Ashlee Nicole Simpson (born October 3, 1984) is a American pop rock singer and an actress. Originally known for being the younger sister of pop singer Jessica Simpson, Simpson eventually rose to prominence in her own right in mid-2004 through her chart-topping debut album "Autobiography" and the accompanying MTV reality series "The Ashlee Simpson Show".
Born and raised in Texas, Simpson is the daughter of Joe, her father and manager, and Tina Simpson, her mother who home-schooled Simpson. Simpson began dancing at the age of three, and was admitted to the School of American Ballet in New York City at the age of eleven. After Simpson's sister Jessica signed a record deal, their family decided to move to Los Angeles, California, where Simpson began appearing in television commercials. When Jessica achieved fame through her first album, Simpson became a backup dancer for Jessica's concerts. Later, she began appearing in films and television series, including an episode of the TV sitcom Malcolm in the Middle in 2001, and a minor role in the 2002 film The Hot Chick. In 2003, Simpson recorded a song called "Just Let Me Cry" for the soundtrack to the film Freaky Friday. Eventually, Simpson signed a record deal with Geffen Records.
Simpson's first album, Autobiography, was released in the U.S. on July 20, 2004 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart with sales in the first week numbering about 400,000 copies. The album was certified triple platinum on September 2004. Critical reviews were mixed, with the online review collection site Metacritic giving the album fifty-five out of one-hundred points. Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Relic described Autobiography as a "mundane melange of Avril-ish brat pop and Sheryl Crow cod rock" while "E! Online" wrote "Even if it doesn't wow you, Autobiography may surprise you". The single "Pieces of Me" that preceded the album was one of the most widely-played songs in the U.S. in mid-2004 and sold well internationally, but the next single, "Shadow", was less successful and not released in the U.K. However, the "La La" single was released in the UK in 2005.
When appearing for live performances, Simpson performs live with a backing band that consists of Ray Brady (guitar), Braxton Olita (guitar), Zach Kennedy (bass guitar), Lucy Walsh (keyboards and vocals), and Chris Fox (drums). Simpson announced on her website that the band would be named "Ashlee Simpson and Submission," taking the name from the fact that they had received so many submissions of proposals for the name in September 2004.
Simpson also occasionally appeared on Newlyweds, a reality show about the married life of Jessica and her husband Nick Lachey; eventually, she got her own MTV reality show entitled The Ashlee Simpson Show, which aired in a time slot subsequent time to Newlyweds. It ran in the U.S. for eight weekly episodes over the summer of 2004, and a second season of ten episodes aired from January to March 2005. The show dealt with the process of writing, recording, and performing Simpson's music, and also dealt with aspects of her personal life.
In addition to her own first album, Simpson sang "Christmas Past, Present, and Future" on the 2004 holiday album Radio Disney Jingle Jams and a duet of the Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy" with her sister Jessica for the album Rejoyce, which they sung together during the ABC variety hour special "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas". Simpson also co-hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve along with Regis Philbin (in Dick Clark's absence) at the end of the year, hosting the West Coast portion of the show and performing three songs.
Simpson appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest on October 24, 2004, and as is customary for the show's format, she was scheduled to perform two songs. The first song she performed, "Pieces of Me", went off without a hitch. However, when she began her second song, "Autobiography", a recording of "Pieces of Me" was heard before she had raised the microphone to her mouth. Simpson began to dance nervously (later calling it a "hoe-down") and then left the stage. The show then cut to an emergency commercial break. During the closing of the show Simpson appeared with the guest host Jude Law stating that her band performed the wrong song in the opening on the performance. Others, however, criticized her for what they saw as evidence that she was lip syncing.
On October 25, Simpson called in to the music video show Total Request Live and explained that due to complications arising from a "severe" variation of acid reflux (which had previously been seen in The Ashlee Simpson Show) she had completely lost her voice and that her doctor advised her not to sing. She continued that because of the acid reflux, her father required her to use a guide track for the performance. She said of the incident: "I made a complete fool of myself". According to her, the drummer hit the wrong button, which caused the wrong track to be played. During the October 25 Radio Music Awards broadcast, Simpson pretended, as a joke, to make the same mistake as she did in the SNL incident, but then began to perform "Autobiography", without using a pre-recorded vocal track as she had done during the prior SNL performance. On October 31, the CBS news program 60 Minutes aired footage from Simpson's rehearsals before the SNL performance, in which she was portrayed as having trouble with her voice and seemed visibly upset.
In 2004 Simpson received the "Song of the Summer" Teen Choice Award for "Pieces of Me," as well as the "Fresh Face" award. In addition, she also won a Billboard Award for New Female Artist of the Year in December and was later named Entertainment Weeklys "Breakout Star of 2004" in January 2005. On January 4, 2005, Simpson performed "La La" at the halftime show for the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida; when her performance finished, many of the 72,000-plus spectators booed. Representatives for the Orange Bowl stated that they were pleased with her performance and felt that it was a belated reaction to the SNL incident, while others have speculated that it may have been because the audience of the Orange Bowl was outside of Simpson's target age bracket. Still others disagree, however, and assert that her performance was poor and off-key.
