Ashlee Simpson vs. Heart
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This week at the Dixon May Fair, fairgoers are faced with a tough choice, and I’m not just talking about whether to catch the hog-calling contest or the poultry weigh-in. The question is: Should you arrange your visit to accommodate the performance by Heart tonight or Ashlee Simpson on Saturday? And, more importantly, what is either of these acts doing here among the manure and funnel cakes? County fairs are where pop musicians go to die. Well, maybe not to die, but however lucrative it may be, playing a county fair is something of a low.
Isn’t Heart a well-loved classic-rock band? Isn’t Simpson a mega-famous teen pop princess? Who has sunk farther? Is there someone we ought to be more ashamed for—or of ourselves for going to see?
We’ve laid out the facts, so you can decide for yourself. (Country star Carrie Underwood’s Friday performance is already sold out, so she is exempt.)
Heart: Has existed, at least in nascent form, since the late 1960s. (Note: Nancy and Ann Wilson, the most recognizable and now only permanent members of Heart, joined in the 1970s.)
Simpson: Has only existed, in prenatal form or otherwise, since 1984. (Note: Has existed, in an ethereal sense, as the specter of empty celebrity and doomed youth since roughly the dawn of time.)
Low career points:
Heart: Ann Wilson’s weight-loss surgery might be a candidate here, although it’s nothing compared to Carnie Wilson’s (no relation) live broadcast of her weight-loss surgery. Also, a period of inactivity from 1993 to 2004 didn’t win many new fans.
Simpson: The Saturday Night Live “acid reflux” lip-sync scandal or a popular Internet video of a drunken Simpson berating a McDonald’s clerk.
Winner (loser?): Simpson.
High career points:
Heart: Being a critically acclaimed rock band for most of the 1980s, starting the legendary Bad Animals recording studio, “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.”
Simpson: Actually, the acid-reflux incident garnered more publicity for Simpson than anything else up to that point. Also, in the wake of that disaster came The Ashlee Project (www.theashleeproject.com), a Web site started by Simpson’s fans with the stated goal of giving her a site to visit “whenever people are giving [her] a hard time.” Here, Simpson can log on and read messages from over 500 fans, such as: “No matter what they do against you I will always be on your side.”
Winner: Draw. Heart has clearly had a better career, but the band doesn’t have a Web site run by concerned well-wishers devoted to cheering the band members up when they’re having a bad day.
Artist is sometimes overshadowed by:
Heart: Nancy Wilson’s husband, Cameron Crowe, who had a hand in creating the ethos of both ’80s teen movies (Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything) and ’90s slacker movies (Singles).
Simpson: Older sister Jessica Simpson, who may have been a pop singer at some point (have you ever actually heard her sing a song?) but is most well-known for confusing fish with chicken or vice versa.
Winner: Draw. Heart gets points for being associated with a cool director; Simpson gets points because she couldn’t possibly be any more soul-sucking than her sister.
Song I heard by the artist when I was about 12 and immediately felt guilty for liking:
Heart: “All I Wanna Do is Make Love to You”
Winner: Heart, by forfeit.
Typical message to fans (actual quotes):
Heart: “What a year. So many ups and downs. That’s life baby! Here’s hoping ’06 is full and exciting and that we all find love. Also there will be much music.” (From www.Heart-Music.com.)
Simpson: “I want you guys to know that I couldn’t have gotten this far without your love and support and I’m gonna go out there and sweat, dance, and sing my butt off!” (From The Ashlee Project.)
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