''SNL'' glitch exposes Ashlee Simpson. When the wrong backing track, complete with vocals, plays during her second song, she dances off the stage after 35 seconds

By Gary Susman
Updated October 25, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Having seen on Ashlee Simpson’s MTV reality show how quickly her pop career was manufactured, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the seams are still showing. During her appearance over the weekend on Saturday Night Live, a glitch revealed that Simpson’s stage show has a lot of pre-recorded help. Her first song of the evening, ”Pieces of Me,” went off without a hitch. But her second, which was supposed to be ”Autobiography,” began with a backing track playing ”Pieces” again. And then, while Simpson’s mouth was closed, out came the vocals for ”Pieces.” The vocals were quickly silenced, leaving Simpson to hop around silently on stage while her band played. Finally she walked offstage, and the show’s producers cut to a commercial. It’ll probably be the longest 35 seconds of Simpson’s career.

During the curtain call at the end of the show, Simpson blamed her backup musicians. ”I feel so bad. My band started playing the wrong song,” she said. ”I didn’t know what to do so I thought I’d do a hoe-down.” But a statement issued Sunday by her label, Geffen Records, blamed a computer error, saying that a pre-taped electronic percussion track for ”Autobiography” was supposed to play instead. ”The track that came up was a backing track,” SNL spokesman Marc Liepis told the New York Daily News. ”Backing tracks aren’t exactly rare. People use them all the time.” (Uh, so, which other SNL musical guests have lip-synched?)

NBC may prove an unwitting beneficiary of the controversy on Monday night, when Simpson appears on the 2004 Radio Music Awards. She’s scheduled to sing live from the Las Vegas awards show stage. No doubt many will be watching to see if she really does.