Enough kvetching about Ashlee Simpson — and her 2.6 million-selling debut album, Autobiography. Watch the second season of her MTV reality series if you must (episode 3 airs Tuesday, Feb. 8). But when it comes to her music, it’s time to let go of your exaggerated outrage — backing tracks! well, I never! — and turn your attention toward some deserving pop-rock chicks who got lost in the shuffle last year. Here are six flavors to choose from — start sampling!
ALBUM TITLE Because I Can
TOTAL U.S. SALES 57,000
THE SCOOP Rose became the musical poster child for troubled youth when her mature tunes popped up on the soundtracks to Thirteen and Mean Girls.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”I’m six feet under the Bhodi tree/With my crap new-age philosophy/Diamonds where there once were stars/I’m sittin’ in Jayne Mansfield’s car.”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE Rose has a knack for writing catchy pop hooks.
WHY SHE’S BETTER She may be just a kid, but Rose’s debut contains one essential ingredient missing from Ashlee’s tepid rock stew: a real sense of danger.
EW GRADE B-
ALBUM TITLE Anastacia
TOTAL U.S. SALES 2,200 (import)
THE SCOOP Her third disc, which cranks up the guitars, was the second-best-selling album of 2004 in Europe; the single, ”Left Outside Alone,” got no such love Stateside, pushing back the disc’s release date to June 2005.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”I’ve been through it all, hit about a million walls/Welcome to my truth?I still love.”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE Anastacia also got her big break on an MTV series — as a finalist on the short-lived talent competition The Cut.
WHY SHE’S BETTER Even on an off day, this breast-cancer survivor has more vocal chops than the lightweight combination of screechy Ashlee and her amped-up backing tracks.
A Girl Called Eddy
ALBUM TITLE A Girl Called Eddy
TOTAL SALES 7,600
THE SCOOP Think Aimee Mann, only darker.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”I’m scattered like newspapers all over the street/I see your face in everyone I meet”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE Um, she’s got black hair?
WHY SHE’S BETTER Eddy’s haunting delivery and plaintive melodies will break your heart a little with every listen.
EW GRADE B
ALBUM TITLE Get Away From Me
TOTAL U.S. SALES 96,000
THE SCOOP McKay’s debut collection of jaunty, piano-driven pop — with touches of jazz, disco, and rap — was so chock-full of gems, she needed to go the double-disc route to fit them all in.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”When you’re female/And you’re fenced in/And fen-phened to no end/And no Zen guide to men will help you fend off the brethren”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE Everything about Get Away From Me indicates McKay’s not-so-secret desire to conquer the charts.
WHY SHE’S BETTER There’s no mistaking McKay’s breezy delivery — or her offbeat wit — for anyone else on the charts.
EW GRADE A
ALBUM TITLE Underdog Victorious
TOTAL U.S. SALES 7,300
THE SCOOP It’s criminal that Sobule hasn’t had a major hit since 1995’s ”I Kissed a Girl,” especially since this CD’s folk-pop title track is one of the catchiest pieces of ear candy in recent memory.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”Hot Wheels and comic books hidden away/For Seventeen magazine and Jean Naté/So I kissed the mirror to see how I’d taste/Strawberry Gloss”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE Simpson and Sobule have similar nasal qualities in their upper registers…
WHY SHE’S BETTER…but Sobule uses hers to address a far more interesting range of topics, from teen prostitutes to encounters with sexy traffic cops to the life of ’60s TV star Joey Heatherton.
ALBUM TITLE Linger
TOTAL U.S. SALES 11,000
THE SCOOP There’s something soothing about Chapin’s distinctive warble, her wry take on life, and the dreamy soundscape over which she sets her latest collection.
SAMPLE LYRIC ”We are passive people at the end of the day/We let outrage melt away/It seems that life is so much easier that way”
HOW SHE’LL REMIND YOU OF ASHLEE As Ashlee blew up in big sis Jessica’s shadow, Chapin was preceded on the music scene by a successful relative — in this case, her dad, folk legend Harry Chapin.
WHY SHE’S BETTER Chapin’s lyrics and arrangements are far more sophisticated.
EW GRADE B+