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Pop star Ashlee Simpson is not the first singer to resort to lip-synching during a supposedly "live" performance--but she's the first to be caught in a gaffe so embarrassing she had to walk offstage after just 35 seconds!
As millions of TV viewers watched, Ashlee stood with her lips locked as a recording of her voice filled the NBC studio during an October 23 appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
"For Ashlee to have such a major blunder with a huge national audience watching is terribly embarrassing for her--and it just might crush her dreams of a celebrated music career," a friend of the 20-year-old star told The ENQUIRER. "Ashlee is mortified!
"She played off the incident like it was a big joke, but this has been incredibly traumatic for her.
"Becoming a bigger star than her sister Jessica is so important to her and now she is worried that she'll never get out of Jessica's shadow."
What's more, the "Saturday Night Live" scandal isn't the first time Ashlee has lip-synched during a show, said her friend.
"Ashlee has had to resort to lip-synching in her live shows.
"What makes it worse is that Ashlee boasts about being so 'real' and honest with her fans. That's what her reality show on MTV is all about. But this snafu flies in the face of her show. How is anyone supposed to take her seriously again?
" Earlier in the October 23 show, Ashlee had performed her hit "Pieces of Me" from her breakthrough first album.
But when she came back later to sing another song from the album, "Saturday Night Live" was not as live as expected!
Ashlee's band started playing and instead of "Autobiography," a new number, the first lines of her singing "Pieces of Me" were again piped into the studio as a closed-mouth Ashlee held her microphone down by her hip.
As the band kept playing, Ashlee looked confused and then did some bizarre hopping moves before she simply walked offstage, mike in hand, 35 seconds later. NBC quickly cut to a commercial.
Ashlee's record company, Geffen Records, blamed a computer glitch and the singer herself laid the blame on her band.
"I feel so bad," she said. "My band started playing the wrong song. I didn't know what to do so I thought I'd do a hoe-down."
The lip-synching disaster has created a firestorm among Ashlee's fans. In an Internet chat room devoted to the singer, one person wrote: "I think someone's career just took a big hit."
"What a no-talent clown," wrote another.
"What's sad is that she tried to lie about it and say the band played the wrong song," a fan wrote.
Others called her a "hypocrite" and "a complete fraud." Lip-synching generally elicits outrage from fans who demand that live performances be just that. But some singing superstars occasionally resort to the practice.
Although Britney Spears has denied that she lip-synchs, her former manager Larry Rudolph confirmed that her tours have included lip-synched vocals when Britney is simultaneously performing rigorous dance routines.
Janet Jackson and Madonna also mouth the words to some prerecorded tracks of their hits while gyrating onstage during concerts.
One former record executive recalled sitting in the front row for one of Janet's concerts and seeing her count dance steps with her lips while her singing voice played over the P.A. system!
The most famous lip-synching scandal came in 1990 when it was revealed that the Grammy-winning duo Milli Vanilli hadn't sung any of the songs on their album "Girl You Know It's True" and lip-synched in concert. The disgraced duo was forced to return the Grammy and soon broke up.
--DON GENTILE and TIM PLANT