How do you feel about backing vocals? Check out the latest Ask the Critic question and post your own

By David Browne
November 26, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Ashlee Simpson: Mark Liddell

How do you feel about backing vocals?

In light of Ashlee Simpson’s SNL lip-synching debacle, how do you feel about backing vocals? Does it matter she was outed considering many outside of her demographic expected her to not be able to sing live? — Evan
You’re right: The Simpson incident brought out the snickers from those ”outside of her demo” — i.e., rock fans and those over 30 who look down on pop. So much for her claim that she’s a genuine singer and song-writer — you know, a punk! But the dirty secret of the music business is that major acts of nearly all genres rely on these tapes in concert, either to boost vocals or add extra instrumental brawn. (On the road with ZZ Top in 1991, a member of their opening act confided to me the trio used tapes to play their synth parts.) So, what’s sadder — that even ersatz ”rock” bands like Simpson and her crew have to rely on sonic and vocal augmentation, or that music fans of all ages are so jaded that they expect it? No wonder American Idol has hit such a nerve. It’s a venue for those who can actually hit notes and sing in tune — what a concept!

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