Can the Simpsons rise above the haters?

By | January 25, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Between them, sisters Jessica and Ashlee Simpson have had one high-profile divorce, an embarrassing lip-synch scandal, plastic surgeries both obvious and subtle, blame for a Dallas Cowboys loss, and an impresario father looming over it all. Each shot to prominence – and up the pop charts – by taking the primrose path of MTV reality shows.

Each has had shining success at selling records, followed by abject failure.

And that’s just a sampling. If you’re a celeb-watcher (or football bettor), it’s juicy stuff.

If you’re a Simpson sister, it’s beginning to look like a critical mass of negativity.

Of late, Jessica, 27, and sister Ashlee, 23, are regularly slimed in the blogosphere, which becomes more and more vicious as public interest in celebrities reaches an all-time high. Trying to nurture a career – and stay in fans’ good graces – amid gleefully ruthless tabloid scrutiny can’t be an easy feat.

Especially for Jessica.

The singer/actress/shoe designer will likely avoid the Dallas Cowboys stadium after fans blamed her weekend trip to Mexico with quarterback Tony Romo for the Cowboys’ defeat by the New York Giants.

Eva Longoria rallied to Simpson’s defense, as did ex-boyfriend John Mayer. In a post on his blog, Mayer wrote: “I have never known anyone to have more pride in their home state and their upbringing in it than Jessica Simpson has in Texas. … It’s one of her most defining traits as a person. So please don’t try and take that away from her.”

For Simpson, who suffered a backlash of sorts after her marriage to Nick Lachey crumbled in 2005, bad press is apparently a side effect of living under the tabloid microscope.

“Jessica’s actually quite realistic about it,” publicist Elizabeth Wolfe told Wolfe is the spokeswoman for Millennium Films, which released Simpson’s new comedy, “Blonde Ambition,” co-starring Luke Wilson, to eight Texas theaters in December. It’s now available on DVD. Simpson’s upcoming films include “Major Movie Star,” in which she plays an actress-turned-Marine. These films follow her big-screen debut in “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Meanwhile, Simpson’s little sister recently unleashed the video for her new single, “Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya),” to mixed reviews online. Ashlee’s third solo album, “Bittersweet World,” is expected to be released in the spring.

Ashlee, a media magnet for her romance with Fall Out Boy rocker Pete Wentz, positioned herself as the anti-Jessica in 2004 when she documented the making of her debut album, “Autobiography,” on an MTV series. That album sold 2.9 million copies and spawned several radio-friendly hits despite the revelation that she lip-synched during a performance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Her 2005 disc, “I Am Me,” failed to register a hit and only sold 942,000 copies – still, that was better than the end tally (297,000) for her sister’s 2006 clunker, “A Public Affair.”

These days, Jessica’s gone country. She’s been recording a new album in Nashville, Tenn., to be released sometime this year, her publicist, Lauren Auslander, said recently. In a recent interview with Billboard.com, Jessica explained her reason for trying out a new sound: “I am a country girl. … I always wanted to make a country album, but I wanted to wait until the time was right.”

Ian Drew, editor-at-large for Us Weekly magazine, said the siblings, who are managed by their domineering father, Joe Simpson, and reportedly haven’t been shy about having cosmetic procedures, could certainly prove themselves again – all they need is a surefire single or some other success that would eclipse the drama surrounding their personal lives.

“My honest opinion is neither of them really have a great deal of talent,” Drew remarked. “They’re manufactured pop artists. So it comes down to: Could they buy the right song or not?”

Still, unlike an artist like Madonna, who has a weak voice yet a strong point of view, “these girls don’t really have anything to say,” Drew said. “They’re not very intelligent. They’re not very insightful. … And you can only go so far that way in the entertainment world.”

Publicist Howard Bragman said Jessica needs to stop juggling so many projects and “do fewer things better.”

“She’s still a very beautiful girl,” Bragman said. “There’s still a lot of media interest. She still has potential. … Once you’ve been a star, you can be a star again. That’s the beauty of America.”

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