Q: Forgive me for still being in the thrall of Ashlee Simpson's lip- syncing embarrassment on "Saturday Night Live" last month. I could watch that clip over and over and over. It reminds me of something gone awry during the high school talent show, and how we cringed with pure ecstasy while some girl made an idiot of herself in front of the whole school.
Maybe I'm being "rockist" (a term Kelefa Sanneh of the New York Times used in the immediate Ashleemath, noting that American culture still has a bias toward white guys playing actual instruments while openly discriminating against poor, hardworking, lip-syncing pop tarts), but I can't help it: We didn't ask for Ashlee Simpson. She is a pure creation, nothing from nothingness, and it's no wonder that when her drummer pushed the wrong button, Ashlee danced her little jig and then fled the stage. Which leads us to this week's question -- put forward by me, since nobody else asked it: What's so wrong with lip-syncing anyway?
A: Nothing, if that's what we're paying for. This moment has been a long time coming in a milieu that insists that people should be able to dance vigorously and sing at the same time. Some Broadway actors manage to do it, but never mind. Madonna does it with help (her people call it "guide vocals"), as do Britney, Janet and Cher. Rather than admit that the real thing can't be done, these artists have continually charged ever higher prices for their "live" shows, on the presumption that simply being in the same pyrotechnic sports arena with them is pleasure enough. Anyhow, the lip-sync debate overlooks Ashlee's real crime -- the way she sauntered offstage, violating the almost sacred nature of live television. Performance standards may have slipped, but not that far. In our teleculture, creating dead air is still the worst expression of bad manners.
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