Sweet Kisses is the debut studio album by American popsingerJessica Simpson. The album was released on November 23, 1999 in the United States by Columbia Records. The album's lyrical and visual representations maintained the common theme of virginal innocence in the late 1990s teen pop revival. The album was released mainly due to the success of teen artist Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, who both released their debut albums earlier in 1999 to commercial success. 'Sweet Kisses' became a hit in the United States, reaching a peak of 25 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, as well as being certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA, for shipments of over 2 million. Worldwide, the album was also met with good commercial reception, selling a total of 2 million copies worldwide, bringing the albums total sales to 4 million copies.
Simpson first developed and nurtured her talent in her local Baptist church, where her father also worked as the congregation's youth minister. At age twelve, she unsuccessfully auditioned for The Mickey Mouse Club. While attending a church camp, at the age of 13, Simpson sang Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and an arrangement of "Amazing Grace". One of the camp's visitors was launching a Gospel music record label and saw great promise and profits in her voice. It was during this time, while attending J. J. Pearce High School, Simpson signed to Proclaim Records, a minor Gospel music record label. She recorded an album, Jessica, but Proclaim went bankrupt and the album was never officially released except for a small pressing funded by her grandmother. This small pressing gained her minor attention which led her to performing at concerts with other gospel legendary acts such as Kirk Franklin, God's Property, and CeCe Winans. When she was sixteen years old, Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola heard Jessica, he was impressed with Simpson’s musical talent and skill. Mottola instantly thought Simpson sounded like Mariah Carey. Simpson was immediately signed to the label. She dropped out of high school but later earned her GED.
Simpson also collaborated with Sam Watters for the album. Watters produced the singles "I Wanna Love You Forever" and "Where You Are", as well as "Heart of Innocence". Watters also co-wrote the track "I Wanna Love You Forever", along with Louis Biancaniello. Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers also produced the tracks "I've Got My Eyes On You" and "Betcha She Don't Love You" together, though neither tracks were released as singles. Simpson's label wanted 'Sweet Kisses' to be different than that of Aguilera's and Spears' debut albums, in that they were sexually risque, especially the lead singles from both albums. For 'Sweet Kisses', the label decided they wanted Simpson to be the "anti-sex appeal", to which Simpson would sing about love and romance rather than sexual themes. Simpson "virgin" image was though as a great idea by the label, who felt that it would draw in listeners by making a girl whom they could relate to. Simpson also announced in an interview that should would be abstinent until marriage, which helped listeners give her the appearance the label was hoping for. Her "non-sexual" image was also carried over to her music videos, which featured simple themes, such as the "I Wanna Love You Forever" video, which consist of Simpson in a simple photo shoot.
The album deals mainly with themes of love, romance, and life from a teenage perspective. "I Wanna Love You Forever" was written, composed, and produced by Louis Biancaniello and Sam Watters. The track is a darkly bittersweet love ballad, showing off the powerful vocals of Simpson. Even though Biancaniello and Watters are credited jointly for writing and composing the song, at present, it is not known exactly which of the two wrote its lyrics and which composed its music. According to the sheet music book published by Hal Leonard Corporation in Musicnotes.com, "I Wanna Love You Forever" is a common time signature song, with a beat rate of 132 beats per minute. It is set in the key of B minor with Simpson's voice ranging from the tonal nodes of B3 to F5#. The song follows a basic sequence of I–II–IV–II–VV progression. "I Think I'm in Love with You" was written and produced by Cory Rooney and Dan Shea in 1998. The track was recorded at Lobo Recording Studios, Deer Park, Long Island and Hit Factory, NY and mixed by Mick Guzauski. The background vocals were provided by Jennifer Karr and Chevis Harrell. The track is a dance-pop song with a teen pop style for the era. The song was considered by many critics to be a very catchy, nice and summery song. "Where You Are" was written by Louis Biancaniello and Sam Watters (the two also produced the track) with writing assistance from Adamantia Stamatopoulou and Simpson's then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) Nick Lachey. Due to the sentimental lyrics of the single, it was also included on the soundtrack of the 2000 teen filmHere on Earth. "Final Heartbreak" musically is an uptempo dance-pop track, which uses heavy auto-tune on certain parts to change Simpson's vocal performance. Lyrically, the song deals with Simpson getting over heartbreak and breaking it off with a boyfriend who was no good for her. 'Woman In Me' is an R&B influenced track, which is most notable for featuring all-girl group Destiny's Child on guest vocals. Lyrically, the song deals with Simpson becoming the "woman that she wants to be", and growing to love herself for exactly who she is.
