20 September 2008

Alejandro's "Doll Domination" Review


Artist: The Pussycat Dolls
Album: Doll Domination
Tracks: 16 (Standard) 21 (Deluxe), 3 (Int'l Bonus)
Release: 9/23/2008 (US)

Coming into this review as an avid PCD fan, I had high expectations. Three years (give or take a week for a pushback) since the release of their debut PCD (which sold an estimated 7-8 million worldwide on the back of multiple top 40 hits), the Dolls had a lot to live up to. It is my opinion to say that they have more than exceeded that goal. Since the departure of Carmit Bachar in March of this year (my favorite member), the PCD world was in a certain dilemma about the new album. Promised more vocals from the other members, it seemed the lack of Bachar's unique raspy voice would give the music a new flavor. Fans were right. The direction is even more R&B than before, but a surprise was presented: all the Dolls were featured on the album, in solo bits and actual full songs included on the Deluxe version of the disc. In live performances we can see more than ever before just how close and happy these girls are. To simply write them off as "burlesque strippers who like to sing" is quite unfair. A look at the stage presence and talent demonstrated live is enough to prove the drive and desire these women possess. And the music always lives up to the image before our eyes.

*The album starts off with the lead single, as did PCD. When I Grow Up is an electro-pop R&B stunner with a killer hook. Throw in the intentional confusion over 'groupies' and 'boobies' and the Dolls scored another top 10 Billboard hit (it charted at #9). The only disappointment is the track is the single version/radio edit that features solely Scherzinger's vocals. The version included in the video and performed live includes the other girls' own recorded voices.

*Bottle Pop follows, and it features prior-PCD collaborator Snoop Dogg. Another electro-pop number produced by Sean Garrett (who also produced Buttons) this one is a grower. While not as explosive as the producer claimed earlier in the year, it does catch and will most likely be a single.

*Whatcha Think About That, the 2nd US single features the first female PCD collaborator, none other than the innovative Missy Elliott. Featuring vocals from Thornton and a cheeky rap by Miss E., it's a definite winner. Sampling "Je m'appelle Jane" by Jane Birkin and Mickey 3D, the song is another grower and a good choice to keep interest in the project. The song is on iTunes as a singe release as of September 9th.

*The fourth song (and hopefully 3rd single) is the emotional piano ballad, I Hate This Part. Driven by Scherzinger's classic powerhouse vocals, pure emotion is more evident than ever from the lead singer. While the other girls are absent on this track, it is more than fine. The 2nd EU single, imagine a cold wintery video similar to Jennifer Lopez's "All I Have" (at least I hope). Potential Grammy-nominee and winner right here.

*Next is Takin' Over The World, a song that ties in directly with the theme of Doll Domination. Thornton's personal favorite, it's easy to see why. She gets to shine vocally on this track, on both solo spots and background vocals. Not a personal favorite of mine, but a great club banger.

*Out of This Club, featuring R. Kelly and Polow Da Don, is listenable, but one of the album's lesser hits to me. Maybe it's the addition of Polow or Kelly's past legal issues, but this song is not my favorite. I even enjoyed the demo much more.

*Followers of Scherzinger's failed solo stint will recognize her beautiful songs, Who's Gonna Love You and Happily Never After. The two songs are virtually unchanged from the original Her Name Is Nicole sessions. The former is a midtempo cut with Scherzinger's trademark strong vocals and soft accentuation (especially in the breakdown), while the latter is a sweet ballad discussing the strength a woman finds while leaving a destructive relationship. Both stellar tracks.
Only letdown is the lack of the other Dolls' vocals.

*Timbaland produced the next three songs, Magic, Halo, and In Person. Of the three, In Person is a solid demonstration of Timbo's return to form (versatility). Totally unexpected, the song has a 60s vibe and an interesting vocal style from Scherzinger. Thornton is wonderfully present on backing vocals. Halo is reminiscent of other Timbaland works, (Timberlake's "What Goes Around..." and Madonna's "Devil Wouldn't...) if only just a bit. Magic is the second best. With a stunning, fun, beat that drives you to dance, it's an album standout.

*ELEVATOR!!! This is my absolute favorite track on the album (it must be a single at some point). Using the concept of an elevator and its descent and rise to signify the ups and downs of a relationship, the uptempo Darkchild production (with writing from Lady GaGa) the track instantly works. With consistent and versatile vocals from both Thornton and Scherzinger, the wondeful Elevator is an obvious standout.

*Previously titled Psycho (but most likely renamed to avoid any controversy), Hush Hush is another strong vocal showing from Scherzinger. Another track discussing the end of a relationship (similar to IHTP), this song is another emotional cut. Another Grammy-nominee/winner.

*Midtempo jam Love The Way You Love Me features an entire breakdown verse from Thornton and her trademark ad-libs. A beautiful relaxed song, it comes from Chase N. Cashe of Zone 4 Inc. This song is my third most-played, I personally cannot get enough. I think it's honest and sweet and a great side to see from the PCD.

*The intriguing Whatchamacallit is a bit lengthly. Another listenable cut, it's fun, but I believe it drags in the end. A shorter edit would have made more sense. However, Scherzinger uses another vocal style (a talent she uses quite well) that makes it an easy-going club jam.

The standard album closes with the beautiful ballad, I'm Done. Scherzinger leads the tribute one can assume goes to Lewis, her man for quite some time. It's a great way to end the album.

Deluxe Edition


*If I Was A Man (Jessica Sutta). A fun dance number in the tradition of White Lies (Sutta's hit with Paul van dyk). Good vocals, which demonstrate her necessity in the actual album.

*Space (Melody Thornton). WOW! Thornton can sure belt, but this tracks indicates her ability to hold down an entire song. Also proves that Scherzinger does not need to sing everything, or rather, a majority.

