Friday, February 10, 2006

Ashlee Simpson - I Am Me

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Poor Ashlee. She has a dipsy sister who is more "famous" than she is, she was "caught out" when a backing tape went wrong on Saturday Night Live and is generally thought to be something of a, well, madam. She's also not classified as "real"...not even in the sense of an Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson. Which is daft; Clarkson's "rockier" edge was marketing rather than musically led, and whilst Lavigne might be able to strum out a tune, virtually all her songs have a plethora of "co-writers".

So before listening to the album, three quarters of the world has already made their mind up about it. And indeed, another percentage of those people who would give it a chance would only ever admit to the "package" being respectable, with the insinuation that Ashlee had either very little to do with it, or is the weak link in the production.

But of course, you know I am not going to be like that; I'm going to give it a chance.

Right from the start, the package screams out that Ashlee has gone "dark". The vivid colours of the Autobiography album are gone, replaced with forboding black (although really, Ashlee must be the only person in history to have signified a "darker image" by dyeing her hair blonde) and "moody" portraits. But what about the music?

Lead single Boyfriend is the kind of catchy pop-rock tune that's seemingly in vogue right now and if the Lohan-bating reports are true, it represents something just as "real" as anything James Blunt or KT Tunstall could come up with. Title Track I Am Me is in a similar vein, and should see the kids pogo-ing up and down with glee and Eyes Wide Open folows suit.

But as is often the case with albums like this, it's the more poppier moments that stand out. L.O.V.E. is a spunky, reggae tingged feminist manefesto which is certain to reach out to all the ladies dancing around their handbags. It's also a little too much "Stefani" esqe to gain any real critical favour. The same could be said of Burning Up which again could be a hidden track from Love Angel Music Baby. That's not to say both songs aren't good, but they perhaps lack the originality to really stand out from the pack.

And then there is the ballads, some of which aren't as bad as you might fear. Beautifully Broken could be Oasis gone pop, whilst Catch Me When I Fall, inspired by the SNL disaster, is actually quite touching in the final analysis.

The problem with the album is pretty much outlined above; Ashlee may proclaim "I Am Me" loudly, but does she actually know which "me" she is? Taking inspiration from many places, but never quite finding her own distinct style, Ashlee has seemingly tried to please everyone, but may end up pleasing very few. Which is a shame. There are worse records out there, and certain tracks would be met with widespread critical acclaim if someone more "in" had done them. Looked at in isolation, this is a good "pop" album but sadly for Ashlee, few will look at it that way.

But Ashlee, if you ever read this, I still love you ;-)

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