Irresistible

Jessica Simpson sings, dances and spouts scary quotes like a Fifties B-movie actress doomed to trail in the path of true stars. Her by-the-numbers 1999 debut, Sweet Kisses, made Mandy Moore seem underground. Irresistible offers a slightly broader palette of plastic-ballad and pop-dance pastels. "Imagination" gurgles jump-rope R&B at its most infantile, courtesy of Spice Girls killer Rodney Jerkins. Strip the Celine Dion schmaltz of "When You Told Me You Loved Me" down to its Spanish guitar and you've got a decent Babyface-type tune waiting to be set free. On "Hot Like Fire," Simpson strains her debutante purr into a Pat Benatar-esque plea both ridiculous and wonderful, over a bizarre melange of Missy Elliott electronica, Britney stage patter and Paula Abdul synth-horn blasts. But "Hot" is the only fun, nonformulaic track here; the rest of the album needs some major remixing. With so many teen-pop choices, this prom-queen cyborg remains redundant and reactionary.