Simpson had a supporting role as an aspiring actress and short-haired "tomboy" named Clea in the romantic comedy film Undiscovered (originally titled Wannabe), an independent film that was released in theaters on August 26, 2005. Simpson, who filmed her scenes in late 2004, said that for her first significant film role she decided to play a secondary character rather than taking on a leading role so soon. Film critic Michael Rechtstaffen of the Hollywood Reporter said Simpson's performance was "subdued" and "unadorned", and Robert K. Elder felt that Simpson was "aware of her own overexposure and underplaying her part fittingly". The film itself met with mostly negative reviews, and placed outside of the top ten, earning $676,048 in its opening weekend.
In January 2005, following her Orange Bowl performance, an Internet petition at PetitionOnline.com complaining about Simpson's singing was among the most active of the site's petitions. Simpson later said, "that's cool. You don't always have to be a fan of everybody's music," also citing the support she had received from her fans.Around the time of the petition, Cosmopolitan magazine chose Simpson to be on the cover of the February 2005 issue,naming her the "Fun Fearless Female of the Year". to late April 2005. The opening acts for the tour were Pepper's Ghost and The Click Five.In addition to her usual Autobiography songs, Simpson also performed three cover songs; The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket", Blondie's "Call Me", and Madonna's "Burning Up" along with Simpson's own unreleased song "Hollywood". She said that the tour would be "stripped down", without pyrotechnics, and that "it's going to be me and my band getting out there and having fun". In March 2005, Simpson stated that she would like to incorporate the feel of music from the 1980s on her second album, and that the album would focus less on relationships and more on herself. She also said that she wanted to do another television show, but that The Ashlee Simpson Show would conclude at the end of its second season,the last episode of which aired at the end of March.
Simpson has cultivated a somewhat more rebellious and pop-rock oriented image than that of her sister. Previously blond like Jessica, she dyed her hair dark during the recording of the MTV reality show after she finished filming for the 7th Heaven television series. Simpson's songs also have rock elements absent from her sister's music, and to add to this image Simpson often wears shirts with "punk"-style designs and typically has her fingernails and toenails painted black. Her forays into rock fashion, such as her three tattoos (a star, two cherries, and the word "love") are frequently followed by the media.
Her vocals, while generally not thought to equal her sister's range, have been praised by some as fitting the style of her music, and are sometimes described as raspy. Simpson and her sister Jessica were tied for third on oft-quoted celebrity-fashion critic Mr. Blackwell's list of the worst-dressed celebrities of 2004. Blackwell wrote that "from gaudy to grim to downright frenetic these two prove that bad taste is positively genetic".
She has refused to discuss her sex life, in contrast with her sister Jessica, who openly stated her intention to practice sexual abstinence until marriage".I decided that I didn't want to talk about that because it's super personal," she said of the situation. Simpson's relationship with Josh Henderson lasted about two years and ended during the first episode of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Soon she began her relationship with musician Ryan Cabrera, a relationship that was also featured in the reality show, and Simpson appeared as Cabrera's love interest in the music video for Cabrera's song "On the Way Down". The two were reported to have split up in August 2004 due to their busy schedules, but they were sometimes seen together in the months that followed.
At the beginning of the second season of The Ashlee Simpson Show Simpson indicated that they had resumed their relationship, although the two broke up again in early 2005. Simpson says the single "Boyfriend" from her upcoming album I Am Me "is about [how] every girl out there sometimes thinks you stole her boyfriend. It's just making fun of that"; she says it is not about Lindsay Lohan and Wilmer Valderrama, although there have been rumors that Simpson stole Valderrama from Lohan. Another song on the album, "Beautifully Broken", deals with the SNL incident.
There have been arguments that Simpson is a "manufactured" artist and mediocre singer, and that her appearances on her MTV reality show were "phony" and aimed at promoting her album. Such critics cite incidents like the SNL episode and the Orange Bowl performance as proof of their claims, while others consider Simpson's carefully crafted image instead of her music to be the reason for her continued success.
Assuming she is a manufactured artist, much of the media speculate that Simpson was pushed to fame through the aggressive management style and contacts of her father, Joe Simpson, who is her manager and was the executive producer of her reality show. Furthermore, some think that Simpson has lip-synced on occasions other than the SNL episode, comparing the impact of the SNL incident to the incident Milli Vanilli had in 1990 in a live MTV performance in which the guide track skipped, revealing that they had lip-synced.
In early 2005, Simpson's marketing campaign was accused of astroturfing by users on several websites. A post on Metafilter claimed that the marketing company posted the same text, which contained the text, "I just read about Ashlee in us weekly. Those guys at the football game were total jerks". (the "football game" referring to the Orange Bowl incident) under the user name "mandyc19" on over three hundred different music-related forums in order to further promote Simpson and paint her in a positive light. This (and possibly other instances) led to a new term, "Ashleeturfing", to describe faux fan raves such as this.