"I've Got My Eyes On You" is an uptempo dance-pop track that sees Simpson singing at a moderately low tone through the song. Lyrically, the song speaks of Simpson being interested in a boy. The song is more risque than the rest of the album, and is seen as a track similar to that of Britney Spears. "Betcha She Don't Love You" is an uptempo pop-rock track, which also features influences of Hip-Hop and R&B. The songs lyrics see Simpson trying to convince a boy that she could love him more than his current girlfriend, as Simpson feels that nobody could love him the way she does. 'My Wonderful' is a love ballad, which is moderately paced through the verses, while slow at the chorus. The song speaks of Simpson talking about how much she loves her boyfriend, and how he must have been "sent from above just for [her]." "Sweet Kisses", the album's title track, is a love ballad similar to the previous single. The song features an acoustic guitar playing over a soft R&B inspired beat. The song lyrically deals with how Simpson loves her boyfriend's "sweet kisses", and how he does not even need to say he loves her, because his kisses "move her." "Your Faith In Me" is another pop ballad, which plays with many instruments such as a violin and piano. Lyrically, the song sees Simpson stating she doesn't need love, but she just needs her lovers "faith in her". "Heart of Innocence" is the album's closing track, and is a ballad that portrays Simpson's virginity as a gift she is waiting, patiently, to give "the one" (e.g. her soulmate) whenever she is destined to meet him.
"I Wanna Love You Forever" was the first single of the album, and was released in September 1999. The song became Simpson's highest charting single in the United States, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its commercial sales were particularly strong, and landed the single atop the Hot 100 Singles Sales for six weeks; this in turn earned the song a platinum certification. In the Worldwide the single was successful, as it peaked within the top ten in most European nations and Australia, which reached the Top-ten in Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and Australia. "Where You Are" was released as the second single from the album. The single failed to reach even the top fifty of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at sixty-two. The song did, however, become a relative Adult Contemporary hit. Strangely enough though, dance fans reacted strongly to the physical single of the song and the song became a hit on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales reaching number four. Internationally, the song was not released in major music markets excluding Canada. "I Think I'm In Love With You" was the third and final single released from her debut album. It was more up tempo than Simpson's previous singles and became a moderate hit, reaching number twenty-one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, largely on the strength of its radio airplay; it reached the top five on Billboard's Top 40 Mainstream and achieved success on the Adult Contemporary and Rhythmic Top 40 charts. Worldwide, it peaked at number 10 on Australia, and reached the Top-twenty in Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand.
