I’ll be the first to say it: Ashlee Simpson is real

The MTV princess’ version of reality might be less than Midwest, but it’s easy to verify

Keri Carlson

The most common criticism of the new Ashlee Simpson album, “I Am Me,” is that Jessica’s lil’ sis’ ain’t keepin’ it real.

Ashlee is phony, unconvincing, artificial, polished and sipping on some major Fakerade, the detractors say.

I find this funny because actually, the first single, “Boyfriend,” is one of the most “real” songs I have ever heard.

Just in case you don’t read celebrity trash blogs like I do, here’s the story behind “Boyfriend”: Lindsay Lohan, once tight with Ashlee, accused Ashlee of stealing her boyfriend, Wilmer Valderrama (Fez from “That ’70s Show”). Ashlee denied these accusations, but the tiff continues.

In “Boyfriend” Ashlee sings, “All that stuff about me, being with him, can’t believe, all the lies that you told, just to ease your own soul / But I’m bigger than that, no you don’t have my back, no, no.” And the chorus repeats, “I didn’t steal your boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend” is undoubtedly a reaction to Lohan. The lyrics read just like the headlines from gossip magazines.

You could call Ashlee petty or superficial for “Boyfriend,” but the criticism that she’s not being real is pretty absurd. Rarely can I confirm if what most artists write about is real ” have they really been in love? Did they really have an awful breakup? But when Ashlee sings about not stealing boyfriends, I know for sure she didn’t simply make up a song just for pop’s sake. It really happened!

According to Ashlee Simpson fan sites, other songs on “I Am Me” correlate to publicized events. “Catch Me When I Fall” is reportedly about the Saturday Night Live lip-synch flub. And because Ashlee has her love life documented by paparazzi and reality TV, any of the breakup/love songs can be traced back to Ryan Cabrera or new beau and bandmate Braxton Olita.

So what exactly do reviewers mean when they claim Ashlee is not real enough?

E! Online wrote: “The pop hooks are there, but we can’t shake the feeling that the sentiments come off as phony, especially on the bland woe-is-me numbers like “Beautifully Broken’ and “Catch Me When I Fall.’ Will the real Ashlee Simpson ever stand up?” (Note: It’s always questionable and hilarious when friggin’ E! calls someone fake).

What I noticed is that in most reviews, calling Ashlee fake requires no explanation, as though her fakeness is a given, something we all know. And maybe it is, considering the facts: 1. We all saw her Milli Vanilli routine on SNL. 2. Her father “Papa Joe” is an insane manager who whores his children to Hollywood and the music biz. 3. The MTV series was an obvious commercial for her first album. 4. Some of her songs fit into the mall punk category. 5. She was on TV show “7th Heaven”… ick.

But to me, these things only make Ashlee more real. She’s a Hollywood kid who has lived in a celebrity bubble her whole life. Maybe Ashlee is not “real” in the Midwest-sense, but Ashlee is as real as any episode of “Laguna Beach.” This might seem laughable, but “Laguna” and Hollywood are reality to some people ” and maybe these cultures are more real to all of us than we’d like to admit.

Just a month and a half after Ashlee’s “I Am Me,” her rival, Lohan, released her second album to slightly better reviews. Unavoidably, Lohan’s album was compared to “I Am Me” and many reviewers decided Lohan’s “A Little More Personal (Raw)” is “more real” that Ashlee’s.

“A Little More Personal” and “I Am Me” are not very different from one another ” they both use retro ’80s rock influences and their voices sound very processed. But Lohan’s record is weighed down with tons of ballads, which makes Ashlee’s much more enjoyable to listen to.

So why does Lohan get the good reviews?

A couple of her songs are about her shattered relationship with her jailed father. And fathers in jail are always more real than stealing a boyfriend.

Keri Carlson welcomes comments at [email protected]