By Steve Ryfle
Come on, everybody. Lay off poor lil' Ashlee Simpson
. Like nobody every lip-sync'd before.
Of course, most singers fake it much better than she does. When her drummer pressed a wrong button, and the wrong song started playing, Simpson did an awkward soft-shoe and then bounced offstage. Instead of laughing it off and starting over, she blamed her band for the gaffe. Oops, here comes bad Karma.
But the reaction of the press -- shocked, aghast, offended -- to this non-scandal has been simply overblown, stupid and silly. Simpson, and artists of her ilk, appeal to kids. And, like, seriously, do kids really care if a singer is lip-syncing or live?
"I knew she would get some flack but I never could have expected the reaction that would follow," says the webmistress of AshleeSimpson.net, a fan site.
She notes that many stories published in the aftermath of Simpson's lip-lock incident contained quotes from "haters" -- you know, kids who prefer Hilary Duff -- who flooded chat rooms on websites like hers with a barrage of negativity.
"That's where I think the huge outcry really came from," says the undisclosed webmistress. "Amongst the fans though, some stick up for her and some are disappointed. I think a lot of her fans are forgiving too, though."
Since when is lip sync-ing a crime? This art of pop pantomime, of mouthing the words to pre-recorded music tracks, has been around since the sixties and seventies, when it was de rigueur on variety TV shows, from Andy Williams' Christmas specials to "Donny and Marie." For technical reasons, it was easier for artists to pretend, rather than actually sing.
Nobody noticed, and even if they did, nobody seemed to care, when Deborah Harry or Barry White or Aretha Franklin did it on "Solid Gold" back in the eighties. There was even a syndicated show called "Puttin' On the Hits," and lip syncing was an accepted national hobby, sort a pre-Karaoke. But then came Milli Vanilli, and lip synchronization became a couple of dirty words.
Fab and Rob weren't just guilty of lip syncing, they were guilty of fraud, having sung nary a note on their album "Girl You Know It's True." But the stigma stuck, and since then lip syncing is considered a heinous crime, punishable by massive fan backlash.
So now, we have Elton John dissing Madonna for mouthing the words on her "Re-Invention" tour, and bleating, "Anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay 75 pounds [U.S. $134] to see them should be shot." Britney Spears won't admit it, but her manager says she uses a mix of live and pre-taped vocals. Beyonce was blasted after the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards for lip syncing, but she denied it. Even Pavarotti's longtime manager has said the Italian tenor has occasionally lip-sync'd when his lungs are tired.
All of which brings up a pressing question.