September 25, 2008

The Pussycat Dolls' Doll Domination

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Before I begin the task of critically examining the Pussycat Dolls’ latest album, let’s address the obvious: the Pussycat Dolls are the most blatantly manufactured pop group in today’s music scene, and their music is as deep and as credible as an episode of The Simple Life. Now that that’s out of the way, I will proceed.
In spite of selling over a million records and spawning six top-40 singles from their debut record, the Pussycat Dolls aren’t famous yet, a fact made all too clear by the doomed launch of head Doll, Nicole Scherzinger’s solo debut, Her Name is Nicole. Even with all of the sexy magazine and radio promotions, the record was shelved. (Although several songs from that release show up in Doll Domination, including “Who’s Gonna Love You” and “Happily Ever After”). Even though it’s possible the album failed due to shoddy single choices, it’s more probable that the solo attempt failed due to Scherzinger’s lack of star power: since her name was obscured in the liner notes to PCD’s debut, even fans of the Dolls may not have known who she was. In fact, all of the Dolls remained unidentifiable after their debut, each easily interchangeable with any Playboy Bunny.
As a result, the Dolls follow-up release, Doll Domination, is clearly intended by the powers-that-be at Interscope to catapult the girls into super-stardom. If the album’s title wasn’t enough of a hint, opening track “When I Grow Up” makes their intentions abundantly clear. “I wanna be famous / I wanna be a star,” the girls repeatedly chant over a hyper-synthesized beat that lingers in your head far longer than you’d like. This desperation for fame may make for some campy fun on the lead single, but it ends up significantly plaguing this exhausting affair of an album — if you count the songs on the deluxe edition, the album runs a mere 23 songs, or 86 minutes long — that otherwise features a drove of addictive, A-list produced beats that reign over the Pussycat Dolls listless on-record presence.
To be fair, the Dolls may lack a presence on Doll Domination because four of them are barely featured. As was the case on their 2005 release PCD, lead singer Nicole is designated with carrying most of the singing responsibilities, while the rest of the pinups (er, I mean, vocalists) are left to coo seductively in the background. To maintain appearances that this is a vocal group, they’re also charged with posing anonymously on the album’s garishly cartoonish cover.
So while the group remains a one-girl vehicle lacking any semblance of identity, the songs and guest appearances come from a multitude of high profile sources. Timbaland, Polow Da Don and Sean Garrett helm the album’s highlights — from the haunting, spacey “Halo” and “Magic,” to the bouncy, infectious “Bottle Pop” and “I Hate This Part.” Missy Elliott and R. Kelly also contribute some clever rhymes to the funky “Whatcha Think About That” and seductive “Out of This Club” respectively. While the album runs insufferably long and fails to solidify the Dolls’ domination of the music world, it does succeed as a piece of pure pop product that is as critically vapid as it is guiltily catchy.