Release Date: Apr 22, 2008
Record label: Geffen
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
Where Avril beat a retreat to the bratty punk-pop that brought her fame, Ashlee has pulled a red hoodie over her head, amped up the dance beats, revved up the '80s retro fetish, and created something that feels of the 2008 moment, as it should coming from the fiancée of Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz. This embrace of MTV hipsterism -- never to be confused with underground movements, this includes cameos from a guy from Plain White T's -- helps mirror the growth of her initial fans, who have grown from high school through college to immature young adults, needing this absurd new millennial go-go music for their endless parties, and while that arc is as manufactured as anything else surrounding the Simpson empire, there's none of the sad, creepy abandon of Britney Spears that makes Blackout just no fun to listen to, no matter how good it sounds. Bittersweet World is all bright neon colors and bubblegum melodies, full of naggingly insistent hooks and insipid poses, none sillier than Ashlee boasting she's a "Rule Breaker" who loves to fight over a track that sounds like diluted M.
The Importance of Being Ashlee has always been at the core of the younger Simpson sister’s musical output. (See her first two releases, insistently titled Autobiography and I Am Me.) Yet four years of stylistic switch-ups and alleged cosmetic surgeries later, her identity — Punk-Pop Princess? Dance Diva? Husky Balladress? — remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle and swathed in hair extensions. From the first notes of Bittersweet World‘s opener, ”Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya),” with its mock-ska inflections and ’80s-redux backbeat, it’s clear that her latest incarnation is Gwen Stefani, The Solo Years.
Is it any big surprise that on the heels of her latest release, Ashlee Simpson and her Fall Out Boy, Pete Wentz, announced their engagement, reminding anyone who cares that she still deserves the spotlight? After a lacklustre stretch, it’s clear the pop chameleon needs all the help she can get, since she certainly isn’t going to make it on her music alone. Bittersweet is another testament to the fact that Simpson has little to offer, this time taking the form of an edgeless, forgettable pop rock that desperately tries to hit the mark but almost always falls short. No matter how glossy the production, it’s impossible not to notice that Simpson can’t sing well enough to carry an album, while her peppy, Avril-lite personality comes off as contrived and as obnoxious as Lavigne’s.