October 31, 2004
Fake America: Ashlee vs. Eminem +
It's a sad commentary on the state of music in America when in October 2004, one of America's hottest stars, promoting a new album, shows up on the program, and -- rather than dazzling the audience with passion and talent -- relies on a backing vocal track, and then even screws up the lip-synching, destroying whatever small illusion of authenticity there may have been in the first place.
Two weeks in a row.
This week's perpetrator: Eminem. You might have expected Eminem, who earned his reputation as a brash wise-ass, to have used his appearance on SNL this week to satirically eviscerate Ashlee Simpson for her inauthenticity and lack of artistic courage. Instead, he followed in her footsteps.
Eminem was clearly using a back-up vocal track during his rendition of "Mosh," and he even dropped the mike to waist level and stopped moving his lips while his voice, mysteriously, continued to emanate from the speakers. Sound familiar?
Here is a video clip that shows this clearly. [6 secs, 1mb] The clip highlights a single moment when it was blatant, but it was evident throughout the song what was going on.
In his second "performance" later in the show, Em relied less on the the backing track, but it was clearly present, especially during the more "lyrical" moments of the song.
Something is wrong when rappers need guide tracks. But maybe more importantly, something is wrong when an artist regarded as both an iconoclast and an authentic talent shows up on a show a week after the most fraudulent pop music moment in a decade, and, essentially, perpetrates the same fraud, in only a mildly less obvious way.
Will anyone hold him accountable? No. Will the forums on his website be overrun by outraged viewers? No. Why? Because he's a rapper and not a "real singer"? Because he's already earned his reputation as cool? Because he made a slightly more convincing attempt to half-heartedly "sing" alongside the track?
If nothing else, you used to be able to turn to Saturday Night Live for some decent live music: Neil Young, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, and Run DMC all delivered memorable performances on the show, performances that were notable for their authenticity and their energy. Over the last few years, though, SNL has yielded it's status as an oasis for good, live music on broadcast television.
Look, I know fakeness and the music industry go hand-in-hand, and have done so for as long as pretty much anyone can remember, but my point is two-fold: SNL used to be an escape from all of that, and Ashlee Simpson, of all people, should not be held to a higher standard than Eminem, just because his DJ pushed the right button.
Update (11/1/2004): The WENN gossip service has picked up the story. -ADM
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