Continuing with our series of most infamous music moments in the history of Saturday Night Live, we’re revisiting Ashlee Simpson’s brutal moment of lip-syncing panic.
Saturday Night Live, the now-iconic late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show, has been running prolifically each week since launching in 1975. Having triumphed some of the most legendary comedians over the years, SNL has had a long tradition of welcoming a wide range of eclectic musical artists to arguably the most high-profile stage in television.
Each episode features a musical guest, in the shape of a solo act or a band, who will then perform two or three tracks after being introduced by the host of the show. Make no mistake about it, being booked to perform on SNL can make or break a musician.
It is safe to say, Simpson’s appearance falls into the category of people who suffered the career collapse on the biggest stage out there.
In 2004, when booked to perform two songs on the show, Simpson ran through a rendition of her single ‘Pieces of Me’ without a hitch. However, when the pop star returned to the stage to run through the title track of her debut album, Autobiography, things took a turn for the worst. While the band began to play the song, the vocals for the first track began to play and Simpson paused in horror. The lip-syncing plot had collapsed.
Clearly panicking, Simpson looked around at the band with the microphone held by her side with the vocals beating out unnervingly loud. After pulling off a series of improvised dance moves, she walks off stage and producers cut the performance and head to a commercial.
Returning at the end of the show alongside host Jude Law, Simpson passed off blame onto her band: “I feel so bad,” she said to the camera. “My band started playing the wrong song, and I didn’t know what to do, so I thought I’d do a hoedown. I’m sorry. It’s live TV. Things happen. I’m sorry.”
However, in the days that followed, Simpson was quoted by MTV as claiming to have lost her voice because of acid reflux and, under doctors orders, was ordered to use a backup track: “It’s so embarrassing because it sucks,” she said. “The total situation was a bummer. I made a complete fool of myself.”
With the media furore not slowing down, the singer then took to her official website to admit to lip-syncing: “I can’t cancel something like SNL,” Simpson apparently wrote: “You and I know that even if I synched on it or not, I’d still get seen by millions, maybe even make a few more fans.
“I’ll hold my head high and say I think it was silly of me to do it, silly of me to blame the band, I was just so fucking embarrassed. But I don’t think it did me much harm, and people will see that soon.”
Years later Simpson was able to move on from the incident and, while being interviewed by E, she said: “It’s definitely not difficult to talk about. That was a very long time ago. It’s something that happened to me and things in life happen, and they make you stronger. They make you a better performer and a better person. I think things like that build your character and your strength, and it’s how you handle them [that matters.]”
She added: “I was a teen, an angsty girl on my show back in the day and now I’m a woman and a mother. I want people to know where I’m at and who I am in my life.”
See the clip below… if you can manage to watch it all.