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Album review: Ashley Tisdale's 'Guilty Pleasure'

July 28, 2009 |  8:57 pm
Tisdale_240 At age 24, Ashley Tisdale is the elder of the "High School Musical" tribe that includes Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. On her second album, "Guilty Pleasure," the now-brunet wants to forge her adulthood, but what she's crafted is a glob of uninspired pop-rock that aspires to be Pink but is really something paler.

The problem might lie with Tisdale's chosen path of independence; the showbiz prodigy now fancies herself a bad girl. That takes more fortitude than can be mustered by this wan batch of songs co-produced and written (with Tisdale's contributions) with an all-star team that includes Kara DioGuardi and Toby Gad. They don't seem to have gifted Tisdale with their best work.

On "Hot Mess," which begins with some promising Andy Summers-style guitar, Tisdale claims to have no inhibitions, but the song's self-conscious attempts to whip up a frenzy of naughtiness prove otherwise. "I'm getting speed tickets; I'm acting just like a misfit; I'm letting my mail pile up to the ceiling."

At another point, she sings, "you wake up in your bra and makeup" as if it's a scandal that'll blow apart her locked diary. Hey, maybe the same thing has happened to Condoleezza Rice after a hard day's night of nailing a Rachmaninoff sonata.

"How Do You Love Someone" could have been an affecting portrait of broken marriage from a child's perspective -- surely a rich topic for Gen-Y kids hit by climbing divorce rates -- but it takes the easy way out with cringe-inducing stereotypes.

There are a few glimmers of hope; Tisdale has said her heroes are Pat Benatar and Kelly Clarkson. But to succeed in the crowded hallways of teen pop, she'll have to be as fearless a misfit as those two bad girls -- and not feel guilty about it in the morning.

-- Margaret Wappler

Ashley Tisdale
"Guilty Pleasure"
Warner Bros.
One and a half stars