CD Review of Paris by Paris Hilton

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Released: 2006
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Ever since last year when the Alex G. remix of Paris Hilton’s “Screwed” turned up on XM radio’s playlists and topped the dance charts over there, I have to say I was pretty hyped about the heiress’ future pop career. It was a great dance tune and had all the right ingredients to make it a hit: a breathy lead vocal, a tight backbeat, a hell of a melody to get stuck in your head for hours afterward, and a cool attitude. Needless to say I was damn surprised it was as good as it was and so I was ready for more. So Paris’s debut album is finally here, and of course you’re going to ask (no, you’re probably not): was it worth the wait? Not really. But there are some really good tracks on the album nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the album basically tanks on its first two cuts. The first song, “Turn It Up,” is a by-the-numbers slow groove that sounds like Hilton sleepwalked all the way through. “Can you make me hot?” and “It’s time to party!” are a couple of the stock phrases Paris wrings out of the lifeless affair, which is all slow beats, string sections, and complete filler. It’s exactly the kind of thing the naysayers would expect from Hilton making a pop record. And it doesn’t get any better for her on “Fightin’ over Me” which features guest stars Fat Joe and Jadakiss. Thank God, then, that this is the only “special guests” track on the album. Too often in-house producers will wreck an entire disc just to lard on other artists to prop up the atmosphere. Here, Fat Joe continues to unimpress, and leaves Paris to be nothing but aural wallpaper.

Thankfully, the rest of Paris tends to pick up the pieces and grow its own legs. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than the two opening songs. “Stars Are Blind,” the album’s first single (and described by our own David Medsker as a clone of “The Tide Is High”) is decent as a palate cleanser after the Fat Joe debacle, but things pick up in earnest on “I Want You,” which samples the theme to “Grease” and places Hilton back square in the middle of the dance floor. This is what Paris excels at and once again she’s got a surefire club hit in this track. Producer Jonathan Rotem plays on Paris’s strengths (basically just putting that breathy lead vocal to good use again against a solid backbeat and a good sample) and lets her go to town.

However, “Jealousy,” a slower number that may or may not be about Nicole Richie, is honestly good as well. But you have to remember to apply the term “good” here in regards to what kind of music this is. Yes, it’s all disposable pop. No, it’s not a huge artistic statement, but we had enough of that crap on Lindsay Lohan’s last horrible album. So would this sound good on the radio? You bet it would. So score another point for Paris. That’s three good ones in a row. Can she keep it up?

Actually, yes. “Heartbeat” slows things down even more, and it’s corny as fuck thanks to Billy Stenberg, co-writer of the Madonna hit “Like a Virgin,” but this treacle works because once it again it plays to Hilton’s simple strengths. While she sounded vacuous and obvious on “Turn It Up,” here she sounds obvious yet enjoyable. Enjoyable in that this would make a pretty good slow dance track for some DJ to spin at some high school dance or something. That’s really not a slight. It’s just that that’s the kind of thing for which the song would be best suited.

After that comes the dynamic double gut punch of “Nothing In This World” and the official original version of “Screwed.” Lukasz Gottwald, a Kelly Clarkson collaborator, pushes Paris to new heights on the former, while the latter is just as good in its stripped-down form as it is in its remixed version. And the groove keeps going well on “Not Leaving without You,” which sounds just like it came out of the Donna Summer/Casablanca Records disco vault. It features a great chorus and a main groove that’s reminiscent of Summer’s classic “I Feel Love.”

And then the whole groove falls apart like hell for the closing “Turn You On.” It’s just like the same kind of wretched crap-filled disaster as “Turn It Up,” so the less said about it, the better. Let’s just say that “If you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands” is a terrible lyric, period. Still, despite its obvious and glaringly bad tracks sprinkled throughout, Paris is a pretty damn good debut for Hilton all around. The next time around, she should definitely stick to the cool club cuts and ditch the special guests and obvious party bullshit to have a really strong album on her hands. It can be done. Whether or not it will, and whether or not anyone will actually care by then, is anyone’s guess. But God knows Paris Hilton’s celeb status has gone on a lot longer than many of us expected. But hey, she makes a pretty convincing pop star after all.

~Jason Thompson