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Ashlee Simpson and the Joys of Live TV

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The grim video footage is here.

Like Al says, part of the appeal of SNL is that, in the Eastern Time Zone at least, it really is live and things can and do go wrong. Take Ashleee Simpson’s second song Saturday night.

NBC’s SNL board has been burning up since the snafu with every manner of opinion on what “really” happened, but here is my take:

I saw the first song and she did sing it live. You can hear breathing and volume variability as a real person moves around and the mike varies in position relative to her mouth, and the musicality of the vocals vary throughout the performance also – ie, she hit some notes better than others. So this isn’t really much about lipsyncing. As the mistake revealed, there WAS a recorded lead vocal track at low volume, but she sang a live lead OVER that, which is kind of cheating but not terribly so.

Clearly for the second song the sound engineer screwed up and played the backing track to the song she had already performed. The band started playing along, she just didn’t know what 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 was that she was using a support track to go along with the live band and live lead vocals. Her sin was that she didn’t just take control, stop the band, tell the sound engineer to turn off the backing track, and tell everyone to start over again on the correct song, which I assure you her sister, a seasoned performer, a professional, would have done. Ashlee let the system and technology control her rather than she taking control of it.

She could have been a hero, a legend, even if the sound had been ragged – the cardinal rule of showbiz is that the show must go on and she failed that tradition.

Beyond that nightmare, it was a pretty good show, Amy Poehler has settled into the co-anchor spot on the news, Seth Myers is a great Kerry (whom they wailed on mercilessly last night, good to see some balance) and Will Forte is a good Bush (the nose isn’t right, but he captures the synaptic misfirings), and Jude Law was fine if not particularly memorable.

It shall be remembered as the night Ashlee freaked and we were reminded that live is LIVE.

See Dawn Olsen’s review of the Ashlee Simpson CD here.

Check out the evisceration Ashlee is taking from fans on her own site – that’ll teach ’em to allow unmediated comments.

The latest news including her Radio Music Awards performance here.

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About Eric Olsen

  • AmishHitman


    So, I logged into see that we all have varied “reviews”.

    But…the one point I wish to make is …”betrayal”. Miss Simpson sealed her fait into eternal stardom with the words “..My band played the wrong song….” Well, if ya missed it, be sure to watch the VH1 best Week Ever Show” to get the readied spoofs on that. Her “band” looked as shocked as everyone else, as she walked off stage.

    Hey, maybe it is that she is young and holds other things dear to her hart other then the one that make up the brunt of her “talent”. Let’s review a comment to Lucky Magazine “I’m going out to let my real talent show, not to just stand there and dance around. Personally, I’d never lip-synch. It’s just not me.
    – Ashlee Simpson

    I guess the next time I and my friends sit down to watch a “star”, we should just head down next Saturday night to the local bar and enjoy Karaoke Night. At least those folks don’t “blame the band”.

  • Anonymous

    She clearly was lip-synching during the first song…the heavy breathing was faked, and there was certainly no reason she would be out of breath because she didn’t do any moving around (unless the poor girl has asthma in addition to being unable to sing and dance). At one point, about 30 seconds before the end of the first song, if you look closely, you see her turn away from the microphone and remove the earpiece from her ear…the earpiece, one would assume, that was providing her with a vocal guide. As for the 2nd song, it’s clear that whoever was in charge of these things at SNL forgot to switch over to the second track…you can hear the first few words of her vocal LEAD before the backing track shuts off abruptly. Clearly, she was getting ready to “perform” the second song but upon hearing the first song’s playback, the band switched gears — and started to perform the same song again.

  • Eric Olsen

    As I said, she was singing along to a recorded backing, which included some “help” on the lead, but she was definitely singing.

    And yeah, her band did play the wrong song – because they were playing along to the backing track, which was to the wrong song. I agree blaming them was a cop out.

  • Eric Olsen

    If and when NBC, SNL or Simpson make an “official” announcement, please let me know


    Eric, you are getting excited over what should should be a guilty pleasure left hidden. Ashlee Simpson, her sister, and many of the “young grrl teenie divas” are produced and packeaged for 14-year old girls who don’t know any better. One service SNL does provide is in showing that many of these women are strictly studio talent, and their real vocals are weak and thin. C’mon, don’t buy into the hype. Sure, you want to like Ashlee, she has a kid sister appeal and looks good, but she’s flavor of the month. If you absolutely had to have her Cd, you could have waited and bought 1 of the 500 copies you will soon see at the Used-CD stores.

  • Shawn

    I was watching last night also. I have to disagree with your opinion that she did sing the first song live. I was watching with Tivo remote in hand, wondering if she would sound as bad as she did when she played the opening of the MTV Video awards. She didn’t, but that’s because the song sounded *exactly* like the album. They also shot her from very far away, and she kept botyh hands holding the microphone near her mouth. When they did cut to a close shot, she clearly wasn’t singing what we were hearing. After reading your post, I went back and rewatched, and I have to say that I *don’t* think that the first song was not her singing live.

