Sunday, July 23, 2017

The THOT That Counts: Willa Ford's "Willa Was Here"

The THOT That Counts takes a look at stripper-pop musical efforts and wonders how they ended up the way the are through a standard review and analysis of the pop culture lens of their time of release.

The year is 2001; the teen pop diva had been reintroduced 2 years prior thanks to Britney Spears playing a classic sex trope of "naughty Catholic schoolgirl" in the "...Baby One More Time" video. Why is Britney mentioned yet again? Oh it adds up, specifically with this installment.

This time, The THOT That Counts is the debut and sole release of sentient edition of Maxim magazine Willa Ford's Willa Was Here. The album in all good 00s pop was a revolving door of producers around a surprisingly game to write her own lyrics teen pop sensation [for a hot minute mind you].

The procedure is the same as before; a standard review of the album with an analysis of the pop culture at the time to see why the album ended up the way it did. Yes, there's an Australian bonus track in "All The Right Moves", but it's only one more to consider in giving a full analysis.

1. "I Wanna Be Bad" (featuring Royce da 5'9") - An occurring pattern of this series is that the album in question is obviously built around the single that managed to find success [Paris notwithstanding because it was something of a cohesive fluke] with this song being a Top 25 hit on the Hot 100. That being said, this is Willa's best song. Her vocals for all of the vocoder/processing are actually pleasant.
Because this was 2001 and this was the beginning of "urban" influenced pop, a nameless rapper just "cool" enough to exist on a track is featured. Royce da 5'9'' is fine on this but still a hit or miss non-descript addition overall. 

2. "Did Ya' Understand That" - The album's 2nd single that failed to chart. This is the beginning of Willa's ambition being a bit unrealized with how fast she delivers the lyrics [especially for a bad girl bubblegum pop act]. The album version and video edit are radically different in that there's a really dumb, half-assed attempt at a rock remix of this song or is some randomly placed nonsense.
The thing is, Ford shows deep vocal potential even if it's not obvious but more on that later.

3. "Ooh Ooh" - A promotional single from the album that failed to gain any momentum. One problem of Willa Was Here is that all the intended singles are at the front of the album. In this case, once the listener gets their kicks with the other songs, they might not get to the other tracks. It's playing the strongest hand right out of the gate.
As for the song itself, it's a great showcase of the registers Ford is able to hit [and the whistle/opera moment that is indeed her doing it. Look up an interview Ford has with VH1 and she does the opera moment.]

4. "Tired" - This track actually has a history that can help explain why the album is why it is. For now, all I'll say is that history does not look kind on Willa's delivery of "Tired of the pop that should flop, that should never be on TV and in your teen magazines." Also, her delivery is so rushed/overwrought. BREATHE. Learn to BREATHE.

5. "Joke's on You" - Keeping in mind, this is 2001; so this is 2 years before blatant skank culture found its "urban" counterpart. So instead, we're treated to pop with an attempt at sexy guitar lick sounding rock treatments. Again, Ford is the strongest vocalist covered in the series thus far so she's a breath of fresh air compared to the others.
To an untrained listener of pop in general, the tail end/money note of this song will have them think she missed the note. In actuality, she hit the note but the vocals used here don't match the beat used for the song.

6. "Tender" - Ugh, another stripper-pop by way of bad girl bubblegum pop ballad. Ford is surprisingly adept especially considering her limited skillset, but this ballad is indeed tender...because it's limp.

7. "Don't You Wish" - Again, this isn't "urban" per se, but this is like if Britney could get more airplay on R&B stations. Yeah, this song is all "leave her for me" but without the misguided charm Taylor Swift had for "You Belong with Me".

8. "Prince Charming" - The most 00s sounding pop beat imaginable...like the four chords of pop but only this beat was used for Britney, Christina, N*SYNC, Dream...pretty much, this beat is like the spirit stick from Bring it On. Thankfully, this doesn't Torrance it, but the lyrics are so syrupy and saccharine.

9. "Somebody Take the Pain Away" - If I told you this clocks in at under 3 minutes, will that take some pain away? Something I hadn't addressed yet is how in the weirdest way, the albums thus far could pass as soundtracks to ABC family movies with the most generic titles imaginable.
This cut while not the title of said ABC family movie, would definitely serve as fodder as its half-baked process of emotional turmoil is sad but theatrical enough for bad acting to thrive.

