Ashlee Nicole Simpson (born October 3, 1984 in Dallas, Texas) is an American singer, actress and the younger sister of singer Jessica Simpson. She rose to prominence in mid-2004 through the success of her chart-topping debut album Autobiography, which was accompanied by a successful reality show, The Ashlee Simpson Show. In October 2004, she was accused of lip syncing when she was caught using a pre-recorded vocal track on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, a highly publicized incident that drew substantial negative attention from the press. In early 2005 she embarked on a successful two-month North American tour, and her second album is planned for release in October 2005.
Simpson, the daughter of Joe and Tina Simpson, was born and raised in Texas, where she was home-schooled by her mother. While her sister Jessica, four years older, displayed an early talent for singing, Ashlee danced from the age of three and was admitted to the School of American Ballet in New York City at age 11.
After her sister Jessica signed a record deal, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where Ashlee began auditioning for television commercials—her first commercial was for the department store Kohl's. Jessica achieved success in pop music in 1999 with her song "I Wanna Love You Forever" and the album Sweet Kisses, and Ashlee became a backup dancer in Jessica's concerts. She also appeared in an episode of the TV sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and had a minor role in the 2002 film The Hot Chick, a comedy starring Rob Schneider. Simpson played the character Cecilia on the television show 7th Heaven from 2002 until the beginning of her singing career in 2004, at which point she stopped regular appearances.
Music and film
In 2003, Simpson recorded a song, "Just Let Me Cry," for the soundtrack to the film Freaky Friday, and also signed a record deal with Geffen Records. She recorded an album, Autobiography, released in the U.S. on July 20, 2004. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified triple platinum in September 2004. The single "Pieces of Me" preceded the album, was one of the most widely-played songs in the U.S. in mid-2004, and sold well internationally. The next single, "Shadow", was less successful and not released in the U.K. The U.K.-sourced "La La" single followed in 2005.
Simpson and her music career were the subject of The Ashlee Simpson Show, a successful reality show on MTV. She had previously appeared on Newlyweds, an already established reality show about the married life of Jessica and her husband Nick Lachey, and The Ashlee Simpson Show aired in the subsequent time slot. The show ran in the U.S. for eight weekly episodes over the summer of 2004, and dealt with the process of writing, recording, and performing, and with aspects of Simpson's personal life. The first episode of the second season aired in the U.S. in late January 2005.
Simpson performs live with a backing band, which consists of Ray Brady (guitar), Braxton Olita (guitar), Zach Kennedy (bass guitar), Lucy Walsh (keyboards and vocals) and Chris Fox (drums). In September 2004, she 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. Her manager is her father, Joe Simpson.
Simpson received the 2004 "Song of the Summer" Teen Choice Award for "Pieces of Me," as well as the "Fresh Face" award. Later that year, Ashlee and her sister Jessica recorded a duet of the Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy" together for Rejoyce, a 2004 Christmas album by Jessica; they sang the song together during the ABC variety hour special "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas", which aired in December. That same month, Simpson won a Billboard Award for New Female Artist of the Year. She also sang "Christmas Past, Present, and Future" on the 2004 holiday album Radio Disney Jingle Jams.
Simpson cut her hair shorter for a role as an aspiring actress and "tomboy" in the forthcoming romantic comedy film Undiscovered (originally titled Wannabe), an independent film that began filming in November 2004.
Style and personal life
Ashlee 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 reality show, after she had finished filming for 7th Heaven. Ashlee's songs also have rock elements absent from her sister's music. 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 (positively or negatively) as raspy.
Simpson often wears shirts with "punk"-style designs and typically has her fingernails and toenails painted black. She has refused to discuss her sex life, in contrast to 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 has said. Ashlee got a tattoo of a star on her left wrist after the release of her album, and another tattoo of two cherries was seen on her ankle in 2005.
Simpson's relationship with Josh Henderson, member of the pop group Scene 23, lasted about two years and ended during the first episode of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Soon she began her relationship with musician Ryan Cabrera; this relationship 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 still sometimes seen together in the months that followed, and at the beginning of the second season of The Ashlee Simpson Show, Simpson indicated that they had resumed their relationship. In October 2004, they did a series of concerts at high schools together.