  • Jim Carruthers

    I gave up paying attention to the “musical” “acts” appearing on SNL several years ago. For the most part, my reaction has been “who the fuck is that?” and “that sucks”. The show has just devolved into corporate shilling. Since we are only discussing where they fucked up only proves my point.

    And I really for once regret shutting off the teevee after “Weekend Update”, because that was laugh-out-loud funny, unlike the rest of the programme.

    Have they had a musical performer in the last two years who actually did anything?

  • jack e. jett

    me thinks that eric kinda has a crush on ashlee. i am gonna tell her after homeroom and see if she will go steady with you.

    jack e. jett

  • George

    From a friend who works at NBC in New York…

    What happened last night on SNL was that Ashlee Simpson got caught using pretaped vocals. Like you said, singers do pretape and then lip-sync on the air. Usually the show frowns on this but sometimes during rehearsal it becomes apparent that the performer needs it. I don’t know the specifics here but I’m told Simpson had prerecorded tracks for both songs she did last night. Her first song was called “Pieces of Me” and it went fine. Second song was supposed to be a new one called “Autobiography” but someone screwed up and they started playing “Pieces of Me” again. Big oops. Someone did a fast patch for the West Coast feed to make it less obvious what had happened but it wasn’t that the band started playing the wrong number. It was whoever was supposed to change the DAT or the CD or whatever her playback was on. I wasn’t there at the time but I can imagine they rejected the idea of editing in the dress rehearsal tape for the West Coast since it would betray the show’s “live” credo more than making a small audio edit. You’re right that they’ll probably edit the dress tape in when the show gets rerun unless the incident becomes too famous.

  • Puppets & Dancing Monkeys

    What’s funny is that no one is really looking at the big picture. We have allowed lip syncing to be the norm by letting people get away with it for too long. Ashlee is just the monkey dancing for the peanuts. We should be mad at the guy that turns the crank on the music box. Record labels no longer look for talent to dress up. They look for pretty faces to dress up with fake talent. And because some of us have been buying the junk, the sum have allowed the dealers to prosper.

    Now in regards to the show. Yes, yes, yes she was lip syncing. During the first song, you hear two voices singing the same part for a short period of time. Then the engineer cuts the real vocals and what we heard were the prefab’s. Now a days they use a track that sounds more live. The people in the studio will leave it a little dirty so that you hear the breathing, making it seem like it’s live. They won’t use the pitch correction (Antares Pitch Correction) to the degree that they would on a cd. It’s like the movie The Matrix where they talked about how they built a perfect matrix and people rejected it because it was too perfect so the built an imperfect one. Eric, the truth of the matter is that when you write a song, you don’t use back ups till the chorus to add harmony’s usually. If they decided to do that (doubling) we would’ve heard variations and anomalies in her vocal lines (phase cancelations). Playing the same notes on top of each other will create phase cancellations thus creating a chorus effect. That wasn’t there. Now in regards to her band. They were playing their instruments. You hear confusion/fidgeting from the guitars and bass. Once they realize that her backing track was playing the first song, they try to recover by going along with it. I give them some credit for being professional and sticking it out on stage without her. There have been plenty of times where stuff has happened to me on stage and you never stop. I’ve seen guitar players lose their guitar straps. I’ve seen singers fall in between speakers. I’ve seen drummers lose cymbals and none of them stopped and walked off stage. The guitar player played the rest of the set on his knees. The singer continued to sing with a broken leg and the drummer made do with what was left standing. And by the way, the thing that she pulls out of her ear is an in ear monitor. That is not an uncommon thing nowadays. It eliminates feed back on stage because you don’t have floor monitors leaking in to the microphones. They’re expensive but worth it if you value your hearing.

    The real reason we all hate the Ashlee thing is because we want our artists to be honest. We relate to songs because they speak of truths that we can relate to. Good or bad. When we learn that the artist lied, we feel betrayed. Even when we don’t listen to that artist. Even if her intentions were genuine, they’ll be forever cemented as fake. And when you see her working at Wal Mart next week, make sure you give her a hug because it’s over.

  • MT

    This is what happens when second rate — and I’m being generous — disposable “music” is presented.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks for all the input – George’s input seems to back up my assessment of the situation.

    I’m not trying to defend Ashlee, I thought I was questioning her professionalism and violation of the basic code of showbiz. As far as her beign the same as Jessica and the other pop tarts, Ashlee works in a more rocking vein and wrotes her own songs, seems a significant difference to me. I don’t particularly like her music, but I think you have to acknowledge hers is different, more like Avril and Liz than Jessica and Britney. And I didn’t review her album so positively, Dawn did.

