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Former pop princess turns dark angel on new album

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 10, 2005

Typical as it may be, Ashlee Simpson, with the release of her sophomore album “I Am Me,” plays the part of the defiant female songster jaded by Hollywood and a sort of rebel to her celebrity.

The pop-princess-turned-dark-angel image, which is reminiscent of such stars as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and most recently, Kelly Clarkson, is by now expected. But Simpson never professed to be a girly-girl anyway. She has always been a bit more grunge – although mostly in image alone.

This time around, her new dark glam image has transitioned its way into her music. The formerly quirky and upbeat style of Ashlee’s first album, “Autobiography,” has somehow been replaced by a collection of lifeless tracks, most of which are lacking any fizzy pop luster. Some may give her props for experimentation, but you have to wonder … what happened to her teen spirit?

Overall, every song on the CD tends to have a similar sound, and it makes for a sort of monotonous record. A majority of the songs work as fillers for a few good singles that will eventually make it to the radio waves.

The first single released was “Boyfriend,” and that is just about as good as it gets. It is safe to assume that it will likely be followed by the song “L.O.V.E.,” as it has a hook similar to Gwen Stefani’s “Bananas.” “Burning Up,” with its attention-grabbing, reggae-like beat combined with Ashlee’s raspy yet playful voice, is just one of few tracks that really stand out. “Coming Back for More” is a decent song, as its sounds a little bit closer to the Ashlee we remember from “Autobiography.” However, the rest of the tracks on the album are a little too dull for their own good, especially the bummed-out verses of “Beautifully Broken” and “Catch Me When I Fall.” Honestly, it is difficult to distinguish between almost every one of the mellow songs on “I Am Me.”

Despite its lack of luster, the CD still debuted at number one on Billboard Charts. It is likely that some of the albums success can be attributed to top pop producer John Shank, who is also known to have put his musical touch on the CDs of female competitors Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff. Incidentally enough, however, when you have reached the status of a teenybopper elite, it really only takes a single catchy song and a hot new image to sell records.

Recovering from her lip-synched hoedown on Saturday Night Live back in October 2004, Ashley returned for a second chance at the comedy sketch show this fall. It is debatable whether or not the singer redeemed herself in the most recent showcase. But, armed with two relatively easy-to-fake songs, Ashlee put on a so-so performance of “Boyfriend” and “Catch Me When I Fall.” Luckily, an outstanding voice was not necessary for the style of either song.

The perky celebrity had just enough stage presence to supplement her not quite singing, almost talking, mostly raspy voice. This is unfortunate for those who pick up the CD and are looking for the same generally-upbeat personality she shows stage.

Most dedicated Ashlee Simpson fans have likely already purchased the second CD. As a hint for those who are still debating – bypass the CD for a few cheap Itune downloads.