Monday October 25, 2004

Pieces of Me and, Uh, Pieces of Me... Again.

You know, I’m no Ashlee Simpson fan, but I can’t believe the public flogging that she is enduring due to Saturday night’s televised blunder.

I’ll admit that I had a hearty laugh at Ashlee’s expense, because it was such a colossal blunder involving yet another teen pop sensation who has risen too far too fast without mucking through the years of bad gigs that can prepare a real talent to cope with bloopers such as this. But all it takes is a quick rewind of the Tivo, or a look at the video online, to see where everything started going pear-shaped, and young Ashlee had nothing to do with it.

Really. Look carefully at the sequence of events. The first person to begin playing anything is her drummer. As he begins playing the drum part for “Pieces of Me,” you can clearly see Ashlee and some of the other band members turning to look at him as if to say. “Dude! What are you doing?” He’s supposed to be starting “Autobiography”, which sounds nothing like “Pieces of Me.” But he doesn’t stop playing. Then, no doubt cued up by a confused sound tech backstage, the backing vocals come up—except Ashlee isn’t ready to sing the same song over again. Who would be? So everyone realizes (except for, perhaps, El Drummer) that a major televised performace is going terribly wrong. Everyone is confused, and no one is taking the initiative to stop the train wreck. So as Ashlee does an admittedly bizarre dance, the remaining band members do probably the smartest thing they can do at that point: they begin playing the song that the drummer and vocal track have established. Ashlee makes her way offstage, realizing that the jig is up.

Mistakes happen, and certainly a more experienced musician may have taken control of the situation instead of walking away, but the backlash seems misdirected and unfair. Clearly, it is not Ashlee who began this chain of unfortunate events. Many vicious attacks have been made on her personal website about the vocal track, which is being interpreted by many as the “smoking gun”—proof that Ashlee is such a fabricated pop music puppet that she can’t sing her own songs live. I can’t confirm or deny her lack or presence of vocal talent, though it seems to be widely known that Ashlee has trouble singing live. I remember hearing an absolutely ghastly recording of one of her live performances. Regardless, what no one seems to be bearing in mind is that many singers use pre-recorded vocal tracks to beef up their voices for live performances. Music purists may cringe at such a practice, but it is nevertheless a standard technique. And even if she was full-on lipsynching, such a thing is not unheard of. The only difference here is that the singer got caught doing it. No one cares that Britney Spears and Janet Jackson regularly lipsynch their songs. If you are a fan of any pop singer, the chances are good that there has been at least one occasion on which you were fooled by lipsynching. Whether it was done because a rigorous dance sequence made it impossible to sing or whether it was because of a sore throat, the fact remains that lipsynching is nothing new in the world of music.

In the end, just remember that Ashlee is 17 years old and has only been performing for a very short amount of time. I can’t tell you how wrong I think that is, but it’s a very good reason to cut her some slack. Don’t you think she’s embarrased enough?

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