As Sharpay Evans in the preposterously popular High School Musical franchise, Ashley Tisdale stood out thanks to her lively and amusingly mischievous character. She brought something extra to the role — perhaps due to her being a little older than the other main HSM performers — and seemed somewhat more self-aware.
With the release of Guilty Pleasure, her second record, a 23-year-old Tisdale is attempting to sell the tween crowd on the proposal that she’s all grown up.
Disney’s proclivity for cranking out heaps of “talent” for the tween throng has become the stuff of legend, with the likes of Miley Cyrus and those damn Jonas Brothers plastered on every half-locker in the United States and beyond. Every so often, a slice of talent breaks through and produces something unique, interesting, and strangely natural.
No matter how charming or mischievous Tisdale might have been as Sharpay, though, it’s safe to say that none of that transfers to Guilty Pleasure. Instead, she comes up with awkward songs, spiritless attempts at sexuality, and very little in the way of imagination or distinctiveness.
It is interesting to note that Tisdale’s attempts to come off as grown-up sound a lot more like a tween trying to impress and less like a young woman blossoming into her own skin while finding her own voice. This is disappointing, as even Miley has demonstrated an ability to be strikingly sincere.
Musically, Guilty Pleasure is paint-by-numbers stuff. Tisdale’s band plonks out a sort of lame power pop, complete with wilted guitar progression and “sweeping” strings for the more “emotional” numbers. Completely in want of ingenuity and guts, it’s all just very dull.
The lyrical content is pretty emaciated. The bulk of the tunes cover the routine breakups-to-makeups province of modern pop music.
“What If,” which is Tisdale’s most personal piece on the album, resembles almost every other slushy piano ballad ever written. Co-written by Kara DioGuardi, the song questions a significant other as to where he’d be if really needed. Tisdale’s mundane, uninspired vocals do little to communicate any actual importance and the drawn-out fills don’t help, either.
Guilty Pleasure’s lead single, “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” owes a lot to Avril and sounds more like a 15-year-old trying to get over a hallway crush than a 23-year-old woman getting on with her life.
Slight segments of experimentation and exploration float through “Masquerade,” although the appealing intro soon gives way to more weak song production and Tisdale’s too-high, too-nasal tendencies.
Shoddy and cheesy, “How Do You Love Someone?” stands as an ode to a girl dealing with her divorced parents. Instead of offering something reliable and expressive, Tisdale follows the blueprint and builds tacky melodrama.
While Tisdale’s Guilty Pleasure will sell well to its anticipated tween audience, I couldn’t help but wish that her anticipated audience be a little closer to her own age. The record is a dodge, with cheap attempts at boldness hidden in feeble cuts like “Hot Mess” instead of front and center where more genuine attempts belong.
Entirely spineless and ineffectual, this Guilty Pleasure is about as sinful as sneaking an extra cookie from a jar and about as grown-up as an eighth grader’s MySpace page.