Friday, February 20, 2015

The Pussycat Dolls Music Brand's Complicated History

The Pussycat Dolls' foray into pop music spawned one of the most complicated histories in U.S. pop music (and that's saying a lot.) First off, the refresher course for those that blinked and missed the original Pussycat Dolls music group.

Branched from a burlesque troupe started by Robin Antin, she Interscope Records and Jimmy Iovine (by way of Geffen Records and Ron Fair) wanted to create a musical girl group version of the burlesque troop [not the weirdest pitch meeting by a long shot.] The Nicole Scherzinger episode of Behind The Music fills in the rest of the blanks and raises a fuckton of questions, two of which I covered in her entry in the W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. series.

Those remembering "Buttons" and then the original Pussycat Dolls, can tell you the lineup apparently had 6 members total. Nope. In the video for the group's second single "Don't Cha"...oh...second single right...buckle up quick kiddies. Time to learn just how hard Robin Antin tried to make this thing happen...

Once upon a time in 2004, Jennifer Lopez was in another movie. This time it was with Richard Gere and it was called Shall We Dance?. The Pussycat Dolls were originally thinking their debut single on that soundtrack would have them cake up royally [That was not the case]. The song in question was the group's rendition of "Sway"; a song made famous by Dean Martin [and a song that had been a staple of the PCD burlesque troop]
This lineup originally had a 7th member, Kaya Jones, who at some point during the crafting of the group's debut album, PCD, simply said "fuck this" and left.

Then comes the "debut" single from the group, "Don't Cha". The song was a success, peaking at #2 on The Hot 100. The video however, featured 7 girls even though Kaya had left. Who's the 7th girl? Well, when the song made it to the reboot of Pop-Up Video it was revealed she was just a really lucky extra. The band didn't know if she was going to be a new member or if she was added backup [by the way, that girl never appeared in another Pussycat Dolls video.]

Cut past the rest of Nicole and in turn Robin and Ron's indiscretions to make Nicole a star at 5 others' expenses, and The Pussycat Dolls break up with a total of four Top 10 and three Top 15 singles on the Hot 100. It's not the worst haul a U.S. girl group has ever had (I'm looking at you, Danity Kane.)
Yet in the midst of the original band's heyday, Robin and Ron devise a vanity project in the form of a competition reality series to expand the Pussycat Dolls' Music Brand. Get ready because this shit gets complicated to understand in full...

The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll

The first attempted brand expansion came in the form of this CW reality show. The "goal" was simple; add a 7th member to an overnight sensation girl group to compensate for Kaya and "Jane Doe's" departures. In the course of 8 episodes, a 7th member was found in Asia Nitollano. Search for the Next Doll buffs remember her as a better performer than singer (Which in hindsight made perfect sense considering how evil Nicole Scherzinger is.)

How did this venture end in disaster? Well, Asia only performed maybe twice with the group and one of those was the season finale of The Pussycat Dolls Present:...the other being a CW related event. That was on the surface, but thanks to CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff in a summer press tour for the network revealed that Antin and co. fucked up rule #1 of a venture; have a contract and hold the party in question accountable.
According to Ostroff, Nitollano was never contractually obligated to join the Pussycat Dolls.*

Yup; a simple contract would've had her be at least present in some Pussycat Dolls videos, but the brand expansion was clearly not thought through enough if a lack of contract allowed Nitollano to hustle the fuck out of them.

The Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious

[*For the record, there was an off-camera spinoff before this one where 3rd place from Search for the Next Doll, Chelsea Korka, "led" a group called Paradiso Girls; apart from a song called "Patron Tequila", they at large haven't done shit apart from one member joining the 3rd major spin-off.*]

The next attempt at brand expansion was an intended girl group of three under the name Girlicious. In the course of 10 episodes (Episode 7 being a clip show...-_-) a sudden quartet was made into the supposed "goal" of making another superstar girl group [because apparently in February to April of 2008, The Pussycat Dolls were beginning to bore Tyrant Antin].
The quartet chosen to be members of Girlicious were Nichole, Tiffanie, Natalie and Chrystina. Believe it or not, they were able to release two albums; their debut album Girlicious, even went to #2. If you've never heard of that or their follow-up Rebuilt, then you essentially admitted to not being from Canada.

The reason this venture failed is because Antin and co. once again lacked foresight or any goddamn sense. They built a group in the States and then leaves them to be pimped in Canada. -_- Geffen Records took them on as the quartet; pimped them only in Canada for whatever reason, and got a #2 album out of them and a Top 5 hit "Like Me" and #20 hit "Stupid S***" [because Canada and not the States, both of these songs were a bust and failed to make the U.S. Hot 100].
That's not the worst part; after the debut album, Tiffanie was essentially booted from the group after Geffen shipped them off to Universal Music Canada and the new label wanting a different vibe from them. Cut past the sophomore slump, Natalie and Chrystina saying "fuck this noise" to the group leaving Nichole to anchor the remnants of a failed group.*

*Nichole went on to re-invent Girlicious into Girls United, who went on to lose The X Factor U.S. Season 3 in the 4 Chair Challenge. Even more salt in wound level sting, they almost made the S3 live shows.*


The third and arguably most successful brand expansion was in the formation of a Diet Coke version of The Pussycat Dolls. After the original original music lineup abandoned ship, Antin scrambled to find girls from her ever extensive database to make a new version of the group. A sign that this time was different comes in the fact that G.R.L. is signed to RCA Records under the Kemosabe Records boutique or vanity label under them [This happens to be the label of Ke$ha so more or less, they're in "popular" company].
Remember the Paradiso Girls member not named Chelsea that left? Well she's Lauren Bennett who before this venture and after saying "peace bitches" to PG, was the LMFAO "Party Rock Anthem" female voice. The other member that survived the changes was former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Paula van Oppen. The rest of the line-up included former X Factor U.S. contestant Simone Battle, Natasha Slayton and Emmalyn Estrada.

[Girls that weren't so lucky included Chrystina and then Natalie from Girlicious, a former L.A. Laker Girl by the name of Vanessa Curry, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader named Erica Kiehl Jenkins and somebody named Amanda Branche.] <--- keep in mind that most of this lineup was announced during the Superbowl. Once this shit was finally in order, G.R.L. soon attempted to make it big.

Essentially, this is the most successful of the spin-off groups as in the U.S. they were featured on Pitbull's "Wild Wild Love" which went to #30 on the Hot 100. In their own right, they had a song for the soundtrack of The Smurfs 2 called "Vacation" [which served as a B-side for "Ooh La La" by Britney Spears for a hot minute.]
Their proper debut single "Ugly Heart" while not able to chart on the Hot 100, was an international hit going to the Top 5 in four countries.
Bad luck then sadly plagued the group as Simone Battle was then found dead from suicide on September 5, 2014. The group recently put out a tribute single to Battle called "Lighthouse" which is seeing modest success internationally. Whether or not G.R.L. is going to see a U.S. relaunch post-Battle is up in the air.

In summation, The Pussycat Dolls' music brand suffered from lack of foresight or lack of a fuck given to whatever act was supposed to be in the limelight. Robin Antin might be a burlesque talent scout, but she nor any record label she's worked with could create a brand/music group with enough behind them.

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