Jessica Simpson : Madison, Wisconsin East Towne Mall
Bargain bin Britney gets all Tiffany-ed up at the mall...
Each of the evenings' acts functions as a haphazard proxy for an exponentially bigger act. Sassy opener Toya bumps and grinds like a one-woman Destiny's Child, Youngstown and Plus One offer dispirited imitations of *NSYNC, prefab pop stars Eden's Crush soft-pedal girl power for tweens too young to remember the Spice Girls, while Simpson headlines as a poor man's Britney Spears.
But the acts aren't just derivative of bigger pop stars: they're depressingly inter-changeable as well. Each offers a tame set of watered-down R&B fortified with non-threatening hiphop attitude and topped off by crowd-pleasing banter asserting that Wisconsin is, in fact, "in da house". It's an environment that renders music thoroughly irrelevant, and indeed, Simpson's set is distinguished not by its negligible artistic content, but rather by its retrograde variety-show format. Simpson dutifully belts out her hits, screeching notes high enough to send comatose dogs into epileptic fits during the ballads and grinding lasciviously in modified stripper-wear during the upbeat songs. But an equal amount of time is spent holding contests, engaging in lame skits, giving props to Jesus and admonishing the audience to follow their dreams.
That Simpson's second-hand dreams bring her to a dumpy mall parking lot is fittingly ironic, but the crowd seems understandably too distracted by the show's abundant bells and whistles to notice.
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