by Richie Van Der Loe
(as taken from the Village Vocalization, Katharinetowne, WD).
The title of this work conveys to the listener the obvious; there exists, between the substantive and the existential, a moment of reinforced clarity at indifferent odds with our psychological urge to commence a fugue-driven abandonment of the self. When forced to confront the self, one cannot with certainty know, that is to say even understand, the self; whether it is the all-embracing truth we accept of ourselves and our place in existence or whether the self is the archetypal monster in the shadows from which we hide. Perhaps expression is not the battleground, but rather the battle itself, for when we express ourselves, we create and in that act attempt to forge a new self as a protective junction against reality. But, this all obvious, especially made expressly obvious by Ashley Simpson’s chronicling of her own journey, i.e. battle, in the wondrously titled “I Am Me.” It is at once obtuse and obduce.
“I Am Me” is a rich meta-statement, replete with intriguing queries into the modern understanding of both the psychological being and the place of gender-mode thought in society. It presents not only a definition of the self, but also places the self outside the boundaries of bimodal gender philosophy. Indeed, the present tense situation describes not a reflection, but a statement of defiance. Yet, is also positive declaratory statement which addresses the concepts of division in society by deliberately side-stepping sexual-based pronouns, instead utilizing the neutral form. Gone is the “She is Her” mode of sexual buccaneers such as Courtney Love or Joan Jett, replaced by the affirmation of equality and questioning of morays heralded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is a rich statement that at once upholds and challenges. Instead of merely accepting the modernization and mechanization of the twentieth-century philosophy of humans as machines, it redefines the idea of humanity for a twenty-first century holistic worldview which, while rejecting the notions of classical humanism, still allies itself with the post-modern view of human as psychological animal in the midst of a mechanically operating universe. The self is neutral, yet positive.
Arguably, the post-Soviet American hegemony parallels the post-Empire United Kingdom, that period of traumatic and disillusioning zeitgeist in which the punk movement arose as a counter-point to contemporary conflicts between economic schools of thought, i.e. Marxism versus Capitalism. Contemporaries of The Clash, as had been shown, followed a philosophy which gave voice to the notion of “We are Us,” presenting themselves as a counter-force, or third faction, in the traditional economic conflicts. While it would seem that “I Am Me” would reflect a certain Reaganary world-view, Simpson’s cry echoes the monetary hedonists of the 80s while incorporating their trade-marks into the 90s spiritual hedonism and the 00’s intellectual hedonism. When the mainstream represents a non-progressive ideology, it becomes necessary for artists to issue more open and enlightened contexts for the discussion of the self. This is clearly heard on the album “I Am Me” but is also completely evident in the title itself.
One could assume that Bachman Turner Overdrive, Rush, or even Styx had already explored everything that the musical palate could form in a way ready for human mental consumption. While these groups, or bands, did enable humanity to redefine itself in terms of social parallax, they were never able to produce a statement as profound as Ashlee Simpson’s “I Am Me.” After giving this record a listen or two, it’s easy to agree. Truly, Ashlee Simpson is Ashlee Simpson.