10. "Haunted Heart" - Ugh, the cadence and pacing issues are beyond insufferable now. That and the title and song lack any cohesive sense. Nothing about this other half-baked Max Martin wannabe beat mixed with a Mad TV impersonation of Christina Aguilera says "haunted heart".

11. "Dare" - For the U.S. market, this is the closing track of the album. Nobody is really going to emerge from this unscathed. Willa's album is at least the most consistent of the bad girl bubblegum pop side of stripper-pop. This song however, is a poor closer track. Stick this in the middle of the album with the other half-baked syrupy productions.

12. "All The Right Moves" - To get the clearest picture of the album as a whole, this iteration ends on the Australian bonus track which from the title alone says this would be the ABC family movie starring Willa Ford.
Ford has this personal vendetta against being labeled "Britney" and that's coming up very soon, but for all that personal umbrage with her...this is like a rough draft of a Britney track from her first album. Down to the production being actually closer to Britney's commercials for Pepsi than even knockoff ...Baby One More Time era Britney.

Now with the album out of the way, it's now time to see how Willa Was Here ended up the way it did through contextual analysis of pop culture at the time of its release.
AfterTHOTS: 2001 was a time when pop music and in turn pop divadom was just about to feel its bad girl self and plant the seeds to the blatant skank culture that ruled from 2003-2009. As slinky drumbeats or anything labeled "rhythmic" was meant to be a moneymaking competitor to anything labeled "melodic", pop or at least teen pop was still bubblegum/innocent...looking. As it was said, Britney reignited interest in a female pop act starting off innocent and then playing into the Madonna effect of being sexual by ways of the liberation aspect of pop culture feminism.

On Willa Ford's end, she ended up playing all her cards too early. If Paris was the result of overexposure by way of reality TV fame during the oversaturation point of blatant skank culture, Willa Was Here is the result of too much, too soon and weirdly being ahead of her time. The album also suffers from the artist having confronted her identity in music on her debut. If you're asking "who?" when you see "Willa Was Here", then you already have an idea as to what I'm talking about. Time for a bit of back story.

Willa Ford started off in the industry all incognito as Mandah [like her real name Amanda Lee Williford, but all...doofy sounding.] Originally signed to who cares MCA Records, she's dropped, ends up on Atlantic records and has something of a break when she gets a song on the soundtrack to Pok√©mon: The First Movie [track 10, "Lullaby".] Other famed pop acts almost exclusive to the 1999-2001s like N*SYNC, B*Witched, 98 Degrees, Aaron Carter and Vitamin C were on the album as well.

Two names that also appeared on it were Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. This is the seed planted for Willa's bad taste in her mouth about pop music in general, let alone Spears.
After the soundtrack album, she ends up signing a deal with the Atlantic Records imprint, Lava Records and changes her name from Mandah to Willa Ford. However, the reason for her name change was to avoid confusion with another blonde pop-tart named Mandy Moore. See where the identity crisis comes in?
That brings us to the track "Tired" which on the surface is a thinly veiled diss track against Britney from someone who wishes they could be as big as her in 2001.

See, that's just the face value interpretation. What "Tired" ends up doing is giving an unusually transparent look into a budding talent that's already had enough of the pop music machine and pretty much risked their career telling the listener "hey, here's the skinny". There's two major problems with that: 1. This is coming from someone who despite having experience on one album before this one, is on her debut. How much know how did you really manage to get to where you feel to enlighten us on the fact that the pop machine is a hellhole where individuality mostly goes to die? 2. This is underestimating the public's perception of the music industry as a whole. Even if Ford really did gain so much perspective, it's kind of an open secret; we know Britney lipsyncs and that pop as a whole is really not the best place to get artistic merit on the first try in 2001.

As for the "crap" she took "each day", that mostly comes from the fallout from her failed relationship with Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter. Hmm, a pretty blonde girl with a bad streak having gone out with a blonde boybander who was non-descript and had a messy breakup in the early 00s...sound familiar? In Willa's case, word is she was once an opening act for Backstreet Boys but was booed to hell [this is after the messy breakup between her and Nick or right around it.] For proof of this, I suggest looking up a Willa Ford red carpet moment for her more successful hosting career where she's interviewing the big stars of the 2001 VMAs; at one point the Backstreet Boys pass by her where all but Nick acknowledge her at all.

