19 September 2008

Big Gay Deal: Pussycat Dolls Melody Thornton


“Let’s go!” Melody Thornton says at the top of our interview with a girlish giggle.

It’s no surprise that the youngest Pussycat Dolls member is revved up and rarin’ to go when we spoke recently. Not only is the mega-girl group of which she is a founding member about to make a claim on worldwide pop music domination with their appropriately titled sophomore release, Doll Domination, they have just collected an MTV VMA for Best Dancing in a Video for their fancy footwork in the dizzyingly fast-paced video accompanying their new album’s first single “When I Grow Up,” which has already become a global smash hit after having earned the top spot on the Billboard Dance charts.

With chapter two in the Pussycat Dolls story about to be written with the release of Doll Domination on Sept. 23, Melody Thornton took a few minutes from PCD’s hectic promotional schedule to sit down for a chat with GayWired.com. From how she first became a ‘Doll’ and the pressure to be a role model that comes along with that designation, to the moment on stage that always makes her laugh and what the Pussycat Dolls have in store for fans with their new album, Melody Thornton charts the path to Doll Domination.

GayWired: So Melody… “When I grow up, I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star…” those are lyrics from PCD’s newest hit, but they’re actually more than a little biographical where you’re concerned because you’re actually living them aren’t you?

Melody Thornton: Kind of yeah. [Laughs] Just a little bit.

GW: Well you’re only part of the biggest girl group going right now…

MT: Exactly…

GW: Tell me a little bit about your introduction to the Pussycat Dolls. How did you go from being a mere mortal to being a real life Doll?

MT: My introduction to Pussycat Dolls happened after I graduated from High School. I was fresh in college and I saw an advertisement on MTV for the Pussycat Dolls and I said ‘I’m gonna’ do that, that’s what I’m gonna’ do.’ [Laughs]

So I drove out to Burbank, California with my sister and my mother and I auditioned and I made it and for the most part it’s been a pretty incredible ride.

GW: Let’s talk about the ride and the new album. You ladies are following up a release that was a massive hit. What’s different this time?

MT: We worked with a lot of the people we worked with on the first album like Timbaland, but this time Timbaland took more of a leadership role as far as producers go. He did six songs in six days with us, all of which did not make the album, but we created a lot of magic with him.

[There’s] Polow Da Don who we worked with on the first album… and also Sean Garrett and R Kelly, who we never worked with before… so that was interesting… really interesting. Our record with him is really incredible. I like to say this is more of graduated album… [rather than] mature because it’s still young and caters to our younger demographic and our original PCD fans. [Laughs]

GW: And what about the change in sound? These new songs seem to have a different sort of energy?

MT: Yeah …kind of like a super hero, Power Rangers-type pop group of women situation?

GW: Yeah kind of like that.

MT: [Laughs] Definitely. I don’t wanna’ say that this album is more mature, but there’s definitely lots of growth within the music. We did a lot different styles of music… even some more alternative records. We explored more styles vocally and even included more vocalists, like myself and all the rest of the Pussycat Dolls who got to do our own songs which will be included on the extended album.

Personally, I had an opportunity to do just a tad bit more on this album than the last album… so there’s a couple of different sounds in there.

GW: Since you bring up vocals, for the most part when people think of the Pussycat Dolls they think of Nicole Scherzinger on vocals and the other group members as her supporting players. But a little birdy told me that you’re disproving that notion and showing your stuff a little bit more on this new project, aren’t you?

MT: A little more. The thing is that when people buy the album they don’t know that because a lot of times the singles that are released are kind of luck of the draw. If a song is picked that is a single and I’m on it… then yeah it’ll be proven. But if people never buy the album, then they just don’t know what’s going on. And then for the most part, they think it’s just Nicole, but it’s not.

GW: So that vocalizing that all of the dolls are getting to do on this new album is part and parcel of that ‘graduation’ you referenced earlier as well then?

