High School Musical aficionados know her best as that show’s campy villainess, Sharpay Evans. But 24-year-old actress/singer Ashley Tisdale has swiftly left her squeaky-clean Disney days behind. That’s more than apparent on her second pop-rock effort, the title of which (combined with an image of Ashley sporting a sheer top, a miniskirt and a come-hither pout) tells us a lot about her direction as an "adult" artist. And a closer look at the lyrics confirms this disappointing trajectory.
"Me Without You" offers some genuinely sweet moments as a young woman praises her man for his unconditional acceptance ("You make me feel beautiful when I have nothing left to prove"). Though it models a victim mindset to some extent, "How Do You Love Someone" still illustrates the importance of parents in shaping their children's attitudes toward romance ("Momma never told me how to love/Daddy never told me how to feel"). "Switch" ponders why a guy has grown emotionally distant. "It's Alright, It's OK" and "Overrated" demonstrate moments of healthy perspective about breakups. "Changing for a guy is overrated," Ashley notes on the latter.
Album opener "Acting Out" serves as a thesis statement regarding Ashley's intent to transform her image from Disney girl to something ... nastier: "It's time to get dirty," she brags, "It's another side of me/I'm acting out." Much of the album fleshes out exactly what "acting out" looks like. Ashley says she's ready to embrace her "wild" and "naughty" sides, to become someone with "no inhibitions." That unflattering self-portrait is most evident on "Hot Mess," a track that repeatedly alludes to a sexual relationship with a bad boy. Ashley talks up the joys of being "friends with benefits" and "doing things that you never did," as well as ditching her goody-goody rep ("I was such a good girl before you came along"). The chorus breezily narrates waking up half-clothed in a car after a wild night ("You wake up in your bra and your makeup/Car in the driveway/Parked sideways"). She knows this guy isn't a positive influence ("You're making me irresponsible"), but she rationalizes, "All this love is worth it." Right.
Suggestive lines also turn up on "Masquerade" and "How Do You Love Someone." "Hair" implies that a couple spent the night together ("When you run your fingers through my hair in the morning/I'm feeling like a sexy superstar"). "Tell Me Lies" finds a young woman begging a guy who's leaving her to say otherwise ("Tell my heart it's not good-bye," she says. "Keep your truth and tell me lies"). An embittered woman on "Delete You" threatens to slash her ex-boyfriend's tires.
As many Disney stars before her have done, Ashley Tisdale seems eager to distance herself from the generally wholesome roles that propelled her to stardom. "I'm leaving every piece of my conscience behind," she proclaims unapologetically on "Hot Mess."
Who knows if Ashley is as wild in real life as the rebellious caricature she inhabits on Guilty Pleasures. Apparently, though, any distinction between the two doesn't much concern her. "I don't think it matters if it's real or just a role," she says of her party-girl persona on "Acting Out." It might not matter to her, but it certainly does to the legion of young girls who've followed Sharpay's every move. As coyly "wicked" as Sharpay was, though, she'd never be cool with lyrics that glorify casual sex—not to mention a centerfold-esque liner note photo of her in a tank top and underwear.