Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ashlee Simpson: I Am Me - Review

Ashlee Simpson is still competing with her sister. Oh, she loves her sister Jessica, and Jessica loves her, but the competition remains. The competition is one-sided, however. Jessica doesn't know anything is going on. Jessica is nothing but supportive, not even harboring secret "she's not as good as me" wishes, though she has every right to.

Observe the cover of Ashlee's second solo album, I Am Me. On her first album, Autobiography, Ashlee did everything she could to be the opposite of her sister. She died her hair black, hid her face a little, tried to look a little punk, etc. That's how she worked it the first time around. This time, she's back to blonde, but -- more importantly -- she's working the breasts. She's got those things hiked up to Neverland. The new cover screams, "I'm blonde too. I've got big tits too. I've got a chin cleft too."

All the while maintaining, "I am me." The full title of the album should be I Am Me, Dammit, So Realize I'm Just As Good As My Sister, Yet Not My Sister. But let's look at the songs. "Boyfriend" is about her boyfriend who is not Nick Lachay. "In Another Life" is about how Ashlee would have preferred another life as an only child, where she could express herself without the shadow of her big sister. "Beautifully Broken" is about her chin cleft, with the lyric, "It should be whole/But our genes say no./Before any words were spoken,/My chin was beautifully broken." "L.O.V.E." is not so much a love song as it is a declaration of her mental superiority over her sister ("People may love her more,/But I can at least spell the word./She's a whore."). "Coming Back for More" is ostensibly about getting over the sophomore slump of the second album, but behind this mask is a song about the continual fights Ashlee tried to start with Jessica as children, only for Jessica to ignore her or call her cute. End side one and the Jessica-specific songs.

Side two begins with "Dancing Alone," another ode to being by herself, how she feels when her sister isn't present. "Burnin' Up" is the oddest track on the album, having nothing to do with her feelings about herself or her sister, but instead about Mrs. Havisham from Great Expectations and the famous scene in which she catches on fire. "Catch Me When I Fall" is a tribute to her drummer, an apology for publicly blaming him for the SNL lip-synch incident, "even though it was your fault," she sings.

"I Am Me" is the standout song: a driving drum beat and complicated keyboard arpeggio begin the song with a three minute introduction before Ashlee comes in, literally screaming "I am me! I am me!" for another three minutes. The song ends with a six minute piano and string arrangement with occasional vocal harmonizing from Ashlee, until the song begins to fade and you can faintly hear Ashlee whispering "Descartes... Descartes... Descartes..."

This leaves little room on the album for the final two songs: "Eyes Wide Open" is Ashlee's tribute to the runaway bride ("May the world never forget./Sometimes you just gotta run away./Some say she was blind,/But as you can see,/She had her eyes wide open.") and "Say Goodbye" is a Vaudville-style spoken word track with Ashlee and Jessica in which Ashlee says "Say goodnight, Jessica" and Jessica says "Goodnight Jessica" and Ashlee laughs and Jessica says "What?" and they do this over and over for almost a minute before Ashlee says "You're a cunt" and the album ends.

I've talked more about content than music, so you might be wondering if the album is good. Is it worth listening to, buying? My short answer: YES!