Review Summary: There is nothing even moderately enjoyable enough here to qualify the Pussycat Dolls as anything more than artificial pop stars propped up by an industry desperate to make a buck.
Everyone’s favorite burlesque troupe and leather corset supporters return to the pop spotlight with their second album, the rather cockily titled Doll Domination. It’s not clear what arena of the pop world they are trying to dominate, though, although it stands to reason that the only prerequisite to said domination is an exponentially expanding bank account and little to none artistic credibility. Surely they’ve already secured their place as vapid sex objects, poster children for the kind of flaunting reality-star wannabes that mainstream media so abhors yet turns into cable TV idols at the same time.
Indeed, few can claim to be as overtly skanky since Christina Aguilera’s “dirrty” days, and none are as completely and totally manufactured as the Dolls (although Puff Daddy’s pet “girl group” Danity Kane makes a strong case for runner-up). Branching out from stripping in a series of calculated moves to take over pop culture, including a reality program, a Vegas show, and some classy clothing lines (read: lingerie), the Dolls are everywhere at once. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a little slutty clothes and behavior every once in a while (ok, fairly often). But when one attempts to capitalize on that image by creating lifeless, vacuous music without a hint of real effort to grease the skids on that moneymaking machine – well, then you’ve crossed the line.
Doll Domination immediately plays its best hand off the bat with lead single “When I Grow Up,” an unimaginative electro-pop song about fame that signifies everything that is wrong with the Dolls’ music and sounds eerily similar to Basement Jaxx’s far superior 2003 track “Plug It In.”. Bouncy synth lines and thudding bass provided by A-list producer? Check. Voices Auto-Tuned to perfection? Of course. Lyrics about being famous and rich that include such Hilton-esque lines as “you can talk about me / ‘cause I’m a hot topic”? Too many to count. Sure, it’s catchy, but if you’re looking for any sort of depth or anything more than a guilty pleasure, you’re not going to get it here. And the guilty pleasure bit of it runs thin after the 500th spin on Top 40 radio.
Unbelievably, the album continues for fifteen (!) more songs, all of them marking a low point in the 2008 music year and none of them approaching the single marketability of “When I Grow Up.” Snoop Dogg’s entirely appropriate guest spot on “Bottle Pop” (after all, he did host a few Girls Gone Wild) is one of the weaker ones of his career to say the least, and the track’s lackluster chorus deflate any energy he might have afforded them. And while the club jams at least have a disposable bounce to them, beware the ballads. Songs like the ubiquitous “I Hate This Part” are noteworthy only for their uncanny resemblance to numerous other radio hits, and come off, for the most part, as poor attempts to diversify the group’s sound. If you look like you belong in a strip club, perhaps it would be wise to stay there.
Although the Dolls didn’t hold back on production, which benefits from help by Timbaland and Darkchild, or guest spots from R. Kelly, Ne-Yo, and Missy Elliot, no amount of help is able to give the Dolls any sort of identity separate from the obvious “models playing as singers.” Main singer Nicole Scherzinger’s vocals come off as vanilla diva pop, and while the beats are definitely club-ready, there is nothing mind-blowing, nay, nothing even moderately enjoyable enough here to qualify the Pussycat Dolls as anything more than artificial pop stars propped up by an industry desperate to make a buck.