LAS VEGAS — This town can bring out the bad girl in just about anyone, and Ashlee Simpson is about to unleash hers — on her new album, that is. Get ready to meet ... Vicky Valentine.
"You will know when Vicky is in the room!" the singer laughs during a Saturday sneak peek of select tracks from her forthcoming, yet-untitled album, due in November. Hanging out at the recording studio on the third floor of the Fantasy Tower at the Palms Casino Resort, Simpson has her recording crew keeping her company, from Timbaland — who pops by for a hug — to Jim Beanz, J Roe and King Logan. "These are my boys," she says as an introduction.
Meanwhile, a new sound from Ashlee is banging on the speakers, a more tribal, dangerous, seductive sound, filled with beats and synth lines. "Here, in the dark, is where I find the light," she sings, in a slow, slinky way. "I've got a monkey on my back, get it off," she then sings in a near-rap. "I get away with murder," she drawls. Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes sneaks in a rap about how she has "diplomatic immunity."
"This is really fun for me," Ashlee says. "I've always done guitar-based songs, and seeing what we can do with beats is so amazing."
The song is called "Murder," and it might be her first single. It's one of six songs she recorded in Los Angeles over the past few months with VMA maestro Timbaland and crew, while she has seven others completed with Chad Hugo of the Neptunes and Kenna. The Timbo tracks — the ones she previews at the Palms, at least — make it sound like a reinvention (à la what the producer did for Nelly Furtado) is in the works. One non-Timbaland track, "Follow You Wherever You Go," is what her father Joe calls her "Broadway thing" — a jazzed-up number inspired by her work in the West End production of "Chicago" (see "Ashlee Collapses Onstage At 'Chicago' Debut — But This Time, It's Intentional"). Ashlee might call her alter ego Vicky, but there's a bit of Roxie in her now too.
"There is definitely a different element on the record," Simpson. "I have a pretty low voice, so I got to touch in with that, [and I've been inspired by] doing 'Chicago.' ... I think there's a part of every girl and guy who wants to get out and get away with things."
Don't ask her what she's getting away with during her time in Vegas — "My dad is in the room!" she exclaims. So while she'll let out her rebellious side on the record — as in songs like "Rulebreaker" — she doesn't want to incriminate herself just yet. "Rulebreaker" does that for her a bit: "I like to break rules, get tattoos, scratch things. ... I'm a black sheep." It's a Vicky song, and Ashlee says, "She's tough. You don't want to mess with her."
Apparently, Ashlee feels like she's been messed with enough as it is — "Ay Ay Ay" is her get-out-of-my-head track, while "Ragdoll" tells off a lover for mistreating her. "Our love must be tainted," she sings, "if that's how you paint it. ... Don't you see my black tears?" Sometimes, though, she sounds like she likes it — telling her would-be suitor, "You can touch me now/ Toss me up." Avid poker player Joe interjects repeatedly that "Ay Ay Ay" is about Tina, Ashlee's mom, but she's having none of it. "It's about you too, all right?" she teases Joe.
"It's not about my mom," she later clarifies. "I just have too many voices in my head, everyone having their own opinion. And while I have a sweet side, a soft side, sometimes you just want to kick some ass, too."
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