The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why Humanity Sucks In 06 or 39 Minutes In Paris

Yeah. I listened to it. I didn't want to. I had to. Because on some level if you're paying attention to pop culture in the year 2006, Paris Hilton remains an inescapable force. Whether you want to or not, at some point you'll inevitably turn on the television to see a re-run of The Simple Life. Or you'll be at the mall and stumble past a case advertising her new perfume. Or you'll be at the market buying groceries, waiting in line next to a rack of colorful celebrity magazines (or even Vanity Fair), with Hilton's disinterested elitist eyes staring cooly at you from the cover.

So when I had the chance to listen to her album, I stared plaintively at my computer, offered a few choice expletives to the heavens and downloaded all 11 tracks, figuring it'd be an ample target for a few cheap laughs. And on some level, it was laughable. There are moments on it where you can't stifle exploding in hysterics at the hubris that she and the record executives had to try to turn one of the most untalented people in America into a pop star.

But the truth is that Paris isn't actually an album that can be reviewed. Because on some levels it's more than just an album. Sure, on the surface, it's 11 poorly written, extremely well-produced tracks, full of handclaps and hard synths and slinking choruses. At the most basic level, it's just another dumb pop album from just another dumb pop star princess about the boys that like her and how cool she is and how sometimes late at night she actually has a feeling or two.

But ultimately when the layers are peeled back from this shining and grotesque beast of an album, it's like staring into the rotting state of mainstream American music, and to a certain degree, the state of the nation of a whole. Sure, this statement is a bit hyperbolic (prolly more than a little). But the truth is that the status quo of America 2006, is one of inauthenticity: inauthentic leaders using inauthentic evidence to start authentic wars, major league baseball stars lying about their usage of illegal substances, tabloids fast becoming Americans most well-read publications, and hip-hop having turn into a masquerade party of fake crack dealers and untalented hacks (paging Rick Ross and Dem Franchise Boyz) consistently ranking as the nation's most popular "artists." So why shouldn't Hilton, America's reigning queen of inauthenticity become a pop star. It would seem the only natural progression.

You Are Getting Sleepy...Very Sleepy...Oh my God....Being Sleepy Is Like So Hot

Whether we like it or not, Hilton is the dark undergrowth of the American dream, the scion of a wealthy family, the living embodiment of what has become the American cliche: Money can buy everything. From her hair extensions, to her purported nose job, to the ditzy blonde persona that she plays on The Simple Life, little about Hilton is real, yet this inauthenticity hasn't stopped her from becoming a pop culture darling. In a "reality television time," Hilton is the living embodiment of the idea that celebrity and reality are products to be manufactured, like airplanes, trains or automobiles. (a fine movie if there ever was one). Even her dealings with the press are nothing but lies, witness last month's absurd claim that she's currently celibate and has only had sex with two men in her life (they just happened to have been on videotape that's all).

But with The Simple Life's ratings fading and her movie career seemingly stagnant, pop music seemed to be the most logical career option for Hilton. Hell, if Lindsay Lohan could go platinum, why not Hilton? Fast forward a year and now we have Paris, an album that will inevitably divide music critics into two camps. One of them will reflexively savage it, pointing out Hilton's innumerable flaws and misdeeds. This camp will likely call her rise to a success a sign of the apocalypse and this album a stunning exercise in stupidity.

The other group of critics will inevitably rush to praise the lavish and rich production, Hilton's "better than expected voice," they'll probably use phrase like "summer fun," and a "frothy delight."

But while the critics who'll malign this record are generally more right than the ones who will praise it, on some levels both will be wrong. After all, many of these same people regularly praise the vapidity and forced sexuality of Justin Timberlake, the calculated machinations of the Black Eyed Peas, or the empty bragadocio and talentless misogny of the Yin Yang Twinz (who made more than one critics top 10 list in 2005).

Lemme Get This Straight Mr. A&R...You're saying that all we have to do is add a talentless white girl and change the phrase 'keepin' it real' to 'gettin' it started' and we'll become America's Sweethearts. It's almost too good to be true.

Like the Rick Ross album I wrote about a few weeks back, this album isn't by an artist. It can't be evaluated as a piece of music. Judging this record's merits is like assessing the design of a car: it's sleek and well-designed, it has a fresh coat of paint, and it runs with an engine that has no soul. No heart. And sure, this sounds heavy-handed and bombastic, but so is this album. In the future, if anyone is curious to know what pop music sounded like at the turn of the century, one only needs to press play on this record.

