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October 31, 2004


Fake America: Ashlee vs. Eminem +

eminem and ashlee

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

What makes this fall from grace even worse for Eminem is his own personal history with amazing live performances on SNL. Five years ago, in October 1999, he appeared with Dr. Dre and performed the incredibly-hyper-fast chorus of "Forgot About Dre" from Dre's 2001 album (photos here). When the guy who is touted as the world's best rapper starts lip-synching on live TV, it's like a club just throwing on a mix CD instead of hiring an actual DJ. -Amy

categories: Culture, Music, TV
posted by adm at 3:42 AM | #

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This is just further evidence of the major culture degression occuring in the world. Eminem and Ashlee Simpson are great business products that produce products which earn money and people care less about anything more than that. This is evidenced in the Universities, the newpapers, the "in" crowd and the "out" crowd. Culture has fallen to the wayside as long as the product is NEW and SHINY. If the world were to be destroyed and everyone was sitting around a campfire, do you think any current pop star would sing out of love of their craft? These performers are not folk artists - they are a different, very rich, breed altogether.

Posted by: Jack at October 31, 2004 8:22 PM

Rappers have been using backing tracks for years back to the days of RUN-DMC and the Beastie Boys in the mid 80's. It was commonplace for these guys to rap over their lyrics in concert, hence two tables and a microphone. Not until LL went "Unplugged" with his live band did actual musicians appear onstage with rappers. In fact, I saw LL last year in concert and he is still using this technique. Eminem was actually singing over his own voice not lip-syching.

Posted by: Marvin at November 2, 2004 4:54 PM

Anyone that listens to Em- knows that his music is done in layers. Going through an entire track would leave him blue in the face and on the floor trying to catch his breath. Listen carefully to the song and you will notice a change in tone from one line to the next indicating that the track is pieced together almost as though his is doing his own background rapping.

Posted by: trekbaby at November 3, 2004 5:18 PM

Ya I listen to Eminem evryday only music I like along with the Dirty Dozen obviosly ya i think his music is pierced togther but i don't get were he wasn't singing he was lipping though because i went to one of his concerts in Chicago on July-12-05 at the tweeter center and his voice was all diffrent and the dj was making it so it sounded more like him so i do think he was singing it live hey can you guys post a link to the hole Mosh video were he screws up and puts the mic down for to long or E-mail it to me at Slimshady816@sbcglobal.net

-Please I am his biggest fan and it hurts to know this i just want to see it more carfully-

Posted by: Tomas Berrum at September 4, 2005 12:27 AM

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