Monday, October 10, 2005

That's Entertainment?

Well, Ashlee Simpson made her "triumphant" return to Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Before I dive right into the pool of negativity, I will give her some props. I'm sure it did take a lot of guts to go back and perform on that show. She had to be prepared for the worst, especially after the Orange Bowl fiasco where she was basically booed offstage. Even if it was a calculated career move, even if her slimy stage dad told her he'd send her to bed without supper if she didn't do it, it was still a courageous move on her part and I commend her for it. And, to be quite honest, most of the viewers were probably relieved to see Ashlee after having to put up with boring, one-note host, Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder, whose 15 minutes should be up any second now.

HOWEVER. And you knew there would be a "however". Ashlee is just not a very good singer. I may have a little more respect for her now than I did before, but it doesn't change the fact that the girl should not be a recording artist. Watching her on SNL was almost like watching someone audition for American Idol. You know, the girl who can sing a little and maybe hit a few decent notes, but who you know Simon is just going to rip apart when she's done. Sure, she can sing better than me, but that's not really saying much!

I only had the stomach to watch Ash's first performance, the new song "Catch Me When I Fall". Supposedly she wrote it after her last appearance on SNL. I say supposedly because I wonder how much of a hand she really had in the composition. She co-wrote all of the songs on her last record, but was always listed last under the songwriting credits. So who's to say she didn't just come up with a line or two for each one? There isn't too much information available about the new album, so I can't say for sure right now if Ashlee's songwriting role has grown at all. Even if she did write this particular song all by herself, it's not much to brag about. Regardless of who wrote it, it was really her singing it on Saturday night. Again, not something really worth bragging about. Now, she's not the worst singer I've ever heard but she's certainly not someone who deserves to have a thriving career, making millions of dollars. She's average-girl cute and seems nice, but what does that have to do with music? The answer is, it has nothing to do with music but everything to do with the music business.

It used to be that the "music business" was for people who were in the business of making music. Today, it's for people who manufacture music to promote their business. Ashlee Simpson is not a musician. She is a business entity. She is a marketing tool for her record label. She is a walking, talking advertising ploy to get young people to open their wallets. She's a vessel for the pop-candy songwriting machine. The kind of music she performs is bland and unoriginal, but it's also inoffensive. There's not enough substance to it to really get anyone fired up enough to be against it. To her fans, Ashlee's songs are entertaining. To the rest of us, it's just background noise. Nothing to get in a big snit over.

This is how the music industry has become so screwed up. There are a truckload of "artists" just like Ashlee. There can only be one or two polarizing performers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. It's not profitable to keep creating acts in their image because for every rabid fan, there is one person who wants to see them dead. They're just as loved as they are hated. What the industry wants are those artists who can attract a loyal fan base, but fly under everyone else's radar. The labels have figured out that if they keep churning out this same kind of music, delivered by similar cute and peppy performers, they can fool the public into thinking that they're getting variety. And because all of it essentially sounds the same, fans will like it all and shell out the bucks to buy everyone's records. Don't agree? Listen to Ashlee's record back to back with her sister, Jessica's. There aren't many differences. They marketed Ashlee as more edgy and rock than Jessica's dance-pop, but don't be fooled by the guitars. Just because a song has heavy guitars in it, that doesn't make it "rock".

I'm interested to see how well Ashlee's new album sells. Her management was smart to make her the "opposite" of Jessica for her debut. The record company knew that people wouldn't line up to buy Jessica Jr.'s record. Why should they? They're not that dumb. But dye her hair black, paint on some heavy eyeliner and give her a band, and voila...she became the anti-Jessica. She suddenly appealed to young girls who claimed they were sick of Barbie dolls like Jess and Britney. You know, the Avril Lavigne fans. Now though, Ashlee has shed that quasi-rocker image. She's back to being blonde. The new record is titled, I Am Me, which suggests that she's tired of portraying herself as something she's not just to get attention. At least that's how it looks on the surface. But being as jaded as I am at this point, I have to imagine that this is also a calculated move on her management's part. Now that it's obvious that the public is "on to her", they've decided the only thing they can do is turn her back into Jessica's little sister and give her an image that says "here I am, take it or leave it". In other words, she's an older, wiser Ashlee who has been through her SNL-hell, and come out platinum blonde on the other side. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm still not buying it.

By the way, if image really is everything, I'm not sure why Ashlee showed up on SNL looking like a pregnant, blonde Pippi Longstocking. Not a good look.

19 comments:

The Everglades said...