    Re the lipsyncing: clearly she had a vocal track, but I still think she was also singing live on top of that. You wouldn’t have the overtone problems if the recorded track was significantly lower in volume than the live vocal. When the recorded vocal came in in the aborted second iteration, it was significantly lower than the lead the first time around.

  • Tom

    Hey, sorry for the multiple trackbacks here – I made a ton of updates to my original post and it kept coming back as not going through. Feel free to delete a few of ’em!

    Any word yet on Ms. Simpson’s scheduled performance this evening at the Radio Music Awards?

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks for the link and kind words Tom, much appreciated! I haven’t got to Ashlee yet today, but will soon, thanks again.

  • Robert Nagle

    Not that it really matters, but here’s a
    long reflection by a sound engineer about what probably happened .

  • Eric Olsen

    check out the evisceration she is taking from fans on her own site – that’ll teach ’em to allow unmediated comments.

    there is no indication on the site that her appearance on the Radio Music Awards has been cancelled

  • visualsimplicity

    Although, I do not like the recent incarnation of Jessica Simpson (I liked her old stuff better when she did mostly pop ballads, which made use of her booming voice), I feel I should defend the comment of Jessica lip synching. I’ve seen her live and she definitely doesn’t lip sing. The incident that I saw, her band started playing the music to “I Wanna Love You Forever” but there was a long pause while the music continued playing. Then she starts singing a few incorrect words and starts busting out laughing, informing us that she forgot the lyrics. Luckily that was only temporary, and the band restarted the song and she kicked right into the song correctly. No lip singing there. Just wanted to inform the misinformed.



  • Eric Olsen

    goes without saying, Bricky, did you catch the gaffe?

  • Eric Olsen

    Speaking of not lipsyncing, did anyone catch Donna Summer singing “God Bless America” at the World Series last night? I am so sick of that song I could expire, but her version was so outstanding I actually heard the song as if for the first time. I couldn’t speak for a few moments afterward. There is a woman who can sing.

  • Mark Saleski

    hey, i turned on the tube just when James Taylor started singing…then i read this morning that the Standells did ‘Dirty Water’.

    did that make the telecast?

  • Eric Olsen

    I didn’t switch to the game until after it had started, and then went back and forth because Dawn and Lily were watching ‘The Hollow” on ABC Family, a “retelling” of the Headless Horseman saga, complete with Backstreet Boys and a deranged Stacy Keach as Ahab.

  • Matt S.

    people are blowing this way out of proportion. people do make mistakes and its completely normal. ashlee and the whole crew are human beings like us. are you guys telling me that you never make mistakes? yah…thats what i thought. people need to stop judging ashlee. i still think ashlee is chill. and my friend david gasteyer from warner bros (work)is friends with the bass player of ashlee and he told me that the drummer was the one who messed up. like i said, hes only human. and ashlee did have acid reflux. if you guys watched her show on mtv you would know that she has that problem. so leave her the fuck alone and let her entertain her fans and america with her music. oh yah..shes suppose to perform at the Radio music awards tonite at be sure to watch it cause it should be pretty interesting.

    let me know about what you think.

  • Eric Olsen

    all true Matt, but she still broke the cardinal rule of showbiz: the show must go on, she could have rescued a bad situation but instead she choked. that’s what this is really about, I think. she’s luck she has a chance to partially redeem herslef tonight, before all of this sinks in and she becomes Janet Jackson sans 20-year portfolio


    Like the fair, raven haired maiden Ms.simpson, I too, have suffered from the horrible affliction of Acid Reflux. This is a real and horrible illness! Instead of insulting this delightful pixie, we should ALL be rushing to her aid and defense! With open arms to offer comfort and support! There have been many a day, when I too, felt as if I could not perfrom my job due to this debilitating problem. But unlike the demur and angelic Ms. Simpson, I was not blessed with good looks or vocal ability, and thus, I still had to go to my soul stealing place of employment to engage in my menial life’s work. But oh, how I wished I could have walked off the job too!!!!!! Even now, I feel the stinging acid rising up my wind pipe, but I must, MUST I say, suppress the corroding liquid, and send it back to the black and hot pit of my stomach, so that I may continue to defend the honour of this enchanting muse and songbird! If you have but one shred of dignity and integrity, you will join me in offering your prayers and support for this diminutive chanteuse.

  • Eric Olsen

    fie upon the agonies and indignities of digestive malfunction!

  • The Theory

    the worst part was not her running of stage like a newbie. It was her blaming the band on tv. c’mon. have some professional courtesy. even if it was the drummer, it’s classless to do it on tv rather than working it out afterword without involving the cameras and press.

