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Bittersweet World

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Album Review

Has there ever been another pop star quite as shameless as Ashlee Simpson? Probably so, but nobody has ever quite so cravenly followed fashion's shifting tides as Ashlee, who has never seemed the slightest bit embarrassed to make herself over when styles changed. All this desperate trend-chasing has been done in public, as it damn well should be in the 21st century, so we've seen her change from the spunky younger sister of a superstar to the sad goth clown of her sophomore effort to the Gwen Stefani wannabe of her third album, Bittersweet World. Ashlee might look like a shadow of her former self on the album cover — the years and cosmetic surgery have made her virtually unrecognizable from the awkward teen on the cover of I Am Me — but she still sounds the same, still boasting that same thin, girlish voice that wouldn't have gotten much attention if she weren't Jessica Simpson's younger sister. Of course, the ironic thing about Ashlee's career is that she not only had bigger hits than Jessica, she made better records than her sister, too, all with a virtually nonexistent voice and a personality as aggressively shallow as Avril Lavigne. Like Avril, Ashlee has a distinct arc to her three-act career, bouncing back from a dour and dumb second album with a return to the fizzy fun of her first (unlike Avril, Simpson seems like she would at least wait for you to leave the room before she started saying mean things about you).

Where Avril beat a retreat to the bratty punk-pop that brought her fame, Ashlee has pulled a red hoodie over her head, amped up the dance beats, revved up the '80s retro fetish, and created something that feels of the 2008 moment, as it should coming from the fiancée of Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz. This embrace of MTV hipsterism — never to be confused with underground movements, this includes cameos from a guy from Plain White T's — helps mirror the growth of her initial fans, who have grown from high school through college to immature young adults, needing this absurd new millennial go-go music for their endless parties, and while that arc is as manufactured as anything else surrounding the Simpson empire, there's none of the sad, creepy abandon of Britney Spears that makes Blackout just no fun to listen to, no matter how good it sounds. Bittersweet World is all bright neon colors and bubblegum melodies, full of naggingly insistent hooks and insipid poses, none sillier than Ashlee boasting she's a "Rule Breaker" who loves to fight over a track that sounds like diluted M.I.A. When Bittersweet World is operating at this high-energy level — copping from bad old new wave singles ("Outta My Head [Ay Ya Ya]") and Prince (the delirious "Boys") and Gwen (pretty much everything else, but especially on the feigned social consciousness of the title track, "What I've Become," and the "Hella Good" rewrite "Hot Stuff") — this is addictive pure pop trash that's all the more irresistible because it's delivered by such a purely trashy pop star. When things slow down — as they do on the utterly forgettable closer "Never Dream Alone" and the quite awful "Little Miss Obsessive," where Ashlee explores the endless possibilities of the word "over" in the chorus — it's a bit of a slog, but those moments are fortunately few and far between here because Ashlee is aggressively shallow. She's always been this way, of course, but Bittersweet World is the first time that she has made a record that lives up to her happily empty persona, something that's truly fun junk.

Customer Reviews

Old Ashlee, New Beat

Ashlee Simpson's long-awaited return to the music scene is finally here! And boy has Ashlee left a big splash. Not only has Ashlee channeled several 80s rock-er chicks successfully, she has managed to resurrect her old self within her new music. "Outta My Head" is Simpson's 80s throwback song where she flips off her critics and takes control of her life. "Boys" mirrors the 90s hit song "Lovefool" by the Cardigans, but Simpson makes it her own, with her breathy vocals. The catchy beat and smooth synth make this song a definite party starter. "Rulebreaker" is classic faux-punk rock Ashlee at it's finest. "No time for tears" is set atop an eerie-sounding beat, similar to something you would hear from the Eurythmics. A+ lyrics. "Little Miss Obsessive" is one of the strongest tracks, due to it's awesome lyrics, and guest vocals from Tom Higgenson. "Ragdoll" is another 80s throwback -- awesome pop hook. "Bittersweet World" is the title track, and a finger-snapper! This song fuses funky poprock with an alternative sound. "What I've Become" attacks paparazzi for intruding on Simpson's personal life and scrutinizing her every move. It fuses Timbaland's beats with Ashlee's inner rock chick. "Hot Stuff" is a new style for Ashlee, with more "rap-style" verses. She pokes fun at trampy girls, and shows a different side to Simpson. "Murder" features a guest rapper, Izza Kizza, and is a darker song, yet oddly catchy. Very metaphorical. "Never Dream Alone" was co-produced by Simpson herself, and shows tremendous growth as an artist (both lyric-wise, and vocally). Each song is a sure hit in it's own way, and with this record Simpson has proved her worth in the music biz. That's right, Ashlee is here to stay.

Ashlee's most musically diverse album yet

Ashlee Simpson returns with her most musically diverse album yet, "Bittersweet World". From "Outta My Head" to "Never Dream Alone" Ashlee keeps the party going non-stop. She channels the 80's on the opening track "Outta My Head", "Boys", and "Ragdoll", and returns to her pop-rock roots for "No Time For Tears" and "What I've Become". Tracks such as "Rulebreaker" and "Murder" are pure, danceable fun, with beats by the master Timbaland. "Hot Stuff" easily earns the best of the album with its quirky, silly lyrics and groovy dance beat. The ballads from the album "Little Miss Obsessive" and "Never Dream Alone", are great in both of their own ways. "Little Miss Obsessive" is an R&B rock ballad featuring vocals from Tom Higgeson and "Never Dream Alone" is a breathtaking piano ballad, composed of only piano, strings, vocals and guitar. Simpson even experiments in jazz and broadway during two of the standout tracks "Bittersweet World" and "Follow You Wherever You Go". As you listen to this album, you forget about the infamous SNL incident and the Orange Bowl incident and just indulge in the fun 80's music Ashlee has to offer. At this rate, Ashlee might just be here to stay.

Very Unique Album

This is something different from Ashlee, but I love it! It's so unique, there's not 1 album out there like it. Every track is great, no fillers. Not only is by far Ashlee's strongest album yet, it is the strongest of 2008 so far! BEST TRACKS: Hot Stuff, Boys and Ragdoll.


Born: October 03, 1984 in Dallas, TX

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

She might be the younger sister of superstar Jessica Simpson, but don't confuse their tastes or style when it comes to music. Waco, Texas-born Ashlee Simpson always loved music. At age 11 she was the youngest person ever admitted into the School of American Ballet. At 14 she moved with her parents and older sister to Los Angeles and spent time dancing in Jessica's stage show. Appearances on Malcolm in the Middle and The View led to a regular role on the television show Seventh Heaven but Ashlee's...
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Bittersweet World, Ashlee Simpson
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