If anything it's a love-letter to the wonders of auto-tune and what ornate and rich production can do to mask the fact that the pop star empress has no clothes (usually literal, for once figurative). Listening to it is like taking a tour through the past few years of music: the ubiquitous Scott Storch providing keyboard flourishes and mapping the sonic landscape, the Gwen Stefani-esque hollaback yells, the cries to "get it started," jacked from the Black Eyed Peas, the Britney Spears-esque cooing, Ashlee Simpson/Kelly Clarkson studio post-punk layering to accompany many of the hooks.

Of course, there's a requisite hip-hop cut, featuring Fat Joe and Jadakiss. Fat Joe in particular delivers one of the most unconvincing intros to a song that I've ever. When he hollers out "TS..This is that Paris Hilton, Scott Storch and Don production," it's hard to stifle laughter. As usual, Jadakiss delivers a solid verse, filled with his lyrically empty but compelling street tales. I'm pretty sure at this point, he writes them like Mad-Libs. As Hilton coos the song's hook (Everytime I step out of the house, the boys want to fight over me because I'm so so so sexy) you can almost hear Fat Joe and Jadakiss discussing what it's like to have sold their souls.

They Paid Me $100 k for mine, how much did they pay you, Joe?
Of course, there's the prerequisite song sure to be interpreted as "addressing issues" in Hilton's personal life. This one's entitled "Jealousy," and I'm sure it will be construed as being targeted towards Nicole Richie. I'm also sure Hilton didn't write it. I'm also sure that no one will really care

As you might expect, the album is filled with lyrical gems like "my heart beats like a drum whenever you come," and "tonight, I'll be your liquid dream," (insert vomit here). But lyrics aren't the point of any pop album. The music is. But rarely has anything felt as ingenuine, as forced as this. It's like listening to one vast joke being played out on wax, being played out on the American consumer. It's been said that no one ever lost money underestimating people's intelligence and judging from the reception of "Stars Are Blind," this album will sell and it will sell big. And most people won't care that she doesn't believe a word that she says, as long as it's catchy. And in a way it is.

The truth if this album had the name Kelly Clarkson, or some 21 year-old Norweigian chanteuse on it, critics would fall over themselves to praise it. I've never listened to anything I believed in less. It's a bunch of empty words strung together over ridiculously catchy beats. In a sense, they've constructed a glorious facade for the hollowness of Hilton. They say that a people get the leaders they deserve. If that's the case, they'd also get the pop stars they deserve. Listening to this album is like looking at the reflection of America in the mirror. And like Paris Hilton herself, it isn't pretty.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Dude when I was at the intersection of La Brea and Washington this morning I saw a bunch of promo bills posted along a wall. On it contained a poster with the gap ad that you blasted so well yesterday as well as a poster for the new Paris Hilton album. Of course, I immediately thought of you and the anger you probably had boiling in your gut over this album. And of course, you came through with solid a post. Although I think music like this is disgusting, I've come to the point where I really don't even care to be angry about it anymore. I've just realized that you are always going to have ignorant tasteless people that would rather live in a fantasy world and live vicariously through the simple life, US Weekly, People Magazine, and albums by faux hip hop thugs, emaciated scenster chicks, and other pop icons. The thing about it is that those same people probably think the same way about guys like you and I. They think we are stupid because we care too much about everything. Because we over analyze everything. Because we actually use our minds for something and decide what is good and what is bad based on our own thought processes and not on what someone else tells us. They’re the people that don't listen to music by acts such as Dylan or Sunset Rubdown, because it's too complicated for them. I hate Paris Hilton with a passion, because she does represent everything that is wrong with American Society. She's a bloated, unrealistic caricature that distracts our uneducated populace from progressing. I can't decide what opiate is worse for the uneducated: extremist religious figure heads or bloated pop culture icons. I also hate Paris because she reminds me of half of the douche bags that you and I went to school with that lived in a complete bubble that wouldn't allow them to drive east of the La Cienega border of Beverly Hills. “Daddy bought me the Sports Package…”

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I agree with you (obviously) and I think it's pretty myopic to think that people will change...but I think that trends will and this seems to be a particularly vicious one we're in right now. The worst is being called a hater. Like we're supposed to buy into the party line or something. On Friday, I'm gonna' do why Humanity's Ok in 06....balance it up a bit.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

It's funny you mention Fat Joe's lackluster intro to that song because instead of listening to the album, I watched the making of the album special. And they showed Fat Joe recording his part and honestly, I think Fat Joe has a great career in acting ahead of him. He just seemed so disinterested in being there; it was like an Ed Wood production. One take and then he left the building.

