What better way to usher in your new sound than with a new nose (and if scuttlebutt is to be believed, Pete Wendt’s baby)? But the most notable accessories on Ashlee Simpson’s third album are her collaborators. The news that Simpson would be working with Timbaland on Bittersweet World undoubtedly induced eye rolls from those who still pretend to care, but while Tim’s name is attached to more than half of the songs on the album, they’re largely produced by proxy. King Logan and Jerome Harmon of Royal Court take the reins on several tracks, while Kenna and the Neptunes’ Chad Hugo pick up the slack on the remainder of the album. With equal doses quirk and attitude, Simpson channels Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?” on the new-new wave lead single, “Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)” (co-written by Philly’s Santi White a.k.a. Santogold), and the album’s other standout, “Hot Stuff” (“Sunday school girl wantin’ some,” she vamps over a N.E.R.D.-esque guitar riff). Songs like the flirty “Boys”—not to mention references to addiction and anal sex on “Murder”—aren’t designed to appeal to the same tween audience that ate up Simpson’s transparent pose as the Anti-Jessica four years ago, but the album’s second single, “Little Miss Obsessive,” featuring Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s, and “Rule Breaker” are more in line with the emo-lite that helped Simpson sell millions. Bittersweet World is another step in the right direction for Simpson; now if only she’d learn that real rule breakers don’t write songs about it.
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