Simpson and her sister Jessica were tied for third on 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."
Saturday Night Live incident
Simpson appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest on October 24, 2004. As is customary for musical guests, she was scheduled to give two performances, the first of "Pieces of Me" and the second of "Autobiography." As she was beginning the second performance, however, a recording of "Pieces of Me" - including vocals - started playing before she had raised the microphone to her mouth. Simpson, uncertain of how to react, danced nervously (as she later called it, a "hoe-down") and then left the stage. After an emergency commercial break, she appeared again during the show's closing with the guest host Jude Law, and apologized, saying that her band had started playing the wrong song. Others, however, criticized her for what they saw as evidence that she was lip synching. She was also accused of lying to the public about her acid reflux disease.
Simpson called in to the music video show Total Request Live on October 25, and explained that she had been having trouble with her vocal cords due to acid reflux and could not sing well, and thus had no choice but to perform with a guide track. For the second performance, Simpson said that her drummer had hit the wrong button and consequently the wrong track played.
Prior to the incident, Simpson expressed her distaste with lip synching in an interview with Lucky magazine: "I'm totally against it and offended by it. I'm going out to let my real talent show, not to just stand there and dance around. Personally, I'd never lip-synch. It's just not me."
During the October 25 Radio Music Awards broadcast, Simpson made fun of the SNL mistake by pretending at first to be caught in the same mistake with "Pieces of Me" as before, before going into a performance of "Autobiography." On October 31, the CBS news program 60 Minutes aired footage from Simpson's rehearsals before the SNL performance, in which she was shown having trouble with her voice and being visibly upset.
Simpson's first U.S. headlining tour (with two dates in Canada as well) ran from mid-February (in California) to late April 2005 (in Texas). During the tour, her opening acts were Pepper's Ghost and The Click Five, and she performed three cover songs in addition to her usual Autobiography songs: The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket", Blondie's "Call Me", and Madonna's "Burning Up", along with Simpson's own unreleased song "Hollywood". In a TRL appearance prior to the tour's start, she said that she planned to work on her next album with her band while touring, and that it might be released around Fall 2005. Elsewhere, 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."
Simpson was on the cover of the February 2005 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, and she was chosen as its "Fun Fearless Female of the Year".
In March 2005, Simpson stated that she would like to incorporate the feel of '80s music on her second album, and that it 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 tenth and last episode of which aired at the end of March.
In an April episode of Punk'd, Ashton Kutcher and his crew members set up a fake art museum and arranged for Simpson to visit it. They then convinced Simpson that her friend's jacket had caught fire due to being placed on top of a candle (though Simpson maintained that she put the jacket in front of the candle), causing the overhead sprinklers to go off, and ruining all the paintings in the room.
She also dyed her infamous un-natural black hair to blonde, saying it was too hard dying her naturally blonde hair black because her blonde roots always came back.
In late July 2005, Simpson confirmed rumors that the first single preceding her next album will be called "L.O.V.E.", and said that it is "just about me and my girlfriends going out, not needing a man in our lives". The album, which is planned for release in October, will also include two songs dealing with the SNL incident.
On January 4, 2005, Simpson performed "La La" at the halftime show for the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. When her performance was finished, many of the 72,000-plus spectators booed. Various explanations for the booing have been suggested: that it may have been a belated reaction to the SNL incident or a distaste for Simpson's singing (many regarded her voice during the performance as poor and off-key). Or, it may have simply been dissatisfaction with the half-time show as a whole, which has been viewed in recent years as "too MTV" (a negative for the target audience). Once again she became a negative attention from the press and many accused her of lip syncing and lying.
In January, an Internet petition at PetitionOnline.com complaining about Simpson's singing was among the most active of the site's petitions. Simpson later said about the petition that "an 18-year-old girl started it, and that's cool. You don't always have to be a fan of everybody's music." She also mentioned the support she has received from her "amazing fans".
Also in early 2005, Simpson's marketing campaign was accused of astroturfing on various websites. A post on Metafilter claimed that the marketing company posted the same text under the user name "mandyc19" on over three hundred different music-related forums.