Review Summary: Rather than being the camp classic it seemed it would, PCD comes out as a confused, confusing album, bloated by boring covers and average ballads.
Based purely on the concept, I was pretty much ready to love the Pussycat Dolls before I'd even heard a note of their music. This, right here, is what pop has been building up to ever since the Spice Girls changed the pop landscape. Here, in the Pussycat Dolls, we have a band who don't pretend to be anything other than manufactured, sugary, catchy, throwaway pop - in fact, they seem pretty proud of it, in an admirably camp way. Dancers first and singers second. In fact, in 5 out of 6 cases, not even singers at all - only one Doll is credited with vocals, and she was discovered on a reality TV show. Truly, a postmodern pop wet dream.
And "Don't Cha"? What a song. Again, it's brilliant because it's so proud of just how trashy it is - here is a pop anthem that is ALL about sex. And not in a nudge-nudge-wink-wink kind of way, or a sleazy kind of way, or even an intellectual kind of way. It's just a song about how sexy the Dolls are, and how much they enjoy sex. Hell, it's about how fun no-strings-attached sex can be, too. Co
ck rock bands spent most of the 70s and 80s writing songs like this from the male perspective - here's the response. It's knowingly teasing, sexy, and fun. Girl power.
Could this be it, then? The ultimate trashy, disposable, fun pop record? An easy-on-the-eye girl band with no preoccupations other than having fun and getting laid? Heaven knows it's long overdue.
But no. That'd be too good to be true. They shattered that image with their third single ("Sway" was the first, way back in 2004, in case you missed that), "Stickwitu". A limp, lifeless ode to sticking by your man. Man, screw that. I can get this sort of crap on any other girl band's album. It's nowhere near as sickly or disgustingly submissive and sexist as something like Destiny's Child's "Cater 2 U" - matter of fact, it's better than a lot of the songs it could be compared to - but it still leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Luckily, the upbeat tracks outnumber the ballads easily. Major credit goes to Will.I.Am for the hilarious "Beep", the fourth single, and pretty much the only thing here that stands up to "Don't Cha" (it's quite possibly better, actually). It welds that track to Will.I.Am's own previous attempt at a hilarious female-perspective sex-obsessed camp anthem (Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps"), and ends up being as sexy as the former and even funnier than the latter. "Buttons", "Bite The Dust", "Flirt".....they all follow the pattern. Sex on the brain, for both artist and listener. None of them work as well as the singles, and sonically they're not far from being all over the place ("Flirt", in particular, is a shock to the system, being a heavy, propulsive, guitar-driven rock track), but they're enjoyable enough. "I Don't Need A Man" sits somewhere between the two - the message seems a little odd on an album like this (we already know their stance on men by this point, surely?), but it's a good song nonetheless, despite being so 80s it could have easily slotted onto the GTA: Vice City soundtrack.
So there's that, and then there's the ballads, right? Wrong. Matter of fact, apart from "Stickwitu", only "How Many Times, How Many Lies" could really be considered a ballad. The rest of the album? Cover versions. I'm not kidding, folks - there are no less than 4 cover versions here, and all of them are stupidly obvious choices. There's the Northern soul classic "Tainted Love", rendered ubiquitous by Soft Cell, the aforementioned "Sway", "Hot Stuff", and "Feelin' Good". Anybody who hasn't heard all 4 of these songs before in their life has probably not really listened to any music during their lifetime. And, "Sway" aside, all of them are really, really average versions at best. They try to rough up "Tainted Love" and fail (even Marilyn Manson did it better), "Hot Stuff" sounds dated as hell, and "Feelin' Good" is turned into a pretty pointless vocal workout for Nicole. None of them stand up to other covers of the same tracks, let alone the originals.
But what really grates about all the covers is that they're totally un-necessary. This is a MAJOR budget pop album we're talking about. They roped in some pretty major names to write tracks here (even Timbaland makes an appearance on another highlight track, "Wait A Minute") - surely they have got some more people in to write some decent original material, rather than regurgitating songs 90% of everyone in the world is tired of by now?
So yes, ultimately, PCD
is a failure. There are some great songs here, no doubt, but they merely win the proverbial battles on the way to losing the war. Hopefully the creases are obvious enough to be ironed out easily in time for their second outing, should there be one.
A pretty confusing album, all told.