Becoming a pop star these days is easier than getting on a state's ballot if you're running for president.
If you don't believe me, just ask Ralph Nader (search).
But enough with politics. I've had enough — at least until President George W. Bush's inauguration in January. Let's get back to Ashlee Simpson (search).
The 20-year-old has taken her fair share of lumps over the last few weeks, and I'm beginning to feel a little sorry for her. After all, she's not the only lip-syncher this side of Milli Vanilli (search).
Just one week after her ill-fated "Saturday Night Live" appearance, rapper Eminem appeared on the show and used a back-up vocal to help create that duality effect he uses so well, and there was little, if any, outrage about it.
Perhaps that's because Eminem's technical people don't have fat fingers (Simpson's drummer queued the wrong vocal track), and the right tracks played with the right performances. Or maybe journalists and bloggers are just afraid of being the target of Eminem's rapier wit and audacious talent on his next album release? Or maybe it's because the majority of viewers went channel-surfing when Eminem took to the stage?
In any case, the evidence of Em's use of the back-up track is easy to spot for anyone with a TiVo.
But alas, this is what we've come to. Some experts say we audience members and consumers expect to hear the same sound from the record when we see our favorite performers perform live. That expectation, they say, is the driving force behind use of pre-recorded performances.
If that's the case, however, if I'm a singer, maybe I'd use less help in the studio? Ah, I see, in order to use less technology on the CD, one has to be a good singer to start with. So much for that idea in my case.
Those same experts are quick to point out that Whitney Houston's 1991 Super Bowl performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was actually audio recorded earlier in the day. Go figure. I never knew that. I just thought she was amazing.
Which brings us back to Ashlee. Exactly what do we expect from our pop stars? Is it the spectacle of a dyed brunette pacing barefoot on stage with a microphone to her lips? Or is it the words and the message of her songs? Or is it simply because her sister is an already-famous babe and we as Americans love to see a talented family conquer the world?
I guess what I'm trying to say is, who really cares?
And if it's so simple, then I say we should all buy some home recording studio equipment, put on funky clothes and make ourselves pop stars. You never know. Maybe you'll hit it big, and you too can have a video on MTV and perform not-so-live at a concert venue or on a late-night television show.
Watch "The Grrr! Block" to see my pop star debut. I'll be signing autographs at Costco this weekend. Look for me between the Gold Toe socks and the discount DVD rack.
Michael Jackson Is a Disaster ... Grrr!
Since we're on the subject, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is a disaster. Take a look at him in this picture shown recently on FOXNews.com. Does he even look human to you? I once interviewed the Jackson brothers — Randy, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Jackie, when they reunited on stage for the first time in 11 years with brother Michael back in 2000.
I was surprised as to how down to earth the famous brothers were (and after watching the archive tape this week — at how bad I was on television — Grrr!).
In the piece, we sang "Cotton Fields Back Home" together — no backup tracks — and the brothers were pretty open about how they feel about their troubled brother. There was a clear solidarity.
"We love our brother and we will always support him," Randy said. Incidentally, Randy is quite a proficient kick-boxer, having trained in Thai fighting (a martial art made famous by Jean-Claude Van Damme's breakout film "Bloodsport"), for many years.
It's too bad he never used it to beat some sense into brother Michael. Jackson's child molestation trial is coming up. About the only thing good about all of the political talk the past few months is that we didn't hear very much about this trial. Now that President Bush has been re-elected, the news cycle starts over again, and it will be all-Michael, all-channels. Grrr!
Click here to watch that early piece.
Stupid Lit'l Dreamers
Hang in there Rob Lowe (search). The former brat-packer turned "adult-contemporary TV actor" — ha, I like that one — is currently starring in "Dr. Vegas" on CBS. CBS, it has been reported, has pulled the series after just a few weeks due to poor ratings performance.
Say it ain't so Les Moonves (CEO Viacom). "Dr. Vegas" is a fine show, starring the venerable Joe Pantoliano, the aforementioned Lowe, a subdued Tom Sizemore and two beautiful women: Amy Adams as Lowe's nurse practitioner and Sarah Lancaster as a bombshell card dealer.
If only it were given a little more time. In any case, Lowe gets the SLD mention of the week for hanging tough through these turbulent times in his career. He's had worse days. Good luck, Rob.
A big shout-out to Joey "Pants" too
Now for Your Grrrs
Michael T. in Cyber-Space: Voting is a right. I agree, but it is also an obligation. I voted this election for the first time in my life. Before, I was like Chris in Conn., exercising my "right" not to vote. How stupid was I? (Don’t answer that one.) It is a citizen's right to vote, a right that has be granted by the blood of countless people throughout time in various countries. Many countries don't get to vote, really vote that is. People who chose not to exercise their "right" to vote should spend some time in countries where our basic freedoms are their greatest desires. It truly is a right to vote, but everyone has an obligation to exercise that right.
Michael B. in Cyber-Space: I really do not understand why everybody is freaking about Ashlee Simpson and her lips. So it was a mistake and she made the best she could out of it. Everybody else does it. For those of you who have a problem with it, I want to see you sing and dance in front of thousands of people. Give the girl a break. I think you all are just jealous because she makes more than you. Grrr! to you.
P.S. If you're reading this: Ashlee — you're awesome.
Guy C. in Virginia Beach, Va.: Mike, I applaud your kind words regarding President Bush and Senator Kerry, but why did you put in the comment, "God bless America"? What has America done to make God so happy with us? Why not say "God bless Cuba" or "God bless Nigeria"? Please don't use that phrase unless America has really done something that God would be proud of.
Until Next Week ... Grrr!
Mike Straka is director of operations and special projects and a columnist for FOXNews.com, and contributes as a features reporter and producer on "FOX Magazine." He was also in the movie "Analyze This," and has appeared in various commercials, theater and TV roles.