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Jessica Simpson
Follow Up CD is Simply "Irresistible"

Second albums are make it or break it time for artists.  Jessica Simpson knows the follow up to 1999's "Sweet Kisses" either pushes her to superstardom - or puts her back on the mall tour. 

With Sony top-man Tommy Mattola backing her, reportedly hand-selecting each of the disc's 12 tracks, chances are slim the

emerging pop diva is going to fail.  The slickly-produced set, titled "Irresistible", boasts a bevy of hot writers, a set of super-producers, and, of course, the backing of an entire label.

After the defection of Sony's pop powerhouse and former Ms. Mattola, Mariah Carey, to rival Columbia, the label is looking for a young, moldable artist to build into the franchise Carey ultimately became.  Simpson presents a very blond, very beautiful, and reasonably talented opportunity for the label.  Their goal for Simpson:  Total domination of the pop charts.

With that said, the 20 year old Texan is poised to wade from the sea of Britneys to become tomorrow's Mariah, Madonna or Janet.  Simpson has shaved off a few pounds of baby fat, compromised a few religious values to don a sexier wardrobe, and put together a more R&B and street-influenced disc than the goody-goody "Sweet Kisses."

Already scaling the charts is the up-tempo title track, which is rapidly jumping toward the Top 10.  Like many tracks on "Irresistible", the first single is content to utilize the well-worn formula for current popular music.  The poppy, mid-tempo tune, complete with a slight Spanish influence, treads on slightly risqué ground for the devout Christian as the verbiage is open for misinterpretation and double-entendre. 

[Fear not!  She's still a virgin, folks.  Perhaps if she wasn't, she and 98 Degrees' Nick Lechey wouldn't be "taking a break" from seeing one another!]

Tracks like the danceable "A Little Bit" and "What's It Gonna Be" (which sounds like a carbon copy of any number of Carey tracks for the first 15 seconds) follow a similarly simple, straight-forward pop formula.  "Hot Like Fire" presents a radio-worthy, hip-hop influenced track that allows Simpson to display her talents along-

Jessica Simpson

side a very sexy throaty growl.

Simpson flawlessly shifts gears from one of pop music's clichés, Britney, to another, the patented sound of Dark Child Productions (Destiny's Child, Mya, Toni Braxton).  While "Imagination" uses little in its formula, Simpson sounds right at home.  "I Never" fares much better, providing Simpson the hip sound that will likely make inroads for her with urban markets.  Fans of tracks like Braxton's "He Wasn't Man Enough" or Mya's "Case of the Ex (Whatcha Gon' Do?)" should lap this one up.

As was the case with Carey before her, and Whitney Houston before her, the longevity of Simpson's career could well be built on the strength of her ballads.  Her break-through single, the Top 5 smash "I Wanna Love You Forever", garnered comparisons to Carey.  Nothing on "Irresistible" is going to ease that comparison. 

"When You Told Me You Loved Me" and "To Fall In Love Again," co-written by Lachey, are both Mariah-worthy power ballads, and Simpson's voice is perfectly at home.  On the soaring "When You Told Me" Simpson is mournful, broken as she asks "How was I to know you'd run - Baby, I thought you were the one."

The most obvious choice on the album is "There You Were," a duet with labelmate and Latino heartthrob Marc Anthony ("I Need to Know").  Beautiful, wrenching, and steeped in emotion, "There You Were" will position both artists atop the pop charts by its fall release.  Guaranteed.  Success is written all over this perfectly crafted power ballad.

Without fail, Simpson has found a 

winning combination.  Mattola and company should be quite happy with the results.  Simpson and her fans can heave a sigh of relief.  She made it past that ugly "Sophomore Slump" with career - and virginity - in tact!

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