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Ashlee Simpson

If this album were placed in a capsule and unearthed 5000 years from now by aliens with four heads made out of laser beams, they’d probably listen to “Ragdoll” and “Bittersweet World” and think, “Damn, humans in the year 2008 were way obsessed with cartoonish depictions of ‘the ’80s, what with all these shameless Oingo Boingo and Soft Cell ripoffs.” But you know what? Fuck laser-headed aliens. They don’t have any context, and they can’t appreciate how diverse and adventurous and occasionally honest this record really is. Fans and detractors alike get exactly what they expect with bratty rockers like “Outta My Head” and “Rulebreaker,” but things seem to “get real” a bit with a more-introspective (if you can call it that) track like “Murder (I Get Away With),” which pits M.I.A.-esque multiplying world beats against Gwen Stefanish coos and cajoles. “Don’t keep me in the dark/’Cause I’ll find the light” sounds like the clarion call of a hardened show-biz wunderkind who’s been bred to become a pop star no matter what. “I get what I want and I know what I need” Simpson croons in the Cardigans-lawsuit-instigating “Boys,” and I’m inclined to agree.

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