The album received mostly mixed reviews. Allmusic gave the album three out of five stars, quoting, "She delves into the frothy dance-pop that's teen pop's stock-in-trade, but the heart of her album lies in adult contemporary ballads like her breakout hit "I Wanna Love You Forever," which gives her a chance to show off the richness of her voice. She doesn't over-sing, like Aguilera occasionally does, even if she has moments where she pushes the envelope slightly — just like her idol Dion. However, there are already indications that she's developing her own voice, since she is equally capable of delivering danceable urban R&B ("Final Heartbreak," "I've Got My Eyes on You," the Destiny's Child duet "Woman in Me") as she is mature balladry ("Faith in Me," the Nick Lachey duet "Where You Are"). Like most teen-pop albums, Sweet Kisses suffers from inconsistent material, yet the filler is well-produced and performed, making the record every bit as listenable as Aguilera's fine debut."Entertainment Weekly gave the album a C-, stating "Jessica Simpson, a melodramatic 19, chirps cheeky Mariah Carey-isms on Sweet Kisses, a subpar portfolio, missing the soulful target almost every time. 'Do you wanna see the woman in me?/Let me show you,' she lasciviously hisses in one laughable instance, backed by a doo-wopping Destiny's Child. Uh, thanks, but no, kid. Been there, done that. Mom's waiting for you outside in the station wagon."People Magazine was less critical of the album, quoting "Blonde, pouty-lipped and impossibly cute, Jessica Simpson is as tough to pick out of a lineup of lookalike teenage songbirds as her breathless hit "I Wanna Love You Forever" is difficult to differentiate from the rest of Top 40 radio. So far, Simpson's debut album hasn't scored the same success as those of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But rest assured there are more cookies like "I Wanna" in Simpson's cutter. One ditty, titled "Where Are You," is a duet with 98° boy-toy Nick Lachey, Simpson's real-life squeeze. Unlike her peers the 19-year-old Simpson is not a former member of Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. She auditioned for the show at age 12 but didn't make the cut. Also setting her apart from the teen pop pack is Simpson's track record as a performer on the Christian music circuit. Here, she sounds downright worldly singing "Heart of Innocence"—a devotional tune she wrote extolling the virtues of premarital abstinence—in a low, sexy croon. Bottom Line: Teen yearnings set to a watery R&B beat."Robert Christgau gave the album a D, exclaiming: "Simpson is a blonde who got out of cheerleading early to prepare herself for whatever show business offered--game-show sidekick, R-rated remake of Debbie Does Dallas, bond trader seeking trophy wife. What she got was a John Cougar [Mellencamp] sample and the hard-earned ability to carry a tune. We know teenpop is rarely as vapid, prefab, and faux-wholesome as gatekeepers who've barely listened to it claim. So let's not tell them about this 'refreshing blend of pop, R&B and [note copywriter getting desperate] gospel-flavored sounds.'"
Initially, the album debuted at number 65 on the Billboard 200, selling 65,000 copies in its first week, significantly lower than expected by Columbia Records, as the first single from the album was a hit, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. The following week, Sweet Kisses had dropped to number 70, and continuing down the following weeks. To boost record sales, the label released the second single "Where You Are", but could not reach the success of its predecessor "I Wanna Love You Forever". While Sweet Kisses was kept in the top 60 for several weeks, the label decided to make one last attempt to launch the third single from the album. "I Think I'm in Love With You" was released in May 2000, instantly became a hit on radio stations that helped to rise from posts and album reached the peak 25 in August 2000. In total, the album stayed on the chart for 62 weeks. The album was certified 2× Platinum by the RIAA. The album has sold about 1.9 million copies in the US. In territories outside of the US, the album had a similar chart effect. In Canada, 'Sweet Kisses' reached a peak of 34 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified Platinum by the CRIA. In Europe the album had a better performance on the charts, peaking at number 4 in Norway which was certified Gold for sales 15,000 copies. and number 5 in Switzerland. In Sweden, the album debuted at number 5 on the Swiss Albums Chart, where it peaked. This makes Sweet Kisses Simpson's only album to chart within the Top 5 in Sweden. In Japan, the album debuted at number 16 on the albums chart, making it her only album to date to chart within the Top 20 in Japan. In the United Kingdom, where the singles were met with a great commercial performance, the album debuted at number 36. This makes 'Sweet Kisses' Simpson's highest charting album in the country, tied with her 2003 album In This Skin. In Australia, the album debuted at number 52, surprising the label as the album had spawned two Top 10 hits in the country. In total, 'Sweet Kisses' has sold 4 million copies worldwide.
Producers: Louis Biancaniello, Dave Deviller, Andy Goldmark, Dan Shea, Jamie Houston, London Jones, Robbie Nevil, Evan Rogers, Corey Rooney, Carl Sturken, Sam Watters, Eric Foster White
Engineers: Steve George, Andy Goldmark, Scott Gutierrez, Al Hemberger, Ben Holt, Martin Horenburg, Hank Linderman, Glen Marchese, Tim "Flash" Mariner, Michael "Wolf" Reaves, Steve Smith, Paul Wagner, Eric Foster White, Rob Williams
Assistant engineers: Jeff Gregory, Matt Martiensson, Ronnie Rivera, Jose Sanchez, Manelich Sotolong