Guilty Pleasures, Round One: Ashlee Simpson (8) vs. Mariah Carey (9)

EW’s Music Mix is searching for the Greatest Guilty Pleasure Musical Act of All Time. With 32 seeded contestants (see all the matchups), this tournament is sure to change hearts, minds, and lives for weeks to come. Read/listen to the following, and then cast your vote in the poll after the jump; reader comments will be used in subsequent rounds, so we encourage you to also post a comment explaining why you chose the way you did. Note: In case of a tie, please select the artist you feel more ashamed to adore. Thank you.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: This is the final matchup of Round One. All polls will close at the end of business Friday, and an updated bracket will be posted once the results are tabulated. Round Two starts next week.

Ashlee Simpson Mariah Carey


Forget everything you know about her from the tabloids. Forget that she named her baby Bronx. And close your eyes real hard and try to exorcise that notorious Saturday Night Live performance from your mind. Now take a deep breath and read the following: Ashlee Simpson has made some really good music. Seriously.

Yes, you have to time travel back to 2004 to find it. That’s the year she released her first album, Autobiography. With stringy dark hair, a hook nose and boho clothes, Ashlee was only a couple of zits away from being that weird chick who smoked Camel Menthols in back of the high school. But something about her was relatable. She was angry. (Wait, I’m angry sometimes too.) She wanted someone to love her despite all her faults. (Wait, I want someone to love me despite all my faults.) And she was okay with not being perfect and blonde. (Wait, I’m okay with not being perfect and blonde!)

And unlike her sister Jessica, she knew how to sell a pop song: catchy hooks and Alanis-lite lyrics do it every time. (“Got bruises on my heart and sometimes I get dark,” she sang defiantly on the title track of the album.) She gained a little more confidence in 2005’s “I Am Me”, but didn’t lose her edge. To this day the lyrics from “Boyfriend — “Don’t put words up in my mouth. I didn’t steal your boyfriend” — is a pretty tart F U to a rival.

The surname Simpson — Jessica, Homer and Ashlee — is often followed by a punchline. But let’s give Ashlee some credit for the years in which she made pop culture a better place. — Henry Goldblatt


The TRL meltdown, the bad-idea marriages, Glitter (okay, especially Glitter) — there are so very many reasons to feel shame every time you troll iTunes for Mariah. But you can’t deny that voice. The woman has an octave range that borders on the operatic, and her multiple platinum albums and two-decade career would seem to suggest that people like it. And let’s talk about that career for a second — there can be no arguing that “Vision of Love” and the entire Mariah Carey album constitute one of the most impressive debuts in pop music. Plus, she makes very astute choices, like hitting with Butterfly as a way of kicking hubby No. 1 Tommy Mottola to the curb, or picking up The-Dream on “Touch My Body,” and completely revitalizing herself for a new audience. Plus, she nabbed a reported $49 million to leave Virgin Records. You can argue the whys and wherefores of that all you want, but in my world, leaving $49 million to the good sounds like she did something right.

Need some reason to hang on besides those sold-her-soul-to-the-devil pipes? Well, she’s hot, seems occasionally unstable, has weight fluctuations, and is ethnically vague — everyone can relate to her. She’s a mini-Oprah with longer hair and flashier thighs. (Mariah: She’s just like us!) Plus, Eminem seems to have some weird obsession with her, which just makes me feel like there’s something there. (I don’t know what, besides the crazy between the two of them, but something!) And for anyone who doubts her sincerity, the undoubtedly human aspect to her public persona, re-watch her performance at Michael Jackson’s memorial. She was, in a word, awful. But it’s the why that elicits sympathy: She didn’t know Jackson’s coffin would be directly in front of her, and reacted emotionally. I’m not sure I could’ve spoken on such an occasion. It’s no wonder she couldn’t sing.

What’s more, a new Mariah may yet emerge. She appears in this fall’s Precious, a gritty film about an unloved teenage girl. The movie is already getting serious notice, and is just the kind of low-key indie that someone who wanted to take acting seriously might attempt. Gotta wish her luck — as well all know, she has nothing but room for growth in that department.

Also: Butterflies are her spirit animal. Be gentle. — Alynda Wheat

Want to vote in a previous matchup? Click here to visit Guilty Pleasure Bracket Central!

