Bittersweet World is Ashlee Simpson's third studio album that was released on April 19, 2008 by Geffen Records.
- Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya) 3:37
- Boys 3:31
- Rule Breaker 3:20
- No Time For Tears 3:36
- Little Miss Obsessive 3:41
- Ragdoll 3:34
- Bittersweet World 4:10
- What I've Become 3:51
- Hot Stuff 3:13
- Murder 4:02
- Never Dream Alone 3:18
In November of 2006, after completing her run as Roxie Hart in the musical "Chicago", Simpson said that she was going to meet with record executives soon and begin working on her third album.
Geffen chairman Ron Fair said in early December 2006 that working on Simpson's next album would be "very tricky" because of press scrutiny and "prejudices", but that Geffen would work with her to overcome that, "because she deserves to be heard and she deserves a shot."
MTV reported on March 6, 2007 that Simpson's next album would have "a more soulful sound" and Simpson said that she was writing with many different people.
On March 22, 2007, Entertainment Weekly reported that her father and manager Joe Simpson revealed she had been writing with Kenna and Chad Hugo. She also was said to be working with Timbaland, Linda Perry, Pharrell Williams, will.i.am, John Legend, and Tim Rice-Oxley.
It was reported at that Simpson was working on a collaboration with The Cure's frontman, Robert Smith; however, in July 2007, Smith said that he had not worked with her and did not think it was likely that he would do so in. However, he give a positive appraisal of Simpson's 2006 performance in Chicago.
In September, Simpson said that, although it would be "a dream" to work with Smith, it had never happened and she had been embarrassed by the rumor.
Simpson described "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)" as a "fun, dancey song" with "a little bit of an '80s feel" and said that it was about the people in her life: "too many voices, too many people having their own opinion".
She said that the track "Murder" "isn't serious, based on a true story or a threat.... It's a metaphor about a girl who can get away with murder because of who she is" and said that "Rule Breaker" was an attempt to "capture that badass feeling you get sometimes after watching a movie like True Romance. You think you can take on the world and you want to color outside the lines and get a tattoo or mouth off to someone way bigger than you."
She called "Never Dream Alone" a "sweet emotional song that has been stripped down to piano, strings and vocals" and said that it was her favorite from the album.
Regarding "Hot Stuff", Simpson has said that it "is meant to be a fun song.... A lot of things on the record are laughing at situations, poking fun at things. With that, when you go somewhere and girls give you the mean eye. You're like, 'oh, wow – this is crazy.' 'Hot Stuff' makes fun of that. That song is meant to be a good time."
According to Simpson, "Bittersweet World" is "about people coming together and not judging each other".
Billboard described "Boys" as "The Cardigans' 'Lovefool' atop a Chic rhythm" while People called it "the best Kylie Minogue song that Kylie never did". One review described her delivery on the song as "alternately silly and sensual"."
"Ragdoll" was described by Billboard as having "a 'Beat It' vibe". Rolling Stone called it "reggae-bopping" and said that it "swipes Gwen Stefani's formula. The Houston Chronicle said that it "features Casio-esque keyboard tinkling and driving guitars".
Rolling Stone noted "What I've Become" as an "excellent coming-of-age anthem" and "a paparazzi kiss-off".
People praised "Rule Breaker" as "deliciously bratty and catchy" and Billboard, in its album review, called it a "Pat Benatar-like fist-pumper".
"No Time for Tears" was described by Entertainment Weekly as a "melancholy ballad". The Houston Chronicle said that "Bittersweet World" had "the snap-and-wink of a showtune".
Billboard's album review characterized "Murder" as having a "dark, hypnotic groove". In December 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named "Rule Breaker" as one of the 100 Best Singles of the year.
"Bittersweet World debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, selling about 47,000 copies in its first week.
In the United States, the album has sold 126,000 copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan).
"Bittersweet World" received mostly positive reviews.
Rolling Stone gave Bittersweet World three out of five stars in its review, saying that Simpson had "skillfully shift[ed] her crunchy, guitar-driven pop to eighties-influenced electro-rock with the help of Timbaland and the Neptunes' Chad Hugo."
People gave the album a very positive review, with three and a half out of four stars; it described the album as "shockingly good" and as "sweet revenge on all [Simpson's] critics" and it noted the album's "dance-pop direction".
Entertainment Weekly compared Simpson's "latest incarnation" to Gwen Stefani, but it gave the album a positive review and a "B" rating, saying that the album was filled with "polished hooks and pretty melodies" and had a "giddy neon energy".
Billboard said that on the album, Simpson "just wants to have a good time" and, in an ambivalent appraisal, said that the album "is a party worth attending, but not much is missed if your invite got lost in the mail."
According to The New York Times, the album features "songs with crisp beats, teen-seeking choruses and cheerfully obvious lyrics", and is both "calculated" & "catchy".
The Houston Chronicle gave the album a positive review and three out of four stars, emphasizing its '80s influence and saying that, "at its best, Bittersweet World plays like the solo record Gwen Stefani has been trying to make for years."
The Dallas Morning News gave the album a B rating, describing it as "seductively inauthentic", but also saying that Simpson was "more listenable than ever".
Digital Spy called the album "Easily the best album made by a Simpson sister."
