Thank God for VH1 shows like “All Access” and “The Fabulous Life” or we’d be stumbling ignorantly into the future, unable to match Britney and Xtina bling for bling. But while the nation distracts itself wondering whether George W. spends more money on his personal stylist than John Kerry, a different battle is raging in our troubled time, a battle that pits generation against generation, white against black, punky teen against lovey dovey couple. Yeah, we’re talking Ashlee Simpson versus Ashford & Simpson!
All that matters here is that two similarly monickered acts are vying for instant access on the Internet. No more will old Googlers be fooled into reading about Jessica Simpson’s squirt sis when all they want to know is who wrote “I’m Every Woman.” Never again will impressionable teens who just want to download a new picture of pop’s latest teen sensation have to sift through jpegs of some mousy Negress and her scary tall husband. Three’s a crowd and clearly someone must be voted off the island of mass consciousness.
Armed with a copy of Autobiography (Ashlee’s former No. 1 album still nestled in the Billboard’s Top Ten) and Solid (the 1984 Ashford & Simpson LP containing the duo’s Number One R&B hit), we can now compare their loves, lyrics, secrets, siblings and, most importantly, their stylists. C’mon everyone, reach out and judge somebody’s hair!
Most Telling Title Track
Ashlee’s Autobiography means to cover “my million subtleties,” or at least the ones her MTV reality series didn’t get around to. Sample divulgence: “I walked a thousand miles to find one river of peace/ And I’ll walk a million more / To find out what this shit means.” Hey, where’s the Parental Advisory sticker? And, oh, yeah, the Proclaimers want a word with you, missy!
Ashford & Simpson’s song “Solid” serves notice that R&B’s most enduring couple — if you don’t count George and Weezie (R.I.P.) — had everyone beat in the togetherness department as far back as ’84, when Peaches & Herb couldn’t even stay reunited with two different Peaches!
Most Shocking Revelation
In the song “Shadow,” Ashlee admits being severely depressed living in the shadow of you-know-who. “I was stuck inside someone else’s life and always second best,” she blubbers until some Dr. Phil stylist advised her to dye her hair black. Then later in the same song she exclaims “Mother, sister, father, sister, mother, everything’s cool now.” Either father remarried or mother has some s’plainin’ to do.
As an added sales incentive for the Solid album, Ashford and Simpson included two songs they wrote for Body Rock, the worst break-dancing film ever, as anyone who’s ever seen Lorenzo Lamas headspin on a cardboard box and answer to the name “Chilly D” will tell you.
It couldn’t have been easy for Ashlee’s ex-boyfriend, singer-songwriter Ryan Cabrera and the inspiration behind her current hit, “Pieces of Me.” Not only did he have to constantly pick up the fragments of Ashlee’s shattered psyche (“Make me happy, it’s your mission.”) but he also shared management with her domineering pop, Joe Simpson. What’s Ryan supposed to do — make Joe’s daughter happy or go on a mall tour?
Every song on every Ashford and Simpson album rubs it in our faces that nothing will ever EVER derail their love train. Even if Nick and Valerie split up inside of a song, they do it in such a caring and nurturing way that you know they’ll always be there for each other. In doing this, the duo keeps dysfunctional couples everywhere together, if for no other reason but to bang their heads in unison against the nearest solid object.
This one’s a draw — both have stylists named Ken! But Ashford’s Fu Manchu facial pubes and Simpson’s Spirograph braids are a lot more mystifying than Ashlee’s Joan Jett shag-a-roo.
Since her ditzy sis is as inescapable as oxygen these days, Ashlee’s own overexposure was practically a birthright.
Valerie Simpson wins pop culture points because her brother Ray was the cop in the Village People. Cool! But that gold star tarnishes when you realize he wasn’t Good Cop (the lead singer on “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy” was Victor Willis) but Very Bad Cop (the lead singer on “I Like It Sleazy” and cop star of the Village People’s humiliating and career-killing flick, Can’t Stop the Music.)
On “Love For Me,” Ashlee gives some guy shit for using her toothpaste and then tells him “When you’re crawling over broken glass to me/That’s when I’ll let you stay.” Harsh!
They may be solid as a rock but Nick Ashford’s steamrolled Cowardly Lion look doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. On the other hand, the pair produced three Diana Ross albums, which tells us they can indeed withstand even the most frigid diva scowl.
Ashlee thanks God for her blessings on the new album, but all her two starring years on the WB’s hit “7th Heaven” did was estrange her further from that goody-goody Camden family.
Ashford and Simpson have sung “Heaven Must Have Sent You” to each other for so long there’s probably no arguing with them about it now.
On Autobiography, all Ashlee will admit to is spilling coffee all over herself.
“Let’s Go Get Stoned” was one of Ashford and Simpson’s earliest compositions, but these lovebirds are so high on each other that no amount of coke or junk can sway them. Clearly love is the drug of choice and Nick and Val are not afraid of abusing it. On “Honey I Love You,” they advise to “Say it over and over/A million times.”
Here the power-shagged tweeny has the R&B thespians clearly beat. Besides her recurring “7th Heaven” role, and participation in several Simpson reality shows, Ashlee’s appeared on “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Saved by the Bell” and played a cheerleader in Rob Schneider’s cinematic triumph, The Hot Chick.
Oh yeah? Ashford and Simpson played themselves on an episode of “The Equalizer.” For a dramatic stretch, Valerie played “Herself” on an episode of “New York Undercover” while Nick played a dude named “Lordes” who, if I remember correctly, falls in love with Valerie Simpson at some point in the show. To date their biggest acting achievement was remaining good-natured while watching their greatest hits systematically massacred on an episode of “American Idol.”Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Contact him at [email protected]