Photo Credit: Carey: Markus Klinko & Indrani

Comments (73 total) Add your comment
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  • Lance

    whoa, really? Mariah vs Ashlee? and Ashley’s winning right now??? huh? she doesn’t have even a fraction of the catalog that Mariah has.

    • paige

      I feel no guilt in finding No pleasure whastoever in Mariah’s music.

  • Jason

    It’s an insult for Mariah to be part of this, especially against someone like Ashlee. Mariah is a legend.

    I am voting for Ashlee simply because I would feel guilt if I ever liked a song of hers. So, she’s more of a guilty pleasure whereas Mariah is a treasure.

    • Mal

      Totally agree with Jason’s comment. I voted for Ashlee, because I do take guilty pleasure in her music. I love Mariah’s music, especially old-school Mariah, because her voice is insanely good. Despite her personal problems, there’s nothing guilty about enjoying her music.

  • Dee

    Ashlee Simpson!!!! Isn’t it obvious!!!!!

  • John C

    Whitney, per the comments below, can we clarify what we’re voting on? Is it the artist we PREFER or the artist we find the guiltiest pleasure? I prefer Mariah, but feel guilty listening to Ashlee ;)

    • Lance

      Well, it’s kind of clear that EW considers both artists to be Guilty Pleasures, so vote accordingly.

  • Alynda Wheat

    For the love of all that’s holy and good, vote for MARIAH, people!

    • Ben

      Mariah is hardly holy and good. But I voted for her.

    • Joe C

      To vote on a list like this implies Mariah is a guilty pleasure, which she is not. Now, if you want me to vote for her for the greatest artist of the MTV era, yep, I am in.

      • GinaBallerina

        You said it, Joe! How can the best-selling artist of all-time be a guilty pleasure?! Man, she gets the awards but she does not get the respect!

        And if she must be a part of this, why, oh why, is she paired with Ashlee Simpson, of all people?! Blasphemy!

  • Bobby’s Robot

    Yeesh, it’s like deciding between the electric chair vs. firing squad.

  • Stacy

    Mariah is my favorite singer and I definitely do not feel guilty about that. I voted for her because I can’t stand Ashlee, but I definitely don’t think she belongs on this list.

  • Melanie

    Ugh, how about neither?

  • Lisa Simpson

    Neither. Doesn’t something have to be pleasurable for it to be a guilty pleasure?

  • Jill

    Well, I can say I listen to Mariah’s “O Holy Night” at Christmastime. I still think “Vision of Love” is her best song and that was a long time ago.

  • jd

    i confess i’m still rock La La

  • Kalie

    You’re kidding, right? How does Ashlee Simpson in any way compare to Mariah Carey? She barely had a music career, while Mariah has been around for nearly 20 years. She was the best-selling artist of the 90’s, has 18 #1 songs under her belt, #1 albums, and has an amazing vocal range. I believe “The Emancipation of Mimi” was the best-selling or the 2nd best-selling album of the year, she has several Grammys, and “Merry Christmas” is the best-selling X-mas album of all time. I don’t consider her a guilty pleasure at all. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say I’m a fan. She’s a talented woman and she’s proven herself time and time again. She doesn’t even deserve to be in this ridiculous category.

  • Kristi

    I think some people are taking this as “Whose better?” it’s not, it’s “Which is your Guilty Pleasure”. So it’s actually a great honor to Mariah that Ashlee is kicking her a** this round. It means that people like Mariah and aren’t afraid to voice it. I personally love Mariah, pre-Glitter and don’t care who knows it. But if someone rolled over and saw the 5 or 6 Ashlee songs on my Ipod I would deny I secretly love listening to them…therefore Ashlee is my Guilty Pleasure of this round.

  • Ben

    Mariah is my total guilty pleasure. I can’t stand the woman or her persona, but her jams and the remixes of her ballads get me moving even though I am completely ashamed of liking them. The woman exudes skank, which is sad because she had talent once upon a time. But I still love her jams.

  • dave

    There is absolutely no guilt or shame in enjoying Mariah Carey’s music. She has one of the best voices in the music industry and she is simply one of the best R&B/pop artists of the past two decades. I wasn’t a huge fan of her most recent album, E=MC2, but her previous effort, The Emancipation of Mimi, is a fantastic R&B album.

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