Simpson's performance failed to impress college football fans, who booed her screechy rendition of "La La" despite the song's event-appropriate lyrics (You can throw me like a lineman). But then, there isn't much overlap between Sooners backers and Distillers die-hards. Simpson's unadorned voice pricks ears like a safety-pin piercing, but it just keeps stabbing, until, like a tattoo needle, it produces something freakily beautiful. On record, Simpson's casually crooned You make me wanna scream is criminally unconvincing. Live, the sentiment, delivered in loud tortured-animal tones, becomes self-evident.
Despite the unlistenability of her debut disc, Simpson is an alt-rock goddess in the works. When she finishes her Courtney Love-in-reverse makeover, she'll be punk's Miss World.
Simpson seems unaware of her calling. She wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word punk to a promotional photo shoot, then lamely claimed it was because it was the only clean top she could find. She mishandled her defining crisis, dancing like a gloating troll when her Saturday Night Live lip-sync track wasn't what she expected. Instead, she should have asked herself a crucial question: What would Courtney do? Simpson could have let a stagehand suckle her breast or filibustered with a rambling diatribe until the proper track could be located. These approaches would have painted her as controversial and eccentric rather than untalented.
Good Charlotte's Benji and Joel Madden pop up in Simpson's liner notes ("you guys are so rad!"), so she obviously needs a new punk Henry Higgins. Rancid's mohawked, marble-mouth Tim Armstrong, who wrote tunes for Pink's Try This, could school her in anti-enunciation and anachronistic 1977 fashions. Her off-key albums wouldn't go platinum, but she could live through this. On the average, underground artists have much longer careers than pop princesses, most of whom are fading by Tuesday. Also, this path would cast her as the absolute opposite of her vapid, more vocally gifted sister, Jessica. It's so obvious; it's written on Ashlee's Nancy Spungenesque face.