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Ashlee Simpson

Autobiography (Geffen)

The first line on Ashlee Simpson's debut album Autobiography is, "You think you know me." That's pretty funny, considering the entire point of her new MTV show and the gum, pizza and shoe ads is for us to get to know America's premiere sibling suck-up.

When big sis Jessica's latest album In This Skinwas sliding rapidly off the charts, her and hubby Nick's show Newlywedsprovided it with a shot in the arm potent enough to set Barry Bonds salivating. Fans started tuning in, record sales were revived, chicken was tuna and buffaloes had wings -- ha ha ha, what dumb things would she say next? Like Making the Bandand American Idol before it, Newlywedshelped give birth to the new marketing tool music execs were scrambling desperately for in the new era of digital downloads and slumping sales: infomercials disguised as TV series.

What works once has got to work twice, right? Just ask P. Diddy. Echoing his "amen" would be J and A's father, Joe Simpson, a Baptist preacher-turned-pimp. He asked God to let lightning strike again and signed his youngest up for a behind-the-scenes look at bratdom -- knowing all the while that even the ridiculous shit Jessica said only made people throw more money at her as her popularity grew. As long as Ashlee didn't say the Holocaust never happened, this thing would be a sure shot. And she wouldn't -- Daddy had the final edit on the show he produced.

In the infomercial, Joe's lesser talented daughter reminds us each week that she's not her sister, she's not Hilary Duff and she's "not going to make a pop-pop album." Jessica may have the voice, dammit, but Ashlee has the character. She's no music industry shill. She's going to play with -- get this revolutionary idea -- a live frigging band.

While staying steadfast in her vision, Ashlee is told her voice isn't pretty enough, her hooks aren't developed and her choruses sound like pre-choruses. She cries and moves on, but not before again boldly declaring her independence. She's like an Avril Lavigne that actually believes her own bullshit.

Why wouldn't she? Ashlee knows that after a six-week dance with the public, her album is going to be a Billboard smash (number one, in fact, with 400,000 first-week sales) for the same reason Uncle Ben's will sell a load of rice and Doritos will forever be King of Chip Mountain. It's about how the product is sold, not the product itself. Creating a brand is more important than creating music.

Oh, snap! The music. Still haven't mentioned that, huh. Imagine Hilary Duff doing Avril covers with Courtney Love's voice interspersed with Britney's I-do-this-because-I-can't-really-sing sex-whisper. It's weak.

 
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