  • Eric Olsen

    Theory, agreed, that made a bad situation worse

  • Eric Olsen

    Did anyone catch the Radio Music Awards performance?

  • andy marsh

    Eric – I heard pieces of it on my local radio station this morning…I can’t speak for the entire performance, but the piece they played didn’t sound all that good.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Andy, I wonder how “live” it was

  • DeansRedHalo

    It’s quite simple, really. Don’t do anything in the studio you couldn’t do live.

    And yes, that includes having to sing over a lead track. I’d rather her just suck and blame it on the acid-reflux than change her story every 12 seconds.

    I saw Kid Rock once and he supposedly had laryngitis. When he came out and performed, it was very apparent he DID have laryngitis and yet he still put on a greatly entertaining show, using backup singers, cutting songs short, and whatever else means necessary to make it through his set. However, his intensity never once dropped off and the crowd really seemed to appreciate that. Oh, and the last time I checked, I’m almost certain his voice takes quite a bit more of a beating than Ashlee’s.

    My two cents…peace out.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks DRH, your first line would eliminate the majority of pop recordings!

  • Jim Carruthers

    What I really like is her father’s statement today, that she hasn’t done anything like flash her tits, or be anything like Courtney Love, or take drugs, or anything, or do those crimes like getting sushi and not pay.

    So, in other words, she doesn’t do anything.

    Yah, that’s something to defend.

  • mike

    You say you saw the first song and she did sing it live. How could she when she said her voice was gone. Did it disappear between songs? The soundman messed up. She and her record company said the drummer hit the wrong button. She is nothing but a made up talent who appeals to 12yr olds who know nothing about music. Pro Tools and an Antares pitch corrector and anybody can be a singer. Believe me I have seen it more than once.




  • Ray

    Eminem was clearly lip-syncing Mosh on SNL a week after Ashlee. No big deal I just wondered why no one said anything about that.

  • Alexandra

    Ashlee is awesome in everything!!!
    Well mabe she lip sync that night but WHO CARES??? A lot of artists do this so I dont understand why is this becoming such a big problem!
    Anyways this is not funny neither 4 her or her fans… so leave her alone!!!

    Love U ASH

  • MTX

    People need to get over what happened on SNL because people make mistakes. Some people who says stuff about Ashlee are sooo dumb, sitting there wasting air by breathing it and doing nothing! It’s not like you have an album out or did anything so why should you talk smack about someone when you can’t do half of the stuff they do.
    Ashlee Simpson is the BEST!

  • Eric Olsen

    I thought it exceptionally odd that SNL included her “incident” when they repeated the episode last Saturday. I have no idea what they hoped to prove or gain by this

  • Bob A. Booey


    Especially for a repeat, I think that’d be one of the primary reasons anyone would watch the episode, maybe also since Jude Law was just named “Sexiest Man Alive for Hausfraus” or whatever that silly thing was.

    Why would they edit it out? It was embarrassing, but not offensive or scandalous.

    What is offensive and scandalous is how bad and consistently bland SNL has been for 15 years. I can’t see how anyone can still watch it regularly.

    Censorship rules! Go Team America.

  • troy

    ashlee simpson,how many chances is this girl going to get? I think she should do everybody and herself a favor and give up her so called career and put us out of misery and try and find another career, there are other professions out there that do not require any tallent.

  • Sword

    Eh. I like Ashlee Simpson. Some of her songs get annoying and her voice gets raspy after a while, but I have acid reflux too. It hurts like a son of a bitch and, me being the lovley (Eh… people say it’s lovley o.O) singer I am, couldn’t sing without sounding like a cat from hell being murdered in the shower.

  • Frank

    Ashlee is a pawn and disgrace in the music indistry. The music idustry is getting these kids who look like ken or barbie and force feeding this on the public. She has very little talent. The kind of budgets behind her in the studio are insane. The lala song, that is some lame writing fro the money they put into that. Ashlee sucks and so do the ecording industyr for ripping off the public, but the public deserves it cuz they keep buying this garbage. Hopfully in a few years a new tren will come around, onr called real talent, not getting a deal because you are 15 and ken are barbie look alike,,

  • Nick Lachey

    Ashlee Simpson is a fake pop tart who does not deserve the attention she is getting. So stop giving it to her. it doesn’t matter if she sings live, lip synchs or smokes marijuana through her asshole… she sounds bad all the way around. Her target audience consists of kids too young to appreciate musical skill and talent. Kids brains latch on to music that is easy for them to understand. And is generally not developed, just like they’re brains. So let them enjoy they’re NKOTB and Ashlees and Jessicas. They’ll grow out of it. And Ashlee will become too old to sing about junior high issues. And the world will forget her just like Tiffany. Give the poor kid a break. She’s just soakin’ up her 15 minutes in the sun.