It isn't to say Ford was the worst thing ever to happen to pop. In a weird way, she was ahead of her time being open about her bad girl image [because VH1 junkie moment, she actually was a bad girl type from the VH1 mini-series, My Coolest Years and the bad girl episode where even the voice behind most of VH1's promo material Rachel Perry was featured as a "bad girl".] She missed the blatant skank culture bandwagon by a small window and Lava Records lost faith in her right as the legendarily tacky "F*ck The Men (A Toast to Men" from her scrapped sophomore effort, SexySexObsessive, was released as a standalone single.

This is also not to say playing sex on the first try is inherently a limiting move; for instance, Lady Gaga played up levels of sex on her debut, but she has the material to back it up and she's a weirdo; meaning there's something to play off of and keep people interested. Willa Was Here showed Willa's true self but neither that nor her intended second album, SexySexObsessive, was really going to build anything off of that. Hell, even the Pussycat Dolls struggled to maintain a true pop identity even though their image was branded in a burlesque troop kind of sex.

The point is that Willa Was Here is ultimately the result of an overambitious pop tart in the 00s trying to make a statement of being a bad girl even though she had no idea how the hell it should sound. Not entirely a Britney but more of a further misguided Stripped by Christina Aguilera.

The THOT That Counts: Paris Hilton's "Paris"

The THOT That Counts takes a look at stripper-pop musical efforts and wonders how they ended up the way the are through a standard review and analysis of the pop culture lens of their time of release.

If we're delving into stripper-pop, slut-pop or guilty pleasure driven bubblegum pop of the mid 00s, I'd be remiss to not mention the debut and sole effort of the original celebutante turned politically flippant but secretly stupid in politics, and one time pop singer Paris Hilton's Paris.

Paris Hilton in the early to mid 00s was more or less the Britney Spears or Madonna of simply being famous for being a blonde in Hollywood. The only difference is what Paris did before, during and after her moment in the 2003-2009s with her album being right in the midst of her pop culture stranglehold.
Some things to note for this installment is that Paris was signed to Warner Bros. Records at the time of release, had some of the biggest names of the mid 00s pop game on her debut and pretty much has the only album that plays like a standard debut pop record. The stink of Scott Storch is all over this album too as he's executive producer with another no name and Paris in vain.

The drill is as follows: standard review of the album and an analysis of the pop culture around the time of release to see why the album ended up the way it is [praise the lord, no bonus tracks of new material therefore a standard album indeed.]

1. "Turn It Up" - The 2nd single/1st and only promotional single released from the album and amazingly reached #1 on the Dance charts. It's no surprise why as the beat screams 2006 production for a surprisingly competent singer. Yes, as is typical by now, Paris Hilton is to not be mistaken for a singer. It's fine but horribly dated.

2. "Fightin' Over Me" (featuring Fat Joe & Jadakiss) - Nothing screams "urban" pop in the mid 00s like rap features for a pop girl's debut effort. The only difference between Paris and Brooke Hogan is that Paris has money/Warner Bros on her side to get big names like Fat Joe & Jadakiss on her song.
Paris is relegated to the Ashanti role of hook girl on her own song, to our benefits mostly.

3. "Stars Are Blind" - Her only hit song as it peaked at #18 on the Hot 100. See what fame from a sex tape and reality TV show fame can bring? The beat is more bubblegum than the typical Storch tinkering, but Paris' vocals are all hers (That's not a compliment this time.)
She's a competent vocalist in the most generous sense of the word. Lyrical pyrite [meaning the lyrics suck at large] and slight ambition gone awry on the bridge reminds us that if Paris' music career was meant to last on a scale where people were supposed to care, she needed a lot of work. Specifically, having more than one style of delivery of the songs. Her style is best described as "Laissez-faire, nonchalant rich girl." Like what Selena Gomez does now except for all the serious money to Paris' name. 

4. "I Want You" - It samples "Grease" by Frankie Valli. Initially this scared me as I didn't know how a Storch executive produced joint would incorporate this. The result is actually quite nice even with Paris' limited at best delivery. Her vocals are fluffy and nondescript enough to be something close to signature.
*Think like an infamous Daria line: "Sometimes your shallowness is so thorough, it's almost like depth."*

5. "Jealousy" - A song that's pretty much a diss track aimed at her former best friend and The Simple Life cast mate turned fashion maven in her own right, Nicole Ritchie. Paris' spoken portion sounds as insincere as any "how could you track" produced in the mid 00s, but the song is mostly there.