MT: Exactly! Good point.

GW: I try to keep up. Well now that the question of who’s singing what is settled, what’s your favorite track on Doll Domination?

MT: My absolute favorite song on this album is called “Taking Over The World”. I think it’s a good theme alongside “Doll Domination.” It’s our one record on this album that represents exactly …what we hope to do with this next album which is to dominate the pop circuit and solidify ourselves as the girl group of the moment.

GW: How interesting it is that the Pussycat Dolls are stepping up and positioning themselves as the new girl group superpower just after the Spice Girls have taken their final bow…

MT: It’s incredible. The Spice Girls made it possible for the Pussycat Dolls to be … so we definitely pay homage to them and everything they’ve done throughout their careers to create more opportunities for the Pussycat Dolls and groups like the Pussycat Dolls.

GW: PCD has lots of teenage fans, but you’ve also got plenty of gay fans of all ages. Any interesting interactions with your gay fans?

MT: I have to tell you that the gay boys are the ones that are willing to go the distance! They sleep outside the hotels… they’re definitely the most devoted and supportive.

GW: Why do you think that is?

MT: I think it has a lot to do with the similarities between the Pussycat Dolls and our gay audience. We get criticized for a lot of the things we do and all we’re doing is being ourselves. There’s something beautiful about being different …doing your own thing… and just being yourself.

It’s difficult to play a character in this world so that everyone likes you. It’s so much easier to just be yourself. And I think that’s the similarity between the Pussycat Dolls and our gay audience. We go through that together.

GW: What’s your biggest indulgence?

MT: It would have to be shoes. I definitely pick the fiercest pair of shoes I feel like wearing and base my outfit around the shoes.

GW: Is it true that the rest of the group calls you ‘Baby Doll’ because you’re the youngest?

MT: Yes they do because I am the baby doll. [Laughs]

GW: How is it for you being not only the youngest Pussycat Doll, but the only Latino and African-American member of the group? That’s a whole lot of representing to do for one person.

MT: It’s not difficult, but I definitely feel a responsibility because I am the only African-American… the only Hispanic girl in the group but it’s more of a responsibility for me. I’d like to live up to everyone’s expectations but I also understand that is virtually impossible [because] people will have their opinion.

I always like to make this point. We get criticized a lot for having younger girls look up to us. They say maybe we’re not the best role models but the truth of the matter is that we are. As far as African-American and Latin culture goes… teen pregnancy is just through the roof. I can speak for myself and say that I’m abstinent. So we are good role models. For me it’s most important to get that out there to the world and especially to African-American and Latin American young women…that you can dress sexy and be whoever you are and not necessarily have sex.

We are walking example that you can’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what’s inside.

GW: Does the criticism ever bother you?

MT: Of course. People say things that are so hurtful and sometimes it just goes along with being in the group. It can become a lot to bear. You can turn a blind eye… but I’m not like that. I read the blogs because I want to know what people are saying just in case it is good criticism and there are things I shouldn’t be doing, but some of it is just ruthless.

GW: On a lighter note, what’s been the funniest thing that’s happened either on stage or off since you joined PCD?

MT: [Laughs] There was one time when one of the girls was basically wearing a wig and we… [Laughs] …leaned forward going through the choreography where we dipped our heads down and then brought them back up. Well she kept her head down and basically she came up with the wig on her face! It was hilarious. [Laughs]

I have to say I laugh every time because it was a live taping of TV show and she just couldn’t fix the wig… she couldn’t get it back. [Laughs]

GW: Final question. Since this you’re an Arizona native and this is an election year, I have to ask you who you’re voting for this year. Have you made up your mind yet?

MT: I usually wouldn’t say who I’m voting for because there are married couples who don’t tell each other how they’re voting, but I have to say I’m just so proud of Barack Obama. I absolutely am. As a matter of fact, I’m proud of John McCain as well. But in my heart of hearts I’m voting for Obama.

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