Just as good actors can make bad movies, so good singers can make bad records. People do seem to have a tendency to be overly forgiving, but A Public Affair is Jessica Simpson‘s fifth studio album, and all it shows is that she’s forgotten nothing and learnt nothing along the way.
The fact that she’s lasted this long will come as a surprise to a lot of people, unlike the contents of this album. It’s a shame, she obviously has a good voice but the material and styling let her down. Someone has obviously decided that, as she’s an ‘also-ran’ in the grand scheme of things, it would be a good idea to take a few pointers from her more successful competitors. The problem is when you take a bit of Britney Spears, add a touch of Christina Aguilera and a quick splash of Shakira then take them out of context, you end up with the musical equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster.
There are a few times on the album when Simpson goes someway towards redeeming herself. Her breathily sensual version of the Dead Or Alive classic You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) is, with its rewritten choruses, capable of filling any number of dance-floors. B.O.Y. is another good up-tempo track – it’s well written and produced and showcases her voice perfectly. It’s nice to see a side of Simpson’s versatility and these definitely prove that she has potential.
However, every silver lining has its cloud. The opening and title track A Public Affair is a total slice of bubblegum nonsense which shows all the signs of being a shameless rip off Madonna‘s seminal ’80s hit Holiday. The comparison is inevitable, and the track suffers for it. Swing With Me has all the signs of being a good track, but doesn’t quite work as it positively shouts Pussycat Dolls at you, but it is at least listenable. The odious cover of These Boots are Made for Walking is also included, although as a bonus track on the UK version.
All of these criticisms pale into insignificance along side the total monstrosity that is Push Your Tush which, with its painfully annoying intro and faux-country styling, has the same effect on anyone with ear-drums as nails being scrapped down a blackboard. It’s also the prime example of an irritating habit of Simpson’s, namely mid-track giggling. Fired Up sounds like a mash-up of Britney Spears’ Toxic and pretty much anything by Gwen Stefani, and is as out of place as you can get.
The rest of the tracks are the sort of ballads we’ve all come to know and yawn through, none of which is really worth mentioning with the exception of I Don’t Want to Care, which is flagrantly worshipping at the altar of Tori Amos. Simpson says she doesn’t want to care, and by the end of this you won’t either.
Imitation is often said to be the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also show a serious lack of creativity and direction. Simpson has the ability to be up there with the best of them, all she needs to do is nail her colours to the mast and stop recording dross. As things stand at the moment however, it’s a definite thumbs down.