Note to Ms. Ashlee: nepotism comes with a high price. It makes it easier to get there, but you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself.
This album better be good.
Ashlee Simpson's marketing team managed to synergize her angle-heavy background and her successful reality show (it must be the equivalent of having an infomercial every week) to produce a Billboard-topping album. Older sibling Jessica Simpson is very much in use here, as her squeaky-wholesome-chaste-blonde image is played off against by Ashlee's '80s rocker-chick hair and sound, like Jem and the Holograms vs. the Misfits. ("The producer wants me to sound like Hilary Duff. I don't want to sound like Hilary Duff! I want the sound to be rock!")
It works, almost.
The album sound is an energetic fusion of distorted drums, vocals and guitars, borrowing much from Sheryl Crow. In songs like "Surrender" and "Unreachable" Simpson's voice has an attractive rasp that blends well with the music, willing to be part of the sound instead of being its egomaniacal star. And I'm surprised at how much battered maturity she reaches out with in the love-gone-wrong "Undiscovered" and the convincing "Nothing New," which is a fairly complex take on relationships (definitely not Hilary Duff). The obvious artist to bring up here for comparison is Avril Lavigne, whose Matrix-polished sound also borrows heavily from rock, but Lavigne fans would stone me to death for not mentioning at this point how Lavigne performs live religiously.
And yes, the songwriting is a bit repetitive as it's the same old I'm-an-independent-girl-who-deserves-respect tirade, but maybe it's a message that needs to be repeated every generation. A possible "standout" in songwriting is "Shadow" which describes growing up in the shadow of her sister, although it too quickly succumbs to I'm-an-independent-girl-yadda-yadda.
The ultimate flaw of this album is that the sound is played out to death, like she found something that worked and dug herself a hole. I don't want to be Ashlee-cist here, but all the songs sound the same. I do discern potential, and will give her a C, which is a pretty good grade for a teeny pop album at The Daily Vault. Now excuse me while I hoe-down off the stage...