CD Review of Do You Know by Jessica Simpson
Recommended if you like
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Carrie Underwood
Label
Columbia Nashville
Jessica Simpson:
Do You Know

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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H
ere it is, girls: The latest, greatest example of just how far a knack for chasing trends and a bodacious pair of ta-tas will get you.

Unnecessarily crass? Perhaps. But let’s be honest with ourselves – Jessica Simpson may be a perfectly fine singer, but she’s been making music for about a decade now, and she’s never really delivered a bona fide smash hit. If she wasn’t so good at keeping her name (and those ta-tas) in the public eye, she’d have been forgotten by now, and she wouldn’t be wasting Columbia Nashville’s resources on a cynically assembled piece of product designed to piggyback onto the “gone country” trendlet that’s already worked various levels of sales magic for Bon Jovi, Jewel, and others.

Of course, Simpson is from Texas, so she’s got that going for her. And if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s product, cynically assembled or no; indeed, early sales indicators suggest that Simpson’s “country” project, Do You Know, is poised to become one of the fourth quarter’s top sellers. Gotta love those pedal steel guitars, y’all.

Clearly, it’s easy to pick on Simpson for pandering to the country audience, but it’s just as easy to see that country listeners grew accustomed to pandering a long time ago – in fact, they seem to enjoy it. The debate over what constitutes “real” country flares up every few years, but really, the country charts have long been stuffed with anonymous-sounding millionaires drawling down-home B.S. they’ve been spoon-fed by the industry’s savviest songwriters. Jessica Simpson might only be making country music because she’s stopped selling pop albums, but she’s really no more dishonest than, say, Kenny Chesney – and Do You Know deserves to be evaluated in that context.

No surprises here, then: Do You Know is a finely tuned, aggressively polished set of country pop songs, no better or worse than anything Rascal Flatts might save for the non-single album tracks on their next record. Simpson’s voice is big, technically sound, and utterly free of personality, which means it’s perfect for modern FM country; here, she belts out one mid-tempo ballad after another, touching on all the subjects you’d expect – prayer, heartbreak, love, and feeling horny, soccer mom-style. It’s all clearly calculated – any semblance of subtlety has gone out the window long before Simpson sings “I could have been your June Carter Cash” in the first verse of “Sipping on History” – and it isn’t as smartly written as the best of the genre. But who would have expected anything else? When you’ve made a career out of C+-level music as long as Simpson has, you learn to play to your strengths and stop worrying about everything else.

Ultimately, Do You Know is never anything more than utterly, perfectly competent, interesting more as an artifact of a time when a reality TV starlet could lasso a legend like Dolly Parton for a straight-faced (and mind-numbing) duet than as a work of art. It’s easy to listen to, and even easier to forget. It’ll probably sell a million copies, too – but that says more about us, and our love of bodacious ta-tas, than the music, or even Jessica Simpson herself.

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