Review Summary: Jessica goes country with enjoyable results.
There shouldn’t be any doubt that Jessica Simpson is a great singer. Even if you hate every album she has ever released there should be no denying that she has great range, an excellent delivery and great control. This natural ability is something she proved way back in 1999 on her very first single “I Wanna Love You Forever”, but unfortunately she hasn’t really been given much of a chance to prove it again since then. The blame for this can be firmly placed on her songwriters and producers who continuously sell her short with simple, lifeless (albeit enjoyable) songs. It is this lack of substance and identity that probably kept Jessica from ever breaking into the big leagues of pop, and unfortunately it is probably the same thing that is going to keep her out of the big leagues of country as well.
When news got out that Jessica was moving away from the pop genre and into modern country (and that she might even contribute to writing) I thought it was a good choice. I truly thought that this might be a good chance for her to push herself vocally and really reach out to an audience that would readily embrace her. Her first single, “Come on Over” showed a great potential for her to do just that. With the new-found twang in her singing voice and the sound of a slide guitar moving her forward it turned out to be instantly catchy and Jessica sounded wonderful. In fact, that song turns out to be just one of many strong tracks on the album, but it also displays something that might be missed on first listen. While the songs are definitely enjoyable and easy to sing along to, they’re also very generic with nothing to set them apart from the masses.
Musically there is nothing on this release that doesn’t sound like it couldn’t have come from any number of other country albums. A song such as “You’re My Sunday” is full of great melodies from the slide and steel guitar as well as the fiddle but they all sound vaguely familiar. “You’re My Sunday” also makes great use of vocal layering during the chorus to increase its appeal and catchiness but, again, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in almost the exact same way. That means that even a strong song such as “Remember That” with its message to women to remain steadfast and brave after leaving an abusive relationship still ends up sounding dimly familiar even if it’s the first time hearing the song. Fortunately, that familiarity doesn’t end up being a deal breaker thanks to the passionate vocals of Jessica Simpson.
Most mainstream bands live and die on the talents of their vocalist and country music is generally no different. It is this fact that allows the enjoyable, yet generic, music to slide by in this instance. It turns out that as great as she usually sounded on her pop albums, she sounds even better doing country. This style of music gives her more room to play with melody and pitch and gives her a fuller sound than she ever had. The title track, “Do You Know”, is an excellent closer that features both Jessica and Dolly Parton singing their hearts out and easily displays the enhanced quality of Jessica’s voice as both her and Dolly test the limits of their ranges. In a recent interview Jessica Simpson expressed excitement about moving into country and that energy has definitely transferred itself into her vocals on this album.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that has heard Jessica Simpson’s previous release, A Public Affair
, that she ended up releasing a country album. Jessica’s inability to reach the top-tier of pop divas combined with A Public Affair
’s occasional country influence made it seem like a pretty good possibility and it’s a move I can’t fault her for. Jessica truly sounds happy with her new songs and because of that they feel fresh and lively compared to what she had been doing. I only wish that she had used this stylistic change as an opportunity to really make use of her excellent voice and convey a power that most in the genre could never reach. Instead we’re left with songs that never stray from the conventional modern country sound, and Jessica generally sticks to the same conventions vocally. On the other hand, this style of music is much better suited to Jessica Simpson and her voice, allowing her to stretch her vocals in ways she never could while doing pop. It also doesn’t hurt that all the songs are well played with choruses that will stick with you; again, I only wish that she had allowed her voice even more room to shine.