appropriately to the music, a task admittedly difficult when trying to play a softer song. A clueless Ashlee tried to gyrate painfully to the music, with an impromptu hoedown, and, after 35 seconds of the humiliaton, scampered off stage."

"Raucous". "Awkwardly". "Clueless". "Painfully". I could just picture that reporter and editor gleefully skimming through a thesaurus for the most cutting of words.

Well, she's performing tonight on NBC at the Radio Music Awards - that is, if she shows up. If for no other reason, NBC should get big ratings thanks to all the people who will tune in just to see if she has the guts to make the appearance.


(My thanks to the New York Daily News for the original news item.)

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