According to Newsday, which gave the album a grade of C-, "Ashlee Simpson takes odd, anachronistic musical parts and makes a big mess."
Rashod Ollison of The Baltimore Sun wrote: "Simpson's colorless voice adds absolutely nothing to the admittedly catchy tracks, which recycle just about every trend heard on mainstream pop radio."
Evan Davies of Now Magazine wrote: "Bittersweet is another testament to the fact that Simpson has little to offer, this time taking the form of an edgeless, forgettable pop rock that desperately tries to hit the mark but almost always falls short."
Allison Stewart of The Washington Post wrote that "Bittersweet World feels reactive and very, very empty, as if it swung at every passing trend and missed."
Dan Gennoe of Dotmusic wrote that "she's got an album which for all its sing-along moments is neither catchy nor extreme enough to be exceptional."
Elysa Gardner of USA Today, giving the album two out of four stars, called it "a collection of bouncy, banal homages to the '80s" and wrote that Simpson, "aided by Timbaland, The Neptunes' Chad Hugo and others, channels Debbie Harry, Madonna and Toni Basil about as well as any girl who could afford the help."
IGN wrote that Simpson seemed "confused, awry, and decidedly astray in terms of discovering her own unique personality and sound. Until she's able to establish her own distinct entity, Ashlee is destined to be another forgotten footnote on the fickle pop front."
Andy Gill of The Independent only gave the album one star and wrote: "Her voice is all attitude and no emotion, a textbook case of style over substance – and given the paucity of style, that's as insubstantial as it gets."
Blender critic Ryan Dombal wrote, "in the quest to make overly bronzed twentysomethings sweat, this endearing pseudo–rebel loses much of the little–sister angst that made her so appealing in the first place."
Tom Young of Orange United Kingdom described Simpson as an "enigma for the UK audience" and that the album "does nothing to clear up her purpose."
In March of 2007, MTV reported that "Bittersweet World" was planned for release in October of 2007. On October 15, 2007, MTV subsequently reported that the album's release had been delayed to the first quarter of 2008.
On November 13, 2007, Simpson told MTV News at CosmoGIRL!'s "Born to Lead Awards" that the album was completed (although she was continuing to write) and that it would be released in March 2008, with its first single, the Timbaland-produced "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)", preceding it in January. She said that the video for the song would be filmed in December.
Simpson's official website stated on November 21, 2007 that "Outta My Head" would be digitally released on December 11, 2007. The song was made available for listening on AOL Music beginning on November 30, 2007.
On January 30, 2008, in an interview on the Johnjay and Rich radio show in Arizona, Simpson said that the album would be released on April 15, 2008. The song "Boys" from the album was also played for the first time.
On the KISS FM DreX Morning Show in Chicago on February 21, 2008, Simpson premiered another new song, "Little Miss Obsessive", on which she sings with Tom Higgenson of Plain White T's. The song is said to be more rock-oriented than "Outta My Head".
On February 25, 2008, Simpson's website announced that "Little Miss Obsessive" would be the next single.
Speaking on the radio station Q102 on March 3, 2008 Simpson said that the release date would be April 22. She began promoting the album with performances at clubs, accompanied by a DJ and her guitar player in late January.
The first of these club performances was at the Myst nightclub in Scottsdale, Arizona on the night of January 30–31, where she performed three songs from "Bittersweet World" in addition to her song, "L.O.V.E."
Simpson performed the last of these four-song club shows in Miami, Florida on the night of March 8–9, 2008. Following the club tour, she said that she planned to go on a House of Blues tour with her band beginning in late April 2008.
In addition to her club tour and many radio interviews, Simpson has made in-store appearances at Wal-Mart to meet with fans.
She has a number of television appearances planned for the weeks prior to and surrounding the album's release on April 22: on Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards on March 29; Total Request Live on April 17 (where she gave an interview and performed "Little Miss Obsessive"), the Today show on April 18 (where she gave an interview and performed "Little Miss Obsessive", along with her 2004 song from her debut album Autobiography, "Pieces of Me"), Dance on Sunset on April 20 (performing "Little Miss Obsessive"), The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on April 21 (where she performed "Little Miss Obsessive"), Dancing with the Stars on April 22 (where she performed "Boys"), The Ellen DeGeneres Show on April 24 (where she gave an interview and performed "Little Miss Obsessive"), and Jimmy Kimmel Live! on April 24 (where she performed "Little Miss Obsessive").
Simpson subsequently went to Europe for more promotion, performing "Outta My Head" on television shows in the United Kingdom and Germany. In connection with the album release, clothing retailer Wet Seal launched a collection of tops designed by Simpson on April 22, 2008.
According to Simpson, her inspirations for "Bittersweet World" were reflected in the clothing line. Wet Seal also planned to sell the album in its stores and on its website, and planned to hold a contest for which the grand prize was to include a trip to meet Simpson and attend one of the concerts on her planned tour.
Simpson's 12 date summer tour was subsequently cancelled. OK! Magazine reported on May 31 that Simpson cancelled her summer tour due to her pregnancy.
On July 4, 2008, Simpson was scheduled to perform for The TODAY Show's "Summer Concert Series", but that performance was also cancelled.