*Don't Wanna Fall In Love (Kimberly Wyatt). A cover of the 1990 hit by Jane Child, we finally hear Wyatt on a solo front. Although obviously digitally-aided, it's an 80s-tinged dessert among the tracks on the second disc.

*Played (Ashley Roberts). My favorite solo track, the R&B song is reminiscent of a Cassie joint, but Roberts holds it together more than that mess. Haha! Anyway, enjoy this one. The light production works very well.

*Until U Love U (Nicole Scherzinger) features a positive message along the lines of Beautiful by Christina Aguilera. I like the song alot, but the fact that Scherzinger 'needs' a solo slightly irks me.

Bonus Tracks

*Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps is an English cover of the song Quizás, Quizás, Quizás by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés. It reminds us of 'Sway', the Pussycat Dolls' first single (yes, it wasn't 'Don't Cha'). I like it, and you can other Dolls, just like with 'Sway' (which was also a cover).

*Baby Love (J.R. Rotem Remix), another Nicole solo joint. A simple revamped version of the remix. I like it much more than the album version (Nicole's that is).

*Lights, Camera, Action featuring New Kids on the Block is the only track I ever want to skip. It's just the NKOTB version (from their new album, the Block) with Doll vocals (specifically Nicole). I can listen to it, I just don't ever skip straight to it when playing the album.

Conclusion

Overall, casual listeners will think there is too much, but it makes alot of sense for the Dolls to include more material. PCD was made to last three years on the back on strong songs, although from a very small collection (15 tracks). This time the girls pumped up the quantity and the spread of vocal duties to last us a period that will hopefully be less than another three years. I am more than happy to head to my local record store on Tuesday to pick up both versions physically (and any iTunes bonus tracks, which may include Just Say Yes, a beautiful ballad from Scherzinger's failed solo outing). This album can be played straight through for me, and I know I would that even without being a huge PCD fan. It goes to show how strong the group and how the loss of Carmit has made them that much hardworking to make up for the emptiness her presence has created. This album alone shows that the girls are here to stay and will provide us with good, fun tracks as well as heart-wrenching ballads for a long time. Good effort girls, and I can't wait for the tour.

Alejandro's Score:
4.5/5

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG! I positive review that is not coming from a bias hater at a news magazine! I knew the album would be great. you just confirmed what I thought!

Carlos said...

The album is absolutely amazing, I totally agree with you. I hope they hit #1

Carlos said...

Just in case you're interested in reading what I think about the album, which I personally like.

Carlos
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‘Doll Domination’ was certainly worth the wait. The dolls delivered all of their tracks real well. I feel they were really well put together and had a good production as well as great writing (i.e. I’m Done, I Hate this Part, Happily Never After & Elevator). It was a sort of disappointment to find some of Nicole’s failed solo attempt tracks included in here, not saying the tracks are bad, but they should have re-record them at least, as they are exactly as they were off the ‘Her Name is Nicole’ sessions. Overall the album was pretty good. In my opinion, I think they did step up from PCD, by crossing over to other types of music, such as the stirring ‘In Person’, where they follow the steps of their official second single, “Whatcha Think About That” and their previous track “How many times, how many Lies”, off their debut, in a different manner.
Most of the songs are standouts as they are pretty diverse, since they fall in the realm of a wide range of music genres. When I first gave the album a full listen I found it strikingly close to an Elevator as it goes “up and goes down, down” ranging from danceable, up-tempo, fast paced tracks to slow/deep melodious jams. I was personally waiting for this album due to the great success PCD had, I was hoping it would live up to their previous effort, and I personally think it did as ‘Doll Domination’ captures the same or goes a bit beyond the magic the PCD album has; I see ‘Doll Domination’ as a complement to PCD, as it gives a balance to the group between pure pop to pop, dance, hip-hop, R&B influenced numbers. Even though the album falls in a one single weakness, the R. Kelly featured track: ‘Out of this club’ and the fact the ‘When I Grow Up’ version included isn’t the music video version featuring the dolls, but one mostly featuring Scherzinger’s vocals, it doesn’t really affect the rest of the record as the dolls keep it going with the up tempos such as the funky ‘Bottle Pop’, the Timbaland produced ‘Magic’ & ’ Whatchamacallit’, the sassy nod/throwback to what the Pussycat dolls originally were: ‘Watcha think About That’, and the electrifying first single and opening track, ‘When I Grow Up’. We see a different side of the dolls as they also have more songs with a different feel rather than just corsets and sexy complex dance routines, as they are mellow to the ear with the highly emotive ‘I Hate this Part’, ‘Hush Hush’, ‘I’m Done’ and ‘Halo’.
Its pretty intriguing how this album has been criticized for Nicole Scherzinger’s “over presence” in it, even some refer to it as “Nicole Domination”, but I feel this album incorporates and features the other dolls more than PCD did, as the dolls do more backing vocals than there were in PCD where Nicole indeed did fully “dominate” the tracks, as Melody Thornton would only would ad lib throughout a couple tracks (the dazzling singles: ‘Buttons’ & ‘I Don’t Need a Man’), when on the other hand, we hear the dolls in other tracks, most notably in ‘In Person’, ‘Takin’ Over the World’, ‘Whatcha Think about That’, ‘Elevator’ and of course in the Deluxe version bonus disc where they all get a solo song.
To me, the dolls are dominating because there isn’t anyone out there that delivers as they do with their classy, sizzling moves and unique style as well as their strenuous flawless performances; they have certainly put a great solid sophomore album, so in a sense, you could say they are sorta dominating, especially if they are doing real well around the world. This really has become one of my favorite albums of the year; it is really worth the money.

Carlos