6. "Heartbeat" - I swear I heard this crappy 80s pop beat before. The surprising thing about the album thus far is that it doesn't play as terribly as other entries thus far. As to how it falls under stripper-pop or any of the descriptors from the introduction, this is the rich girl or "classy" iteration of stripper-pop; meaning it's the type of rich girl known for partying in excess but having the nicest clothes to party in.

7. "Nothing in This World" - Paris' best song. Despite tanking on the charts, VH1 Top 20 Countdown played this damn near every week of its allotted run. Making the best of her limited as shit vocals, the song actually presents Paris as a serious pop singer with bubblegum pop working in her favor.

8. "Screwed" - The only thing of rote regarding this song is a short but messy feud between Hilton and failed act Haylie Duff. Duff had supposedly recorded this song first but Paris ended up with it and once it was on Paris, Duff was furious with her and it pretty much lived as a tidbit of "news" on VH1.
The song itself is fine but just as empty and beige as most of the blatant skank culture pop.

9. "Not Leaving Without You" - By this point in the album, Paris' monotonous vocal emissions even surrounded with great pop production, are really annoying. The party girl persona wore thin about 7 tracks ago but still, considering the rich bubblegum production, this is the most professional sounding album of this series.

10. "Turn You On" - Returning to the "urban" shtick if only by way of the thudding production and the blatant skank part of blatant skank culture being front and center. Paris should be given credit for being able to coo in certain keys. Granted, singing in differing keys would be better but I'll take what I can get from this free gift with purchase of a fragrance of an album.

11. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" - A cover of the Rod Stewart "classic" from the 70s. I remember people deriding this as a disgrace to the original song to where even some tubid cover act was featured on MTV bringing up what makes a good cover and they used this song as a "what NOT to do". Were these people right?
Probably, but only when Paris coo-sings the chorus. Coquettish vocals are nothing new for beginner pop music, but the singer has to be able to hit the notes. Does Paris accidentally sound like Tira from Soul Calibur III and/or Harley Quinn in recent iterations when she's supposed to be "playful"? Yes, but that's not the worst thing she did on this album.

Now with the album out of the way, it's time to analyze the pop culture of the time to figure out why Paris ended up the way it is.


AfterTHOTS: 2006 saw the decline of Paris Hilton's celebrity status once the curtain was being pulled on blatant skank culture in the U.S. Merely 3 years ago, she was introduced via her downfall and The Simple Life. Her downfall was the sex tape with Rick Solomon [still more famous for being Shannen Doherty's ex] but not because a sex tape happened. Ironically, Paris was a casualty of overexposure.

The U.S. is often pigeonholed for being uppity or not accepting of sex and smut. Once you ignore social conservatives, you'll find that the public is fine with sex and smut but not crap; especially crap that overstays its welcome and hasn't taken the hint to fuck off already. In the case of Paris Hilton, her pop career had nothing to build off of. It should be no secret that "selling sex" is merely a concept to make money and works the best when the label and artist are in on it. Paris' sexual exploits were already well known of and that buzz only drove the success of The Simple Life and its subsequent seasons.

For Paris to have had a shot in pop career, a slight bit of foresight [or in this case, not being involved in a sex tape in the beginning of the internet/digital/24/7 media cycle age as we know it] could've given her pop career at least a sophomore effort that got shelved (Remember; Paris Hilton is a mostly bad vocalist without the ability to change her vocal delivery.)
It isn't to say a porn star hasn't tried a pop career; one hit wonder Andrea True of the Andrea True Connection ["More, More, More"] was pretty much known to have been a one time porn actress but the 70s worked in that if you knew this bit of salacious information, you chose to consume that form of media. And because celebrity culture in the 70s was not the vicious 24/7 cycle we know today, Andrea True was given a chance to have a pop career; it obviously didn't work but people remember the song "More, More, More" and not her porn career.

