Everybody has seen or at least heard about Ashlee Simpson’s classic lip-synch crash & burn on Saturday Night Live (if you haven’t, shame on you and go here). It’s a wonderful bit of TV magic, reminding folks of why they call it Saturday Night LIVE and sending out the message to wannabe popstars and their keepers that technology is not a fucking failsafe. You wanna be on stage? Do the work or stay the hell away, because somewhere down the line karma is going to give you an ass kicking.
Case in point, thanks to my buddy Jason Darr 😉 : ‘So Many People’
That said, even though the whole playback thing is an international music industry disease, I’ve always been amazed at how it’s the way of life for the typical German popstar. More so than any piece of fodder out of Canada or the US, to the point that the kiddies in the audience and the ones with “The Dream” find it so normal they’re willing to buy into it hook, line, and kitchen sink. Chart shows, late night talk shows, awards shows… not one bloody note from singer or band that isn’t canned. And the latest winners from whatever Popstar / Idol show happens be around at the time? Thirteen weeks of caterwauling under his / her own power to millions, doing my head in because The Girlfriend insists we watch it, and lip-synching at every appearance made once contracts have been signed. Frickin’ sad. Not that they have a choice, of course, but sad nonetheless.
Without a doubt the most unbelievable “achievement” of the German pop machine, however, is a show called The Dome. It amounts to a quarterly music festival where it hits stadiums in cities across the country, offering the kiddies a chance to throw down their pocket money for the chance to witness their favourite popstars – whoever happens to be huge on the charts – go through the motions. It’s been around for years. We’re talking between 10,000 – 15,000 screaming pre-teens and adolescents going apeshit for CDs they’ve played to death at home. It’s as if some network exec made a mixed CD for his woman and had the resources to fly in the acts featured to give it that “live” feel in the hopes of getting laid.
Gee, I wish I’d thought of that…
Add to this the fact The Dome is televised, meaning sponsors are paying big bucks to have their logos slapped on the walls and the stage itself. Plus they’re able to issue samplers from each installment featuring the acts that were in town that day, ready to hit the stores the next frickin’ day! The producers and networks are rolling in dough even after all expenses have been sorted out.
Who says crime doesn’t pay?
(It’s interesting to note that 99% of European acts featured on The Dome go playback, while the majority of North American acts do it live. Still haven’t figured that one out considering America gave us such talents as Simpson x 2, Britney and Hilary Dufffffff).
The whole reason I bring this up is that The Kid has hit that age where she’s starting to find her favourite bands and artists, all of them either Bad or Worse depending on my mood. She’s started buying CDs from her own money and it’s only a matter of time before my hopes of seeing Megadeth, Iron Maiden and The Agonist posters on her walls are dashed by the appearance of Aloha From Hell, Monrose and god knows what other kind of sickly sterile tripe she’ll find. And yet, there is a ray of hope…
She was watching The Dome last weekend when one of her latest faves came on, a pre-fab 10-minutes-in-planning trans-fat diet goth act called Eisblume (Ice Flower for those of you who don’t do German; either way, they suck). The Kid commented that the Twilight-reject waif fronting the “band” was a good singer, at which point The Girlfriend pointed out that she was in fact lip-synching . The look on The Kid’s face was priceless; somewhere between “Mom, yer SO full of shit…” and “That’s fucked.” She spent a few moment considering what she’d just been told before commenting.
“That’s stupid. If you can’t sing the stuff you shouldn’t be on stage.”
This from an 11-year-old wannabesingerguitaristsomething. Respect. But more importantly, I win. Hooray for my side!
But it got better. Then she started asking questions…
“What about the music?”
“Playback,” said I, feeling even better about the situation. “They’re just pretending, and that guy couldn’t play his way out of a paper bag if it was plugged in.”
“And the drums? He’s hitting them…”
Smart kid. I did my best to explain microphones and triggers versus the size of the venue to her, and I think she got it. She spent the next hour watching the acts that followed, trying to decide for herself if they were live or Memorex and getting it right about 50% of the time. And when she wasn’t sure she’d ask the self-appointed master on the subject.
Then she wanted to know why, if you’re a big star with so many fans spending money on seeing you, you’d fake it.
“The best way to explain it,” I told her, “is that when a company likes your music and wants to put it out in stores, you have to sign a permission form that gives them the right to tell you what to do. That’s one of the prices you pay for being famous.”
Easy and to the point. Not sure if she got that, but thankfully I didn’t get the question “So why sign a contract?”, but it’s only a matter of time.
In any case, I’m curious to see where this leads, but judging by the way she’s improving on guitar on a daily basis it’s safe to say any career choices involving music will come down to doing it the hard way.