Ashlee Simpson Returned to ‘Saturday Night Live’ After Lip-Sync Humiliation

‘It was a humbling moment for me’
Ashlee Simpson Returned to ‘Saturday Night Live’ After Lip-Sync Humiliation

Of all the hosts and musical guests who have appeared on Saturday Night Live for the past fifty years, Ashlee Simpson earned the indignity of making Cracked’s top five for people the show hurt more than it helped. The blame should go to the SNL engineer who pressed the wrong button — the wrong lip-sync track played on live television, causing Simpson to dance awkwardly before giving up and leaving the stage. America was left to believe that Simpson couldn’t be trusted to hit the right notes during a live performance. How does a 20-year-old come back from this kind of public humiliation?

Simpson recently discussed the debacle on the Broad Ideas With Rachel Bilson & Olivia Allen podcast, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. For starters, she cleared up the misconception that she was incapable of singing live — or rather, she explained the reason she couldn’t sing on that night in particular. “I had done my rehearsal the night before and then I woke up the next day and I couldn’t speak,” Simpson explained. “I saw the voice doctor that day and I had two nodules beating against each other. That day I said, ‘I will not go on, I don’t care. I can’t speak.’ Meanwhile, I’m not saying this. I’m writing it down, because I can’t talk.” 

But according to Simpson, her label didn’t want her to back out of one of the highest profile gigs in music. They wouldn’t force her to sing — she couldn’t sing — but the label did encourage her to lip-sync instead. Simpson had a bad feeling about that plan: “My band’s never practiced this, this is not going to go well. I can’t do this."

But she did it. And what people don’t remember is that earlier in the show, she performed her hit “Pieces of Me” without a hitch. But when she returned to mouth the words of “Autobiography,” the dreaded “technical difficulties” did her in. “It was a humbling moment for me. I had the No. 1 song and everything was about to go somewhere. And then it was just like, whoa. The humility of not even understanding what grown-ass people would say about you, grown-ass men, awful awful things. It was so hard to learn how to tune that out, to find my strength, to get up and go again.”

You couldn’t blame Simpson if she never wanted anything to do with Saturday Night Live again but she was back one year later to sing for real. “That was f***ing scary to do,” she says, but “having the show at that time was nice because all the people that were my fans stuck with me.”

Why don’t those clips get shared online? Simpson would like to know. “Do you know what’s funny? I went back to SNL with my second album, and I can’t find it anywhere,” she said. “I’ve searched and searched for that performance and I can’t find it.” (Minor point: SNL doesn’t have videos for either year’s performance on its YouTube channel, or most music performances for that matter, due to the cost of music rights. All musical performances are absent from the Peacock episodes. Even fan clips get pulled for the same reasons. But still.)

With that SNL disaster 20 years behind her, would she do anything different in retrospect? Simpson says she learned to embrace the power of no. “The power of me saying absolutely not... that's what I would go back and say."


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