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.