I'm just wondering why hasn't anybody put out ads that link Paris Hilton to Al Qaeda. There has to be a connection. If the vice preisdent is going to shoot his mouth off about Ned Lamont being Al Qaeda's dude, then the people who desire a return to quality music, tv and film should start spreading vicious rumors implying that Hilton supports Al Qaeda and what not.

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Sandro said...

Ned Lamont--CT's on the map baby! Finally...somone famous besides Brad Ausmus.

As to your post, there is one thing money can't buy you Jeff. It's, as this little band from the 60's sang, "love." Money can't buy you love. Unless of course you're in Vegas...than it's much more than just love.

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Zilla Paris said...

I can't wait to hear Joe and Jada's replies to people in the hood when they see them at the bodega with their posse or at the barbershop getting cuts live on MTV.

"Yo Joe/Jada, what up with that jawn you did with f*ckin' Paris Hilton, B? That sh*t was WACK, son!?!"

"Aight, whatever man, whatever man. That rich-ass cracka paid me like $30,000 for 16 bars, son. You wouldn't take it? You broke ass, hatin' muthaf*cka!"

Here we are in 2006. If you call someone out for selling their soul or making a terrible product, you are deemed a "hater." No one is being held responsible in the court of public opinion for making greedy, awful "business" moves.

Why? Because somewhere between the time when MC Hammer lost all credibility for doing Taco Bell and British Knight ads and appearing in the Addam's Family Movie and Paul Wall appearing on "Hogan Knows Best" with customized grills for Brooke Hogan in their Scott Storch session, the idea of integrity vanished like Aresino.

Joe and Jada would have been stoned and killed in 1991 along with Hammer and Vanilla Ice for doing this ragweed of a song. But in the 15 years since "II The Extreme," we've accepted heartless, calculated greed backed by high-priced beats and Pro Tooled vocals. We've got a long way to go.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Wait...there's an episode of Hogan Knows Best with Brooke Hogan, Scott Storch, and Paul Wall...that's amazing...I need to track this one down.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

Yeah, I've seen that episode of "Hogan Knows Best," with Scott Scrotch & Paul Wall. Paul Wall is on his sidekick the whole and writing text messages while doing his verse.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Sonny Zilla said...


This is completely off topic. I'm bored as HELL at work and I'm trying to kill 20 minutes on the clock. I just looked over your old posts and saw the one you did on Camp Lo and "Black Nostaljack."

I don't know if you buy XXL Mag, but the last one with Jay-Z on the cover was dope--they broke down the making of "Reasonable Doubt."

Very interesting fact: Ski, producer of Camp Lo and "Dead Presidents," was working on both "Reasonable Doubt" and "Uptown Saturday Night" at the exact same time. He said how Jay would hear Camp Lo beats and want to trade beats. Jay apparently went nuts over "Lucchini" but Ski already gave it to Camp Lo, even after Jay and Dame started offering him serious money for it.

THE '96 JAY-Z ON "LUCCHINI"!!?! That would've been ill. If you listen to both records, you can get a feel for which beats could've traded albums. "Feelin' It" and "Cashmere Thoughts" would've been right at home with Camp Lo's fly slang. "Swing" and "Sparkle" almost beg to have Jay's clever wordplay and smooth metaphors dropped on them.

Has there ever been another point in time when a producer was working on 2 great debut albums at the exact same time?

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I did't know that but that makes a lot of sense now that you mention it. Those albums are pretty similarly themed...back when the Big Willie stuff was interesting and being done in new and compelling ways. In answer, to your question, yes I believe it happened just recently, Scott Storch on the Method Man and Paris Hilton albums. All jokes aside, the Meth album is pretty great...I'm gonna' talk about that on Monday.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger The Drizzle said...

Besides agreeing with most of what's been put forward here, I also wanted to point out that this marks the second time I've read the word chanteuse in the last 3 days. It also showed up in the opinion of Bette Midler v. Ford Motor Co in Property the other day. I may well have gone 25 years without hearing that word, followed by twice in 3 days.

I would say that for the most part, I have no particular opinion on a person who would, as Ian said, buy this in a "non-ironic" way and get joy from listening to it. I take it as a give that these people exist. I suppose I maintain the hope that they're not beyond redemption, some of them anyway. And I've realized that some of them, on some level, are still worth having around. They can still be useful for humorous purposes at times. But I would never really count on them for anything of import.

As a man who once made an argument in his AP English class that denigrating pro wrestling was needlessly elitist, I suppose I have to let these people have their crap. Even if this crap pales in comparison to the social gravitas of Rowdy Roddy Piper or Stone Cold Steve Austin.


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