Album Review: Jessica Simpson, “In This Skin” (2003)

I was cleaning out my room last week when I ran across a bunch of CDs that sit in the very back of my CD collection. Most of these are the albums that I admit to being quite embarrassed to own; most of which consists of my late-90’s pop music collection. Still, I remembered that I had yet to review a handful of these discs, therefore, prepare yourself for a series of reviews of pop music CDs that I’m quite simply, embarrassed to own.

I’m starting things off with Jessica Simpson’s 2003 release, In This Skin. I actually own the re-released version that includes new covers and mixes of songs, but more on that later. The disc was Simpson’s third album, and her biggest hit to date- going four times Platinum. Still, the album as a whole is bland and colorless and highly punctuated with Simpson’s ability to over sing her way through each song.

The album begins with Angels, a remake of British pop star, Robbie Williams’ hit song. I’ve always been a fan of his version; the heartfelt lyrics, and Williams’ beautiful delivery make for an incredibly romantic song. Though Simpson doesn’t stray far from the original, I find it hard to enjoy her version. While William’s rendition was quiet and understated, Simpson’s version is loud and she screams during the chorus, rather than singing. I don’t get the tender and sentimental feeling I get from Williams’ version while listening to Simpson’s; instead, by the second chorus I start to feel a bit of a headache after listening to her wailing vocals and the cheesy synthesized backing vocals. As I’ve often said, some songs should simply not be redone.

With You marks the first original song on the album, and proved to be a pretty big hit. The song’s nothing more than a typical, up-beat pop track, in which Simpson sings about being able to be herself when with her husband (at the time, Nick Lachey). Though the lyrics aren’t anything too special (“But with you/I can let my hair down/I can say anything crazy/I know you’ll catch me right before I hit the ground/With nothing but a T-shirt on /I never felt so beautiful/Baby, as I do now/Now that I’m with you”), the catchy chorus is one that will be stuck in your head for days. Simpson returns to the remakes with Take My Breath Away. Again, I prefer hearing Berlin’s version any day over this one, though at least this time around, Simpson manages to keep her over singing to a minimum and the track comes off as a decent karaoke performance.

My favorite song on the album (which is actually just the song that I can stand listening to the most) is My Way Home. I can’t really explain why I like this song so much; perhaps it’s the catchy, albeit standard, backing music or the fact that Simpson seems to actually sound good during the choruses, but the track is the one I’ve listened to most on the entire album. Again, I often find myself humming the chorus while I’m at work, and Simpson’s producers deserve kudos for making such catchy tunes. The same could be said of Sweetest Sin which is probably my second favorite on the album. The song was the album’s first single, and depicts the feelings that Simpson has about making love to her husband. Despite the seemingly racy subject matter, the lyrics are tastefully written (“Your lips upon my lips/Can you just picture this…/Your finger tips on my finger tips/Your skin upon my skin…/Would be the Sweetest Sin… “) and again, Simpson sings the song without trying too hard, which results in a sultry and sweet sounding mid-tempo track.

The disc hits a dry spot at this point, and takes a long while to return even to mediocrity. I Have Loved You is a slow ballad, which isn’t bad but lacks anything that would make it worth listening to.Forbidden Fruit is like a cheap rip-off of Sweetest Sin, but with poorly written lyrics (“If you taste this fruit forbidden to eat/You can drink this wine from a love so deep/I’d dance for you, let you come within/If you swear to me that it ain’t no sin”) and a less memorable melody. Every Day See You, besides having an annoyingly awkward title, is just incredibly dull and passionless. Underneath is another ballad, but doesn’t go much of anywhere either vocally or musically, and is a definite skip for me.

However, the best ballad on the album is easily You Don’t Have To Let Go. The lyrics, written for Simpson’s father, Joe, are simple and honest (“You don’t say it/But it’s in your eyes/All the fears of good-bye/But I can promise/You’ll always have a place, and a way to my heart”), and Simpson sings about the love she has for her father with genuine emotion that’s not found anywhere else on the album. The simple melody, comprised of piano, vocals and strings also works well, and despite that I find Joe Simpson to be incredibly creepy (come on- isn’t he just a little too involved in Jessica and Ashlee’s careers and love lives? It’s just a bit weird!), the song is incredibly heartfelt.

Jessica Simpson side

The album slips right back into mediocrity, with Loving You. No, it’s not a remake of the Minnie Riperton song of the same name (and thank God for that- I don’t even want to imagine the ways in which Simpson would butcher that song), but is instead a mid-tempo bore that’s not even worth listening to once. The title track, In This Skin, is an incredibly unremarkable song, though the lyrics about Simpson’s struggles with fame (“They see me in a magazine/I’m the one they want to be/Still don’t feel I’m good enough/Still don’t feel I’m thin enough”) are better than some others on the album. Be is another boring ballad, and at this point I’m really wondering how many synonyms I can use for “dull” in this review.

Things thankfully come to an end with With You, which is now in an acoustic form. While the original song is pretty decent, this acoustic version is a bit better. The stripped down production provides more room to focus on Simpson’s vocals, which are actually pretty pleasant this time around. Simpson does have a nice voice, but as I’ve said throughout this entire review, she tends to do a lot of screeching, wailing, screaming, and just overall over singing, which distracts from her actual talent. This song, however, ends the song on a pleasurable note.

In This Skin isn’t by any means a good album. Jessica Simpson is talented, but the songs given to her aren’t anything worth listening to, and until she learns to sing without making my ears bleed, I’ll be straying away from any of her future releases as well.

Rating: 2_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Angels
2. With You
3. Take My Breath Away
4. My Way Home
5. Sweetest Sin
6. I Have Loved You
7. Forbidden Fruit
8. Everyday See You
9. Underneath
10. You Don’t Have To Let Go
11. Loving You
12. In This Skin
13. Be
14. With You – (acoustic version, bonus track)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiWehIIymwE]
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