Album: Ashlee Simpson, Bittersweet World (Geffen)

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The Independent Culture

Few acts epitomise the failings of corporate pop as completely as Ashlee Simpson, one of those insubstantial presences who seem to emanate from the industry like marsh-gas, shape-shifting to fit whatever trends briefly catch the public ear, then evaporating to leave only a lingering whiff of inauthenticity.

The back-cover shot of this third album illustrates her colossal irritant quotient, from the artfully angled, unlaced trainers to the headphones worn outside her hoody and the finger poised reflectively at her lip. Former releases have presented her as Alanis/Avril-lite, a plastic rebel whose principles are summarised here in the ghastly "Rule Breaker": "We like to break rules/ Both got tattoos/ We tend to smash things/ And we like to scream". Tattoos, eh? Wow! It's produced by Timbaland in his "rock" style (which doesn't), while elsewhere he and Neptunes' Chad Hugo try to effect her move from rock to dance-pop with various bastard hybrids of perfunctory beats and grunge guitar in tracks like "Ragdoll". Her voice is all attitude and no emotion, a textbook case of style over substance – and given the paucity of style, that's as insubstantial as it gets.

Pick of the album:There isn't one