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Ashlee Nicole Simpson (born October 3, 1984) is an American pop singer–songwriter and an occasional actress. She is the younger sister of pop singer Jessica Simpson.
Simpson rose to prominence in mid-2004 through the success of her number-one debut album Autobiography and the accompanying reality series The Ashlee Simpson Show. Simpson received widespread derision when she used a pre-recorded vocal track for a performance on Saturday Night Live in October 2004. Following a North American concert tour and an unsuccessful film appearance, Simpson released a second number-one album, I Am Me, in late-2005.
Simpson was born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in that city's suburb of Richardson. She is the daughter of Joe Truett Simpson (a former Baptist youth minister who is now her manager) and Tina Ann Drew (a former Sunday School teacher who homeschooled Ashlee). An accomplished dancer, Simpson began studying classical ballet at the age of three, and was admitted to the School of American Ballet in New York City at the age of eleven. Around that time, she suffered from an eating disorder; the condition lasted about six months, and she dropped to about 31 kg (70 pounds) at 159 cm (5ft 2in), but her parents then stepped in and got her to eat more. After her sister Jessica Simpson landed a record deal, the Simpson family decided to move to Los Angeles, California, where Ashlee began appearing in television commercials. When Jessica became a star after releasing her first album, Ashlee became one of her backup dancers. Later, she began appearing in films and television series, including an episode of the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle in 2001, a minor role in the 2002 film The Hot Chick and a recurring role on the family drama series 7th Heaven. In the summer of 2003, Simpson briefly worked as an MTV VJ on TRL, and later recorded a song titled "Just Let Me Cry" for the soundtrack of the film Freaky Friday. Eventually, Simpson signed a record deal with Geffen Records.
Debut album and reality television
Ashlee Simpson's first album, Autobiography, debuted at number one in the U.S. in July 2004 with first week sales numbering around 398,000 copies. The album was certified triple platinum in September 2004. Simpson co-wrote all of the album's tracks and described it as "very true to my emotion" in one interview, but critical reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Relic characterised Autobiography as a "mundane melange of Avril-ish brat pop and Sheryl Crow cod rock" while E! Online wrote "Even if it doesn't wow you, Autobiography may surprise you." The single that preceded the album, "Pieces of Me," was one of the biggest hits of the summer in the U.S. and sold well elsewhere. However, the follow-up singles "Shadow" and "La La" were less successful.
Simpson occasionally appeared on Newlyweds, a reality show about the married life of Jessica and her then-husband Nick Lachey. To accompany the beginning of her own music career, she got her own MTV reality show entitled The Ashlee Simpson Show, which aired in a subsequent time slot to Newlyweds. It ran in the U.S. for eight weekly episodes over the summer of 2004, and a second season of ten episodes aired from January to March 2005. The show dealt with the process of writing, recording, and performing Simpson's music as well as aspects of her personal life.
When appearing for live performances, Simpson performed live with a backing band consisting of Ray Brady (guitar), Braxton Olita (guitar), Joey Kaimana (bass guitar—from 2004 to 2005 Zach Kennedy filled this role), Chris Megert (keyboards and vocals—from late 2004 to 2005 Lucy Walsh filled this role), and Chris Fox (drums). In September 2004, Simpson announced on her website that the band would be named "Ashlee Simpson and Submission," taking the name from the fact that they had received so many submissions of proposals for the name.
In addition to her own first album, Simpson sang "Christmas Past, Present, and Future" on the 2004 holiday album Radio Disney Jingle Jams and a duet of the Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy" with her sister Jessica for the album ReJoyce, which they had sung together during the ABC variety hour special "Nick & Jessica's Family Christmas". In 2004 Simpson received the "Song of the Summer" Teen Choice Award for "Pieces of Me," as well as the "Fresh Face" award. In addition, she also won a Billboard Award for New Female Artist of the Year in December and was later named Entertainment Weekly's "Breakout Star of 2004" in January 2005. Simpson also co-hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve along with Regis Philbin (in Dick Clark's absence) at the end of the year, hosting the West Coast portion of the show and performing three songs.
Simpson appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest on the October 23–24, 2004 episode, and as is customary for the show's format, she was scheduled to perform two songs. Her first song, "Pieces of Me", was performed without problems. However, when she began her second song, "Autobiography", the song "Pieces of Me" was heard again—including her vocals—before she had raised the microphone to her mouth. Simpson began to dance spasmodically and then left the stage, while the band (not a recording) continued playing. During the closing of the show Simpson appeared with the guest host Jude Law stating that her band performed the wrong song in the opening on the performance. Others, however, criticized her for what they saw as evidence that she was lip synching.
On October 25, Simpson called in to the music video show Total Request Live and explained that due to complications arising from a "severe" variation of acid reflux (which had previously been seen in The Ashlee Simpson Show) she had completely lost her voice and her doctor had advised her not to sing. She claimed that because of the acid reflux, her father required her to use a guide track for the performance. She said of the incident, "I made a complete fool of myself." According to Simpson, the drummer hit the wrong button, which caused the wrong track to be played. During the October 25 Radio Music Awards broadcast, Simpson pretended, as a joke, to make the same mistake as she did in the SNL incident, but then began to perform "Autobiography" without using a pre-recorded vocal track as she had done during the prior SNL performance. On October 31, the CBS news program 60 Minutes aired footage from Simpson's rehearsals before the SNL performance in which Simpson is shown to be disturbed by voice trouble.
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