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Pussycat Dolls fairly purr

The band's first CD surmounts the sex behind the music.

By SEAN DALY
Published September 15, 2005


Giving new, nasty meaning to the word "sextet," chart-topping pop tarts the Pussycat Dolls take the power of skankiness very seriously.

Created in 1995 as a wink-wink cabaret act mixing the razzle-dazzle of Bob Fosse, the Sunset Strip sleaze of Motley Crue and the latest brand of female empowerment, the six sex kittens are responsible for smash hit Don't Cha. If you don't know the lyrics to this '80s-style R&B bumper, your teenage daughter probably does: "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?"

Don't Cha is one of several tracks on the burlesque troupe's new debut, PCD, that tutors how to tame a big, dumb hunk through the art of the tease. The song is a guilty-pleasure gem, as is the video, now in a seemingly constant loop on MTV. In the soft-core spot, Pussycats Kimberly (the sassy blond punk), Carmit (the redhead named after a car-washing cloth), Ashley (the even blonder sorority girl), Jessica (the former Miami Heat cheerleader) and Melody (the clothes-averse tomboy) shake their tailfeathers while head Doll Nicole (the street-smart Hawaiian-Russian-Filipino) sings like the new Sheila E.

PCD is wildly entertaining stuff, naughty but not necessarily filthy. It's also brazen marketing at its finest. A former member of R&B group Eden's Crush, Nicole is the only proven singer in the group. In fact, in bold letters in PCD's liner notes, you'll find this boast: ALL LEAD AND BACKGROUND VOCALS BY NICOLE SCHERZINGER. The rest of the group is basically meant to look super hot in that poster hanging on your kid's wall. Somewhere the Spice Girls are feeling really talented.

The brainchild of choreographer Robin Antin, the Dolls began in actor/dancer Christina Applegate's garage as a throwback lark. The primary requirements to be a full-time Doll apparently were: (1) You have to be a good dancer; (2) You have to be an adequate singer; (3) You have look like a porn star. Johnny Depp initially upped the group's cool quotient when he booked them for an extended run at his West Hollywood hipster hut, the Viper Room.

In the past, such hubba-hubba stars as Eva Longoria, Carmen Electra, Christina Aguilera, Charlize Theron and Pamela Anderson have performed stints with the troupe, which has featured an ever-revolving cast of fresher, younger performers. The Dolls are now wowing 'em in Vegas, where there's a lounge named after them in Caesars Palace.

With the group just signing a major-label record deal, it's now considered cool for smart musical talents to work with them, too. Rapper Busta Rhymes cameos on Don't Cha. The Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am produces and stars on suggestive party cut Beep, which incorporates both the sound of a censor's (bloop) and a patch of ELO's Evil Woman: "I don't give a (bloop), keep looking at my (bleep), 'cause it don't mean a thing if you're looking at me (bleep)."

And longtime Missy Elliott producer Timbaland is responsible for the album's best track, Wait a Minute, with its sassy handclaps and boy-girl give-and-take perfect for the dance floor.

Lest you think I'm blinded by lust: Uninspired remakes of Donna Summer's Hot Stuff and Soft Cell's Tainted Love are painfully obvious filler, and blah slow jam Stickwitu, on which Nicole is suddenly a good girl, kills the album's early momentum.

Still, there are usually brains behind the badonkadonks - this is a far catchier pop record than, say, the last Destiny's Child disc - and two cocktail-swing tracks at PCD's tail end hint at why the Dolls' cabaret show has been such a success. Right Now and Feelin' Good play like Henry Mancini on Viagra, exhilarating '60s-jazz come-ons that will introduce some great old music to a younger audience.

I might go to hell for recommending it, but here goes: For a good time, you'd be smart to call these Dolls.

- Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or 727-893-8467. His blog is at www.sptimes.com/blogs/popmusic

CD REVIEW

The Pussycat Dolls, PCD (A&M Records), Grade: B

[Last modified September 14, 2005, 14:37:01]


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