Sep 092008
 
Authors: Nick Scheidies

Jessica Simpson has starred in TV series and movies. She has served as a spokeswoman for Pizza Hut and ProActiv acne solution. She has her own line of edible beauty products with a clothing line in the works. Oh, and she also dabbles in pop music.

But with the release of her new album “Do You Know,” Simpson aims to be the next big country star as well.

In many ways, the move makes perfect sense. After all, Simpson’s 2006 post-divorce album, “A Public Affair,” was derided by fans and critics alike as stale and contrived.

Meanwhile, the country music industry has become ever more receptive to the marriage of country and pop. Finally, there’s the fact that one of country’s hottest young starlets, Carrie Underwood, has a dating history with Simpson’s current beau, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Then again, there might be something more to this crossover than shrewd market analysis and catty competitiveness: It’s the right move for Simpson as an artist.

A Texas native, Jessica grew up on conservative values and Martina McBride. She always seemed a tad out of place among pop-tarts like Britney Spears. Country could be where Simpson belongs.

She certainly makes a strong argument for just that with her lead single, “Come on Over.” Sharing a title with both a Christina Aguilera and Shania Twain song, the track fittingly melds a pop hook with country instruments to make for one of the catchiest songs to come out of Nashville all year.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album’s promising moments are squandered.

“You’re my Sunday” begins beautifully with a sparse verse of acoustic guitar and mandolin, only to be spoiled by a loud, bombastic chorus. “Still Beautiful” seems to show Simpson finding her footing with country lyrics, confidently stating, “God won’t give me more than I can handle,” before devolving into a rainy-day/sunny-day analogy that any grown woman should be embarrassed to sing.

Then there’s “Remember That,” which sounds like “Before He Cheats” without any of Underwood’s irresistible vigor. This is amplified by the fact that Simpson’s voice is apparently capable of expressing only slightly more emotion than Stephen Hawkings’.

The closest Simpson comes to being charismatic is when she sings about “making love” or tells her man to, “go to hell” on the ballad, “Still Don’t Stop Me.” These brief glimpses into edginess makes one wonder just how good “Do You Know” could have been if it had been created by someone with a little bit of artistic integrity and personality.

Unfortunately, it’s a Jessica Simpson record.

Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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