Album Review: Jessica Simpson, “Do You Know” (2008)

I don’t care what anyone says about her- I always have and always will like Jessica Simpson.  I think she’s a sweet girl, and I always find myself rooting for her when the media attacks her.  Sure, she’s played the “dumb blonde” role out a bit (though I was an avid watcher of her reality show with ex-husband, Nick Lachey), but I’ve always found something likeable about Ms. Simpson, at least, as a person.

When it comes to her music career, however, I’ve never been as sturdy a fan.  Her debut album was laced with manufactured pop songs and breathy vocals, and her biggest studio album, In This Skin, was almost a complete atrocity.  When Simpson broke the news in 2007 that she was making plans to record a country-music album, I was a bit weary.

Simpson is a Texas native, and decided that with her fifth studio album, Do You Know, she’d go back to her “country” roots.   John Shanks (Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys) came along for the ride, and the result is poor attempt at a country record.  Sorry Jessica, yet again, you’ve failed to impress me in the music department.

The album begins decently enough, at least.  Lead single, Come On Over, starts things off, and is a catchy, upbeat track.  The song sounds a lot more like a pop song than a country one, save the country-sounding guitars in the background, and the new “twang” that Simpson has adapted to her voice while singing.  Anyway, the song is nice enough, and Simpson’s vocals sound better on this song than they have in the past.

Remember That appears next and is the first of many ballads on the album.  When Simpson was doing press for the record, she mentioned several times in interviews that one of the songs on the album was about her highly-publicized relationship with John Mayer.  Being the huge Mayer fan that I am, naturally I was more intrigued with the album because of the promise of a look inside their relationship.  Unlike the majority of Mayer’s fans, I was actually pleased with his union with Simpson (now, him and Jennifer Aniston- that’s another story), but they ended things about ten months after dating.

Anyway, this song happens to be about an abusive relationship, so I sincerely hope this isn’t one based on her relationship with Mayer.  Simpson starts the song off describing the bad parts of the relationship (“Remember/How he pushed you in the hallway/Just enough to hurt a little bit/Remember/The Whiskey in his whispers/And the lies that fell so easy from his lips”) and then urges the listener to remember these things when the no-good man comes crawling back (“When its 3am and he’s at your door/And he wants you back and he’s begging for forgiveness/Remember that”).  I like the lyrical content- I’m sure many women and men too, for that matter, could relate to this song, and Simpson’s vocals are also nice.

Pray Out Loud follows and is the typical, prerequisite Christian/faith based-country song.  At any rate, the song is still quite nice, and is lead by a memorable chorus (“When you’re down/Don’t be afraid to pray out loud/Just close your eyes and let it out/Take all your fears and doubts/He’s listening right now”).  It’s good to see Simpson revisiting her faith; after some of the controversy in her career it’s sometimes hard to remember the days when she was known for being a preacher’s daughter.  Though the title sounds like it, You’re My Sunday, isn’t about religion, but is another ballad about a relationship.  As a whole, the song is nothing incredibly remarkable and the tune sounds almost identical to that of Remember That, but at least Simpson’s vocals are nice.

Jessica Simpson Joining Forces with the Rockies April 2011 (cropped)Okay, the John Mayer song must be Sipping On History.  This is another slow ballad, which Simpson spends looking back at a failed relationship.  I like the lyrics a bit more in this song, particularly the opening line (“I could have been your June Carter-Cash”).  The track is a sweet one, and now that I think about it, I’m pretty certain this song is about her failed marriage with Lachey (“We could have had a big trampoline/Kids running round the yard/Superman and bottle cars/We could have had that one of a kind love”).

Right, so if the last song wasn’t about Mayer, it must be Still Don’t Stop Me.  The ballad begins with Simpson signing about how strong she’d be if he came back into her life (“I’d like to tell myself/If you showed up tonight/I’d tell you to go to hell/And get on with my life”), but then ends with her singing about how she’s ultimately weak to him (“But it still don’t stop me/Yeah, it still don’t change the truth/’Cause baby you got me/And I can’t let go of you/I know if I let you back in/It’s the same damn thing all over again/You’ll just hurt me, you’ll just hurt me/But it still don’t stop me”).  This one HAS to be it- their relationship was very shaky and on again/off again- this has to be the right track.   I’ll put my theorizing aside for a second to point out that this song is probably the best ballad on the album- the music is nice, and Simpson’s vocals are appropriately strong.

Er…or perhaps, When I Loved You Like That is the one about Mayer?   Simpson again reminisces about a relationship , and actually, looking at the lyrics a second time makes me think this one is about Lachey.  Never mind…I’m getting tired of guessing at this point- she should’ve just added their names in parenthesis in the titles so it would’ve been easier for me to guess.

Sadly, guessing which lover Simpson is singing about in each ballad is where the fun ends.  The rest of the album borders on boring, average territory.  Still Beautiful is an upbeat song that has just the right amounts of bland, generic nothingness to make me skip it every time.  Might As Well Be Making Love is yet ANOTHER ballad, with soaring vocals, and a boring melody.  Man Enough is completely dull, and it’s a wonder Simpson didn’t fall asleep herself while recording some of these songs.

The album ends with its worst offense, title track, Do You Know.  The song features Country music royalty, Dolly Parton, but is a complete disaster.  Simpson and Parton don’t harmonize well together at all, and towards the end of the song, Simpson just ends up shrieking (calling to mind some of the worst songs on In This Skin) and Parton’s vocals easily outshine hers.  It’s completely embarrassing for Simpson, and a poor end to the album.

I honestly do think that country music is a better match for Jessica Simpson.  The songs seem a bit more honest, and her vocals suit the genre better than any of the pop albums she’s released.  Still, Do You Know wasn’t a good debut for her country music career.   The album is far too ballad heavy and too many songs blend together.  Plus, I still never figured out which song was about John Mayer.  It’s a disappointment all around.

Rating:  3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Come On Over
2. Remember That
3. Pray Out Loud
4. You’re My Sunday
5. Sipping On History
6. Still Beautiful
7. Still Don’t Stop Me
8. When I Loved You Like That
9. Might As Well Be Making Love
10. Man Enough
11. Do You Know – (featuring Dolly Parton)


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