en: Bittersweet World [info]
Ashlee Simpson's third album Bittersweet World is the product of more than a year in the studio and collaboration with some heavyweight producers including the omnipresent Timbaland and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes.
Previously known more for headlines – the infamous Saturday Night Live lip-synching fiasco and relationship with Fallout Boy rocker Pete Wentz – than her music, Ashlee's latest project deserves recognition as a credible threat to the work of Britney, Pink and Avril.
Personally speaking, Ashlee's matured since albums one and two, which nevertheless both went multi-platinum and hit the US number one spot. Indeed, she recently married Wentz in an Alice In Wonderland themed ceremony, and is rumoured to be expecting their first child.
Musically she has now come to terms with her market, and has even learned to celebrate it, lyrically proclaiming herself a mischievous "Sunday school girl" and "Little Miss Perfect". The aim was to make a party record of fun songs, and she's certainly achieved that, though the result is a relatively immature product.
The album's collaborators add gravitas. Timbaland stays mostly behind the scenes but pops up on the funky, Missy Elliott-esque Murder. Santogold's Santi White co-wrote Outta My Head alongside Kenna, while Plain White T's singer Tom Higgenson duets with Simpson on single choice, Little Miss Obsessive. This pop-rock power ballad is the album's standout success and deserves to take Ashlee to the forefront of female pop.
No Time For Tears is a stylish lament and the album's one ballad, Never Dream Alone, is perfectly produced to tug at your heartstrings. Yet even on this vocally-focused track, Ashlee's lung power fails to dazzle.
On strong songs she's reminiscent of Britney and Kelly Clarkson, but too often she relies on talk-singing and shouty choruses. She can obviously hold a tune – she is the youngest person ever to play lead role Roxie in Chicago - it's just a shame she never really tests herself. This album will deservedly shunt her into the spotlight, but time will tell whether Ashlee can come through with the vocal power to match her true potential.