I didn't see SNL this weekend, which is a shame because I wanted to see what went down. But I knew I could count on your for a solid recap. You are right--it is a business and a talentless vacuum at that. I love cynical observations, because like this one, more often than not, they meet up with reality.

Blake

Edge said...

Let's call a spade and spade and just say she sucks ... and not in the way most guys like.

(Wow, that was rather racey for me.)

~Jef

Lee Ann said...

Good post! I have to agree with you on all accounts. Good for her "getting back up on the horse" (so to speak). Pretty girl, but definitely in Jess's shadow. Wise move to become brunette in the beginning (seemed more believable to me). Decent voice, but far stretch to be be considered better than that. She is a phase that young girls are enjoying...she is a slight twist to the pop-barbie doll.

LoraLoo said...

The only thing that even put Ashlee on the map in the first place was that stupid MTV special about her making her first album. She's awful, honestly, and I can't wait for her 15 minutes to be UP.

On a lighter note - just stumbled upon your blog and I'll definitely be back. Great reading!

Johnny Wadd said...

Not only was her singing bad, but she looked bad as well. It was as if Courtney Love & Paris Hilton had a child who couldn't sing.

I also have to agree that the host didn't have much to offer in originality. The sketches were pretty lame and weekend update sucked without Tina Fey too!

Teri said...

I'm so glad I didn't stay up to watch it!

Neo said...

Becky - Good post.

You hit the nail on the head. The last 10 years or so, the industry has really gone into the toilet. I tell you this as a singer/songwriter/guitarist.

There are a handful of decent acts, then you have bands who aren't writing and performing for the fans, they are performing for their bank accounts.

I've been saying this forever!

I didn't watch her either. But I caught a look at her first flop.

If I need a backing vocal to perform live then I'll retire. It's not fair to the fans that spend their hard earned money to come see you.

I could write better songs half shot in the ass on a saturday night, than she'll ever "Pretend to write," in her entire life.

Peace

Melanie said...

What's telling about the whole Ashlee thing is that my 15-year-old sister wants nothing to do with her now. When the first album came out, she couldn't wait to get her hands on it (I spent many weeks listening to her whine to my dad about the stupid thing).

I think Ashlee has lost much of her fan base. You're right about the pseudo-rock thing, kids today can listen to any number of bands that actually write their own songs and/or play their own instruments, so why would they settle for someone who is a known lip-syncher?

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kate said...

So, I'm sorry. I'm crising through here as I just woke up. So I'm wondering if in your post you already answered this question: Now that Ashlee has gone blonde, has her music gone blonde as well? Is she all light and sweet and understood now, looking for love in all the wrong places?

Anonymous said...

She lot a LOT of bad notes in her first performance of the evening and the dancing in the second one was beyond ridiculous

weaselrina said...

I'm forever amazed at how astoundingly mediocre some of these performers are. I watched SNL (taped) specifically to see Simpson in case she screwed up in some useful way and I couldn't manage to pay attention to her performance because it, and her music were just too dull

Wally Banners said...

I saw her too and your so right! great review ty!

Carolyn said...

I was born in the US but have lived my life in Australia. I've always sort of looked up to SNL. We didn't get it here for a while but I thought you had to be an AMAZING band/musician to get on there. Like it was an honour not a test. Apparently not.

The thing that annoys me most about her is that she was tryng to be all "punk/rock". Sweetie, just cause you wear a shirt that says punk doesn't meant you are. Infact if said shirt has "punk" written in pink sparkles you will probably get you arse kicked by a REAL punk chic. Set the Spazzys on her then see what happens.

Bonanza Jellybean said...

Ugh. I can't stand her. I can't stand any of the talentless crap being thrown at us now- doesn't Lidsay Lohan have an album too? Is she a singer?

This might explain why I keep my Sirius tuned to the "oldies" stations...

Mr. Happy said...

Big fan of your blog.

I watched Sat but turned it off when Ashlee came on, and left it off since Napoleon Dynamite brought a big bag of nothing to the show.

I think the Simpson's are taking up space where somebody who has talent should be. In my opinion, Ashlee can't sing and Jessica over sings. Go Away!

Alice said...

ah hahaha... *tear*... hahahahaha...

i really hate poor ashlee. it's not even her fault. i just hate everything she stands for. the poor little wench. go away, ashlee!

The Zombie Lama said...

Ugh, I can't stand the whole family...

I'm with Alice!

Prananta_Brichytta_Luista said...

Smart post!

 

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