CD Review of Doll Domination by The Pussycat Dolls
Recommended if you like
Pink, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce
Label
Interscope
The Pussycat Dolls:
Doll Domination

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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R
ecord sales might be plummeting, and kids might be more interested in ringles than actual music, but take heart, 21st-century music industry, for Interscope has stumbled upon the golden equation of New Media calculus, and here it is, free of charge: Five young ladies in their lingerie plus one mediocre pop song equals a hit.

Just having one young lady in her lingerie isn’t enough, as Interscope discovered earlier this year, when the label attempted to force-feed a solo career for head Pussycat Nicole Scherzinger down America’s throat. After four singles tanked, however, plans were changed, and Scherzinger was scurried back into the safe, pillowy bosom of the “band” that made her famous. Given that Scherzinger has always done all the lead vocals for the Dolls – in fact, on their debut, she performed all the leads and backgrounds – there really isn’t much difference between her going solo or fronting this T&A-laced update on the Archies, but as proven by the Top 10 performance of Doll Domination’s leadoff single, “When I Grow Up,” the golden equation never fails.

To be fair, the other Pussycats were given a little more to do this time around. To begin with, Scherzinger didn’t handle all the vocal tracks herself: the booklet’s funniest credit reads, in progressively smaller type, “All Lead and Background Vocals by Nicole Scherzinger – Additional Lead and Background Vocals by Melody Thornton – Additional Background Vocals by Jessica Sutta, Ashley Roberts, and Kimberly Wyatt.” In addition, fans crazy enough to splurge for the two-disc special edition will be treated to debut solo turns from the non-Scherzinger members of the group, including Wyatt’s stunningly unnecessary cover of Jane Child’s “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love.”

“Stunningly unnecessary” is actually a pretty decent way of summing up Doll Domination, actually, or the Pussycat Dolls in general; in fact, a second Dolls album would seem to be about as necessary as a sequel to “Friday the 13th.” That hasn’t stopped countless “Friday” sequels from being made, of course, and that isn’t the only parallel – both franchises have been brilliantly constructed to withstand any flaws in the script or changes in personnel. And you know what? When all the elements come together in the right way, they can both be pretty entertaining.

The Pussycat Dolls

No one will ever mistake Doll Domination for a great album – or great entertainment, even – but as a piece of airbrushed, flawlessly groomed product, it definitely has its moments, and were it not for its absurdly overstuffed length – even the single-disc edition packs 16 tracks – it might have even been one of the better dance-pop albums of the year. The vocals are nothing spectacular, and the lyrics are thoroughly inane, but that goes with the territory; what ends up setting Doll Domination’s better moments apart is what counts – namely, the songwriting and production. The majority of these songs are about as irredeemably stupid as you’d expect – “Whatcha Think About That,” for instance, might be the biggest waste of a Missy Elliott cameo ever, and not even the combined might of R. Kelly and Polow Da Don can rescue “Out of This Club” – but a lot of them pack simple, instantly memorable melodies, and they’re surrounded with production that subs refreshing depth for the non-stop wall of digital noise that has taken over the genre in recent years. The sound is still completely plastic, but even if they’re mostly fake, the instruments still have the decency to move in and out of the mix instead of leading an hour-long assault on your ears. Since the album’s better cuts tend to be the ballads and mid-tempo numbers, Scherzinger’s rather ordinary pipes actually come in handy, because they keep her from drowning the songs in melisma.

Whether or not any of this excuses the cynical, corset-garbed cash grab that is the Pussycat Dolls is another subject (short answer: probably not), but if you’re the type of person who believes in guilty pleasures, Doll Domination just might fit the bill. And even if it doesn’t, what the heck – it’s got a good beat, you can dance to it, and the booklet folds out into a poster. In other words, it does everything it’s supposed to.

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