Pop singer Jessica Simpson released her album “In This Skin” 10 years ago today. The record signaled a shift away from the bubblegum and dance-pop sound behind her first two albums. She really dug deep on “Skin” with its more organic production and personal tone. On the verge of launching MTV's “Newlyweds” show with her then husband Nick Lachey, the album was a memoir of her hopes, fears and dreams for their marriage. Despite whatever would happen years later (which we all already know), the album still stands as a very sincere and loving record in Simpson's catalog.
The production on “In This Skin” was done with more real instruments than her previous releases. It complimented how personal Simpson got this time with her nine co-writes on the 11-track record. Instead of big beats, campfire-like guitars and strings now blanketed her pop sound. That warmth of it all is most felt on the title track, in which Simpson sings about loving yourself. She probably knew that you can't love someone until you love yourself (sorry about it, Ne-Yo). Simpson also fired back against her naysayers when she sings, “Don't tell me I have to be 102 / I don't have nothing to prove,” over a brief and dark rock sound. The song was beautifully empowering in all the right ways.
More of that breezy acoustic guitar accompanied Jessica on “With You,” the album's biggest hit. The sweet little love song perfectly summed up her and Nick's relationship on “Newlyweds” with honest lyrics like: “With you, I can let my hair down / I can say anything crazy.” That's just how the two were together, especially when Jessica brought up the great Chicken of the Sea debate of 2003.
Love, of course, brings about ballads, which also filled the “In This Skin” record. Pop songwriter Diane Warren got naughty with “Sweetest Sin,” a sexual romp about the first wedding night. “You don't know how bad I want that,” Simpson proclaims with utmost feeling. On “Underneath,” the album's best ballad, she ponders the thought of sadly losing her loved one. “You're everything I know so how could I let you go,” Jessica delivers in an emotional performance. She also lets her dad know that he hasn't lost his little girl to marriage on “You Don't Have to Let Go,” another soaring number. Simpson started out as a balladeer with “I Wanna Love You Forever” so she was in her element on these songs.
“In This Skin” didn't completely shake off her dance-pop past as evidenced by the Spanish-influenced sound of “My Way Home” or the electronic-tinged “Forbidden Fruit.” She cuts loose on both tracks, playing up the temptress role from her “Irresistible” album. The songs were still a celebration of love, but their upbeat nature also livened up the record a bit.
Initially, “In This Skin” was not a commercial success when first released. The American public would fall in love with Nick and Jessica, though, as “Newlyweds” went on so Simpson's label re-released the album nine months later with two new ballads, covers of Berlin's “Take My Breath Away” and Robbie Williams' “Angels.” Simpson said the former was playing in the background when Lachey kissed her (aww!). The album got that much more personal with two oldies that she revitalized with her big voice.
As of late, Simpson has been quiet on the music front and more focused on her entrepreneurial efforts and motherhood with a new guy in her life. The albums released after “In This Skin” were enjoyable but they weren't as personal or cohesive. It would be exciting to see Simpson return to music again, but until then, “In This Skin” will certainly be her finest moment.
Listen to "In This Skin" on Spotify.com
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