Home » The Cultured Critic

Tisdale’s ‘Guilty’ Album is Hardly a Pleasure

by Rudy Klapper 27 July 2009 No Comment E-mail Rudy Klapper

Ashley Tisdale – Guilty Pleasure

Warner Bros. Records 2009

Rating: 4/10


Let me be honest: I love guilty pleasures of all kinds. What is life, anyways, without those few things that, for all their imperfections and the general scorn thrown at them by the majority of humanity, can provide the kind of cheap, palatable entertainment I thrive on? Not everyone can be an immaculate elitist 24/7, save for New Yorker critics and Pitchfork enthusiasts. It’s why I keep coming back to food like deep-fried Oreos, why I watch trashy reality shows and hilarious horror movies, and the reason I treasure Paris Hilton’s debut album.

Suffice to say, I could barely contain my excitement when High School Musical star and Disney spawn Ashley Tisdale announced Guilty Pleasure. Vanilla child actor finally blossoming into womanhood and declaring rebellion? Check. 100% disposable, radio-ready pop with mind-numbing hooks and no social merit whatsoever? Check. Ambiguously sexy, “dark” album cover with a newly brunette Tisdale (brown is so anti-establishment!)? Check!

Alas, my love affair with Ashley was short-lived. Guilty Pleasure is, indeed, guilty of many things, most obviously taking a grab bag of the most popular female stars in the game today, tossing it into a blender, and adding some half-baked lyrics for good measure. Opener “Acting Out” starts off with some seriously pompous strings before Ashley comes in with lyrics that rival Miley Cyrus’ 2008 Breakout: “up above the surface / I was just a perfect child / but underneath it all, I was craving to be wild.” The hooks come hard and fast, and Tisdale’s vocals contain just the perfect note of frantic urgency to sell enticing lyrics like “this is what I need, it’s time to get dirty.”


But the promised “dirty” never really materializes, and throughout Guilty Pleasure, Tisdale comes off as just another teenybopper when she should be acting her age (24, believe it or not). First single “It’s Alright, It’s OK” pounds along stereo-bursting power-chords and an exploding chorus à la Kelly Clarkson while Tisdale rails against an ex, a common theme here. “Masquerade” takes a page from the Miley Cyrus playbook with rapid-fire rhyming verses along a slinking guitar line before blowing up into another hook-filled sing-a-long. See a pattern here?

The biggest problem with the album is, while Tisdale is a more than capable imitator, the constant pastiche of styles fails to deliver a style of her own. Songs like “Overrated” or “Tell Me Lies” are bland pieces of pop punk that could be filler on any pop album in the last decade. “Me Without You” is a bombastic ballad that sounds unbearably syrupy without the voice of an Aguilera. “Crank It Up” is a deliriously catchy club jam in the Blackout-era Britney mold, and that’s exactly what it sounds like: a Britney B-side. The calculated faux-punk of “Hot Mess” mimics Katy Perry (lyrics like “I’m getting speeding tickets / I’m acting just like a misfit” rank up there with the Sex Pistols’ best), the boyfriend-stomping rock of “Delete You” calls to mind Ashlee Simpson, and the ghost of Kelly Clarkson’s relentless power-pop production and mammoth hooks lingers over everything. It’s catchy, but it lacks that X-factor that makes certain pop music so damn addicting.

For all its sameness and utter lack of character, Guilty Pleasure does, at times, live up to its name; it’s the low points, however, that keep it from attaining junk-pop glory. The embarrassingly serious “How Do You Love Someone?” drowns in its own self-awareness and cringe-inducing lyrics about the effects of bad parenting. A perfectly bouncy song like “Hair” wastes itself on trivial subject matter that would put Miley to shame. And the cheese factor on “What If” is almost unbearably high, something only worsened by its high-school journal lyrics.

Please, Ashley, if you do record another album, get some new writers. The lyrics throughout are some of the worst (yet unintentionally hilarious!) in recent memory: “they told me I’d never survive / but survival’s my middle name;” “this beat is hypnotic / I wanna ride it like a chauffeur / sound of the sonic’s controlling me just like a robot;” “you’re wicked bad / and I like the way that you do it baby.” Do yourself a favor and check some of these out – there are some real hidden gems.

Fourteen songs is too long for any pop album not by Taylor Swift, and Guilty Pleasure comes off like a NOW Music compilation of Modern Female Pop Stars that left me deadened to sugary melodies and convinced that radical, riotous teenage behavior includes parking my car in the driveway sideways and getting speeding tickets. The choruses are on the money, the hooks are undeniable, Tisdale has enough vocal sass to get by, yet throughout there’s something missing – her odd decision to separate herself from the pack by sounding just like the pack. A guilty listen, most definitely. A pleasure? Hardly.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>