Pop starlet Ashley Tisdale, presents her sophomore release Guilty Pleasure. Despite the enormous High School Musical brand label stamped all over Tisdale, interesting quick fact to note is she was never given the opportunity to record as a solo act in Disney-Hollywood Records, unlike her cast peers Vanessa Hudgens and Corbin Bleu; Tisdale was signed to Warner Bros. Records by her own means instead.

Distinct to Miley Cyrus’ supposed freedom blabber Can’t Be Tamed, Tisdale introduces and showcases her creative control, artistic freedom and grown-up versatility in a most natural manner, both in the rockier sound of the record in comparison to her debut Headstrong, and the lyrical content which addresses more serious subject matter than her previous album and anything Cyrus has ever released. The sound, staid undertones and moderate mature content of the playful disposition of the record are suitable to Tisdale, who is in fact singing accordingly to her age and experience at 24 (now 25).  

Tisdale might be hard to take as a serious music act, but Guilty Pleasure forces the listener to comply in ballads such as ‘What If’, ‘How Do You Love Someone’ and ‘Me Without You’, each addressing the basic need of love, parental issues and being truly in love respectively. ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Hot Mess’ define Tisdale as a young woman and successfully pull her away from the Disney cheese without much effort.

Of course there are teen tacky blunders in the album which seem addressed towards a much younger audience, but these do not take away the intensity of the overall piece. These tracks show the record label and Tisdale’s astuteness to push barriers to garner a new audience, but still keeping the previous one, without drastically switching over. It is nearly impossible to admit it is a Tisdale record because it is so well written.

The opener, ‘Acting Out’ reflects and introduces Tisdale’s creative musicality and personal interests with its imposing grand composition and lyrics, citing her previous teen image ‘as the perfect child’, suggesting one should not ‘judge by the cover’. The record holds its true guilty pleasure in ‘Hair’, who knew the most ridiculously titled song could be so good. Everything from start to finish is fabulous; the build-up of the track is radiant, kicking off with a stomping strut drumbeat which then starts to add keyboards, a consistently stuttering electric guitar and a faint tambourine before it all explodes at once in an immense extravaganza in the chorus.

Guilty Pleasure might seem crass because one might assume it is just another High School Musical related solo, but Tisdale manages to indeed stray away from the HSM label and breakthrough her artistic ability. Ashley Tisdale could be considered to be the best off Disney since Hilary Duff and her pop shimmer 2007 masterpiece, Dignity. Guilty, not at all, but definitely pleasurable.

★★★★

C.Perez