Ashlee Simpson may have made the best Hole record of the 21st century, but her fellow youthful Page Six denizen Lindsay Lohan is inarguably their generation’s Courtney Love. Fortunately, at the tender age of 18, she’s so far avoided being photographed with a stranger’s mouth attached to her breast in front of Wendy’s. But Lohan has entered into an ignominious relationship with the press, which is only too happy to document her volatile negotiation of young adulthood—the table-dancing, the fit-throwing, the boy-toying, and inevitably, the alleged instances of substance abuse and cosmetic surgery. Like Love, Lohan embodies our conflicting, rapacious ideas about female autonomy—how we want her to go further out than we’re willing to, yet need her to tiptoe back over the line in the morning. In 2003’s Freaky Friday remake, the actress played a teenager who spent a day in a grown-up’s shoes; I wonder if she knew then how much more of that she was in for.
Or if she does now, for that matter. Considering the reported overindulgence of her personal life, you’d expect Speak, Lohan’s belated attempt to catch up with her multimedia empire of a nemesis, Hilary Duff, to play like Freaky All the Rest of the Days. After all, Simpson made Ugg-booted Grand Guignol out of simply having a famous sister; Lohan actually lost her purse in Manhattan and had her black AmEx splashed across the Internet! Yet Speak is mostly as dull and well-intentioned as Duff’s latest: streamlined luxury-sedan melodies, high-gloss electro-acoustic guitars, and humdrum observations that time stops for no one, not even a teenage drama queen. Lohan’s voice is pure high school talent show—capable of carrying a tune, but totally devoid of personality or spark.
The disc only gets going when Lohan addresses her station as America’s sweet tart. Released as a single last year and included here as a bonus track, “Rumors” is paranoid disco rock on par with the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered”: “Why can’t you just let me do the things I wanna do?” she asks Rush & Molloy over strobe-light synth stabs. Even when she’s probably not, it’s more satisfying to imagine she’s exploring her gossip-column pathology. In “First,” she doesn’t “wanna be like every other girl in the world,” so she’ll “scream a little louder”; in “Over,” she “can’t live without you, can’t breathe without you.” How long can the love-in last?