Unlike her blonde pop peers Britney and Christina, who've stripped closer to bare with each album, Jessica Simpson has maintained the sexy-yet-virginal image she debuted in 1999 with the saccharine Sweet Kisses
. On her third disc, In This Skin,
however, Simpson's lyrics have matured, thanks to her recent marriage to longtime beau Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees. Aided by Celine Dion producer Ric Wake, the Dallas native co-wrote most of the disc's 11 songs, and the resulting album is packed with sweet beats, sensual vocals, and an organic vibe not normally found in most contemporary pop recordings. Simpson's newfound confidence reverberates throughout, notably on the self-affirming, Mariah-reminiscent title cut, with its mix of acoustic guitars and airy harmonies, and the Diane Warrenpenned "Sweetest Sin," on which Simpson's breathy vocals recall Janet Jackson. While "With You," with its staccato rap beats and subtle strings, and the hip-hop soul-flavored "Loving You" are all about bliss, Simpson maintains her balance with more bittersweet fare. The piano-driven ballad "You Don't Have to Let Go" is a poignant nod to a father letting go of his little girl when she marries, and the equally pained "Underneath" addresses the trials and triumphs of a committed relationship. With In This Skin,
Simpson has successfully made the transition from sassy teen phenom to sophisticated pop star.