So I was watching Saturday Night Live the other night - September 10, 2005 - and it was a rerun of an episode that first aired on October 23, 2004. The episode took place when the 2004 elections were right around the corner and several of the sketches of the night were centered around the Presidential election - one of which was a hilarious debate sketch where "John Kerry" repeatedly made every issue have something to do with Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter and "President George W. Bush" constantly referred to the billions and billions of times Kerry voted for tax increases.
But this episode of SNL was not remembered for its humorous election sketches. It was an incident of what I'm sure some consider a bit of unintended humor. It was an incident that involved their musical guest of the evening, Ashlee Simpson.
She is the little sister of Jessica Simpson (born on October 3, 1984 in Dallas, Texas), who, before attempting a musical career, was most noted as a regular guest as Simon Camden's girlfriend - Cecelia Smith - on the hit television show "7th Heaven." That was when she was blonde. I'm not sure which is her natural hair color, but after leaving the show her hair became dark - almost black - and she recorded an album - Autobiography.
To promote the album - and the "hit" single off of it, "Pieces of Me," she went on SNL. Predictably, her first performance of the night was of that single, the only song 99% of the human population had ever heard from her. Most hard core music enthusiasts dismiss Ashlee Simpson of being just another pretty pop star with marginal talent - at best - and they don't think much better of her sister, whose coat tails she undoubtedly rode into the recording studio. However, her performance wasn't altogether terrible. Maybe average. It didn't get the crowd getting up and dancing but it didn't have them wanting to boo her offstage, either. (Which did happen later during a horrible performance at a football game halftime show.) No, she wasn't completely clueless on how to work the crowd, she danced around a little and looked cute enough. But this performance wasn't what everybody was talking about the next day around the water cooler.
Near the end of the episode, as with most SNL installments, the musical guest (Simpson in this case) came on for an encore performance. Then, something odd happened. When the music began, it was from the song she'd already sung, "Pieces of Me." It was supposed to be "Biography," which was to be her next big single. Then, even more strange, the visibly confused Ashlee Simpson didn't move her lips as she began singing the song. Er, as a recording of her began singing the song. Yes, right before the eyes of millions of live American viewers, the fact that she lip synchs was seemingly exposed. What did she do? Instead of going with it, which might have been a better thing to do, she danced around a little, half-confused, half-embarrassed, and then walked off stage. Her band, not knowing what the hell else to do, continued playing (or fake playing - they looked like they might have really been playing, but oh well). But it wasn't long before the whole nightmare faded to an SNL commercial bumper of the night featuring a photo of Jude Law, the host.
"What can I say, folks, live TV," quipped Law at the end of the show during the usual gathering of the entire cast before ending credits roll. Simpson then had the gall to blame her band, giggling and explaining that they had began playing the wrong song. Roll those credits.
Later, fans demanded an explanation. Then 19-year-old Simpson, with the help of her father, claimed she had been suffering from acid reflux disease and had a backup vocal track playing to help mask any time she might have been croaking through the song. And this practice is not a new thing, lots of artists do it, particularily on SNL, which will be news to some of you, not to others. Of course, despite this fact, the cynics and detractors who had already decided they hated Ashlee thought that was a bunch of b.s. and declared her a lip syncher and nothing more, akin to the likes of Milli Vanilli. I have a different opinion.
Don't get me wrong. I think Ashlee Simpson is a no-talent hack who would not have a major recording contract if not for her sister and the fact that she was a mildy talented actress on a WB show. Her voice, while not awful, would never have gotten her past the first episode of American Idol. There's no range, at least not in what I've heard, and any singing talent she does have relies mostly on how she can yell, and sometimes scream (as in the song "La la") with attitude. I would compare her to Courtney Love, but Simpson is much better than Love. The problem is that'd be fine for a female lead singer in an alternative or hard rock or metal band, but she's supposed to be a solo female artist and her band is just there to provide some music to go along with her vocals. You're supposed to have wonderful talent like Jewel, Lisa Loeb, or Alicia Keys if you're going to go that route (don't get me started on Britney Spears).
BUT (and you knew a but was coming) having the benefit of already knowing what had happened, I listened carefully to her first performance of the night and I believe everything her and her father have claimed. I could hear double singing during the first few lines of "Pieces of Me." I could her the backup track playing. She was not lip synching. She was doing exactly what she claimed, singing over a pre-recorded track. She might have actually had acid reflux disease, too. But she really did sing, I could hear it. Largely, it did not sound like the studio performance; it was not perfect, it had enough randomness to where it sounded like any other live performance I've ever heard. Trust me, if she really had wanted to be a fraud and be lip synching everything, they would have gotten somebody much better to do the "real" singing. I think Ashlee Simpson was screwed over by an extremely ill-timed brain fart by an SNL sound engineer (or the drummer in the band, as her father claims) who played the wrong backup track, and her musical career, such as it was, was derailed, and I have sympathy for her despite my opinion about her supposed talent. I have not heard "Pieces of Me" or any other song by her on the radio since the SNL incident. I have sympathy because she was well on her way to possible megastardom and lots and lots of money, something I think we'd all love to have despite whether or not we think we deserve it, and that dream could have quite possibly been shattered forever by a moron. That one little incident has sent her on a downward spiral she may not be able to escape from. Case in point: the horrific football game performance I mentioned earlier where she screamed one of her songs which sounded like somebody beating a cat to death.
This may sound really strange to you, but I wish her all the luck even though I think she sucks. If there are people out there who consider what she does good music, then they deserve to spend all their money on her crappy albums and Ashlee deserves all of that money those idiots are spending. If the people want to hear it, play it, despite how much it sucks, and that is the way it works. Problem is with Ashlee, they may not want to hear it anymore. Let's see how her new single "Boyfriend" does. (She's blonde again - maybe it'll help).
RACECAR says "hey, I don't know much about (Ashlee Simpsson), but I think I read somewhere that her album went platnium in two days? Also she hit #1 on Billboard?"
That's very possible, RACE, very possible indeed.
Sources: IMDB.com and I got a few tidbits from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6322824/. But most of this came from my own knowledge gathered from watching the SNL episode (and 7th Heaven) and listening to her crap on the radio.