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Contemplating the Pussycat Dolls

Generally speaking, America doesn't support pre-fabricated pop groups the way the UK wholeheartedly does. We prefer that our famouses at least have the patina of earning it, working for that dream, that city upon the hill. Or at least we did, before the part of the brain that finds reality television monotonous was charred by Big Brother's gamma ray machine, or whatever.

The Pussycat Dolls are a carefully assembled and very successful singing group. They developed out of a genuinely good performance concept by LA-based choreographer Robin Antin: burlesque, updated for the tastes of club-going men and women (read: less fleshy bawdiness and psychological teasing, more general sluttery and lace up boots), who appreciate the opportunity to openly attend a strip club legitimized by the participation of sexy starlets like Christina Applegate and Carmen Electra.

The success of the PCD concept bubbled into the present, music-oriented incarnation of the group (it also spun-off into a Vegas nightclub). Interscope big gun Jimmy Iovine helped Antin assemble a troupe of six women with one visible leader to sing and perform as the Pussycat Dolls, all of them tall, lean "hotties". Unfortunately, they more closely resemble a motley group of dollar store trannies.

Because the packaging of the Pussycat Dolls is paramount to their draw, it's strange that none of the women are actually beautiful—a criticism that would be unfair to level at a musician, but the PCDs are, with the exception of boss-lady singer Nicole Scherzinger, modelish dancers selling a highly particular version of mainstream sex appeal. It's interesting that the overt, grimy and cheap look of the Pussycat Dolls is so embraced, suggesting one of two things: the nation's porny tastes are finally fully mainstreamed—waiting on the inevitable partnership of Vivid and Viacom—or the culture of sex in America is so hyper-accelerated that everybody's humming the Pussycat Dolls in the car and jerking off to Cate Blanchett.

The Pussycat Dolls' record is a simulacrum of popular music, less a cohesive collection of songs than a platform for the music videos. The songs are rote, but their attendant videos present something of a visual thesis, a guide to this sexually-steeped entity. We are to understand that these women are man-stealing, feisty, wet-and-willing dreamsluts ("Don't Cha"), monogamy-minded love honeys ("Stickwitu"), self-reliant girls' girls who don't need a man ("Wait a Minute" and, yes, "I Don't Need a Man"), adorable, flirty cockteases ("Beep"), and serious blue-ball-giving cockteases ("Buttons"). Guesting rappers like Snoop, Busta Rhymes and Timbaland lend credibility, although more of the "connected and paid" variety than the musical. All three also appear in the slick, pricy videos alongside the isolated capsules of sex: a black-rimmed eye opens, obscured by flowing hair; asses drop and riiiiise up slowly; expressions snap between "fierce" and "dripping" with bracing velocity. Never does the camera linger on any one Pussycat too long, lest it derail the effect of interchangeable, sexually available women. It's often difficult to pinpoint just how many girls there are from the selection of red, blonde, and brunette heads whipping in every direction.

Dressing up in trashy lingerie and spackling on makeup is a totally appealing and valid exercise for women who want to dig into their sexuality in a different way than they might get to with a partner. Watching other women basically strip in front of an international audience can have the same explorative or educational effect, though in plenty of cases (i.e.: most of my girlfriends) the inherent response to the Pussycat Dolls is more about revulsion or disinterest. Robin Antin's press mantra is "Inside every woman is a Pussycat Doll". I'm inclined to agree, though I'd like to think that my own is a little less obvious. And a little less tranny.

THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS OPEN FOR CHRISTINA AGUILERA AT THE HONDA CENTER, 2695 E. Katella, Anaheim, (714) 704-2500; www.hondacenter.com. Mon., 7:30 p.m. $52-$93; parking, $12. All ages.

 
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