Jessica Simpson is bright, beautiful and blessed. She possesses a voice that is capable of expressing the heartache of first love and the wondrous possibilities of an everlasting tomorrow. Her live shows have been marked by a youthful exuberance coupled with a seasoned professionalism that belies her 19 years. In an era of pre-fabricated wind-up divas, she is refreshingly honest, remarkably focused and positive, and true to her self, her beliefs and her heart. She is Jessica Simpson and Sweet Kisses, her Columbia Records debut, is an appealing and satisfying blend of pop, R&B and gospel-infused music that heralds the emergence of a bright new star.
"Recording Sweet Kisses is the culmination of a dream," Jessica offers, "not only because people will get the opportunity to hear my music but also because I'm hoping that my fans will also see that you can be a good person and lead a good life and still have fun!" The first single is "I Wanna Love You Forever," a soaring, passionate ballad written and produced by Sam Watters (of Color me Badd) and Louis Biancanella (Mariah Carey)."The song is so beautiful," exclaims Jessica. "It's so romantic and that's the kind of singer I am. I love passion and I love love because I am such a sucker for that sort of thing. It's a song about having a love for someone for the rest of your life. That can apply to family, a guy, a friend, whomever. That universal emotion really appeals to me."
Another track that touches Jessica's heart is "Where You Are," which pairs Jessica up with 98 Degree's Nick Lachey. "I toured with 98 Degrees this past spring. It was my first tour ever and it was just an incredible experience! Watching 98 Degrees perform every night, I had this idea that I should record something with Nick and when this song came along it was perfect!" "Where You Are," another emotional ballad, also speaks to universal feelings. "It's a song, quite honestly, about death but it examines it from a positive, spiritual way," Jessica explains. "I think anyone who's gone through the sadness of that sort of loss will be able to draw peace and comfort from this song." Jessica co-wrote "Heart Of Innocence," which she dedicates to her future husband, no matter who he might be. "I believe in one true love," Jessica declares, "so I really wanted this song not to be cheesy or preachy but rather just truthful, because I do believe in abstinence and commitment. The lyrics come straight from a dream I had and are so personal and real to me, because I know that innocence can be sexy and that you can be confident and at ease with your sexuality and your womanliness without having sex. I am." It's not just on powerful ballads that Jessica shines: she also rocks the house on tracks like "Woman In Me," which features labelmates Destiny's Child. "'Woman In Me' is a very inspirational song because it address issues of self-esteem and self-worth. It's so important to me that people love themselves for who they are and that they appreciate all of the beauty that's in their souls."
It's the desire to make her music more than just cute radio fodder that drives Jessica, who has viewed singing and performing as her life's work since she was a young child growing up in Texas. A native of Dallas, Jessica first developed her singing skills in the local Baptist church where her father, a psychologist, also served as a youth minister. When Jessica was 12 she auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club. Jessica's talents and presence took her all the way to the finals, where she admittedly freaked out during her last audition. "I froze, she laughs, "but the experience made me even stronger and more convinced that I was on the right path." The following year while attending church camp, Jessica, who had always loved to sing along with the radio, delivered an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" for one of the camp's guest speakers, who was in the process of launching a gospel music label. Jessica signed to the label and worked on an album for three years during which time the small label folded. The setback didn't deter Jessica one bit and she took the material she had worked on and began to hit the Christian Youth Conference circuit, singing her inspirational and upbeat odes to audiences of upwards of 20,000. With her grandmother paying to press and release her ill-fated record, Jessica and her father hit the road, with her father speaking and Jessica singing to delighted crowds throughout the country. After the show Jessica's homemade album would be sold and very quickly this tiny project took on a life of its own. News of the teenage Texan with the grown-up voice soon began to filter out of the religious world and into the pop music realm and it was only a matter of time before the major labels expressed interest.
"I was determined that I be able to stay who I am if I signed to a non-Christian music label," Jessica says firmly, "and when I met with Tommy Mottola (Chairman and CEO, Sony Music Entertainment) he was genuinely impressed with my beliefs and was completely supportive. I remember singing for him and he told me, "you are going to change the world with the power of your heart and your music. When he said that, I knew that I had a home with Sony." Already an established star in the Christian music world, where she often appeared on bills with Kirk Franklin, God's Property and Ce Ce Winans, Jessica's next challenge came in taking her faith and spectacular voice to a wider audience. "I knew that in pop music I had more of a chance to reach more people," Jessica offers, "I knew that somehow, it was all in God's plan for me to make the music I make and to touch the people."
As one might expect from an artist so focused, this is one young woman who refuses to be content with the flash and burn of teen sensation status. "I feel like I can bring a freshness, no matter what age the person listening to my music is. And I think that freshness and that innocence is something that is missing from a lot of female singers. I'm certainly not denying that I'm young, but I'm not fluff." Filled with undeniable spirit and bolstered by a soaring sumptuous voice that defies comparisons, Jessica Simpson is a young woman who can not be denied. "I know it sounds crazy, but I just love this record so much! And the thing that I'm most proud of is that when you listen to it, it's like you're on an emotional ride. My music takes you somewhere and, at the end of the day, that's what's so awesome about making music. That it has power and it's something I'm so proud to share."
Every once in a while when you start to feel jaded about the party-hard image of rock and pop stars, someone comes onto the scene to remind us that there are alternatives for people interested in something different. Jessica Simpson is that person for many fans of pop music with her strong convictions and unshakable faith....and that doesn't even say anything about the beauty of her voice and music. After touring with Ricky Martin and 98 Degrees, her album Sweet Kisses is a strong first entry in what is sure to be a long and storied career for this talented lady.
Fun Facts about Jessica Simpson:
- Jessica got her start performing by singing gospel music at her church
- She tried out for The Mickey Mouse Club at the age of 12 and was turned down
- She worked on a gospel album for two years only to have the record company fold just before it was released - If she could sing with any one female artist, it would be "Celine Dion, for sure"