The key difference is that Paris Hilton was not now or ever a porn actress turned pop singer. She was a socialite who became famous after turning herself into a brand based off of a sex tape with someone relatively famous; and along the way got a TV show and at some point a record deal with Warner Bros. Yes, even Hilton fell under the pigeonhole of being a reality star whose album was graded on a generous curve and despite a #6 placing on the Billboard 200 and a Top 20 hit, it only sold 77,000 copies in its first week. This is back when physical units of music were still being bought so this is rightfully called a commercial flop.

Even musically, it was done before it was over for Paris' music career because her album came right at the saturation of "urban" pop music in 2006. Scott Storch, Fat Joe, Jadakiss all made appearances on it and despite the album not being that "urban", Hilton was still a part of the trend of "white girl goes urban" in a time where velour tracksuits, grills, microskirts, a bad girl attitude, Chinese Laundry heels and other bad mid 00s fashion trends reigned supreme.
This is proof that money cannot buy worthwhile longevity even if you have a mix of new money origins and Warner Bros Records money to boot.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The THOT That Counts: Brooke Hogan's "The Redemption"

The THOT That Counts takes a look at stripper-pop musical efforts and wonders how they ended up the way the are through a standard review and analysis of the pop culture lens of their time of release.

The year is 2009; the blatant skank phase of pop culture was pretty much dying as most of the forms of entertainment relying on the trend were no longer deemed culturally kosher. By this time, Britney Spears had gone through a horrendous 2007 in the spotlight and somehow made it but less openly skanky. Paris Hilton was deemed irrelevant as both a celebutante and a pop singer [but more on that when her chapter comes up.] Lady Gaga had rolled along in 2009 and was labeled the weirdo pop music needed.

With this as a template let me remind you Brooke Hogan's sophomore effort, 1. was a thing and 2. a fucking miracle considering what her last effort was but 3. mainly bolstered by the fact she was using her VH1 status to make a career in pop music, because blatant skank culture was dead and she was pretty much escaping her life at that point.
This isn't to say she didn't pull a Blackoutney and release an album around the time of a shitty personal life, but let's get this out of the way; a LOT of parallels between Brooke Hogan's second album, The Redemption, and Britney Spears at this point in time. The good news so far? No bonus tracks. As before, a standard review will preface the analysis as to why this album ended up the way it did.

1. "Intro" - We're first treated to an interlude...well intro-lude, using soundbytes of the tabloid cycle the Hogans were under in the period of time since her debut and this effort. It's only useful in explaining whatever Brooke felt she needed to redeemed from [and that's going to come up later in full.] As for the intro-lude itself, on one hand it's a mixed bag. It makes sense for Brookeney...err Brooke to address the tabloid cycle surrounding her family as it's common knowledge to reality junkies in general let alone those of the MTV and VH1 Celebreality golden age that relationships in reality shows worsen over time because they're under such a microscope.
The Hogans were just a family of celebrity status trying to show how they function with a famed WWE star as a head of household but also with fame hungry kids [let's not pretend kids of famous people don't want that at first; Amy Osbourne notwithstanding but that's something else entirely.] At the same time, it shows the album's flaw from the jump; while Hulk, Linda and Nick were embroiled in scandal, Brooke got off scot-free compared to the others in that her spinoff show was referenced. Again, what the fuck is she trying to redeem herself from? [the answer is coming later.]

2. "Strip" - After the intro-lude, the first real track of The Redemption is a fucking half-assed mashup of both Circus era and Blackout era Britney [title track and "(Get Naked) I've Got a Plan" to be specific.] Infuriatingly [though not surprisingly] the processed vocals wear thin at the halfway mark beyond.

3. "Hey Yo!" (featuring Colby O'Donis) - The track that pretty much became a background theme to the last season or so of Brooke Knows Best. Love interest for an episode and "Just Dance" featured guest Colby O'Donis is featured and he's just fine on it as is Brooke. Just fine, inoffensive and actually...a good track on both ends as the bubblegum production is fluffy enough to say "this is different for her" but just catchy enough to last.
Surprisingly this was a 2nd single from the album but weirdly, it got no video treatment even though the song was plugged at the end of every episode of the show for the longest time.

4. "Trust Me" (featuring Urban Mystic) - Somebody tried to make Brooke Hogan really sing for the first few seconds and they deserve a raise. Then the song nosedives once the production reads less "upbeat sunny pop" and more as an advertisement for a Sandals resort and cruise.

5. "Falling" (featuring Stack$) - Brooke Hogan's best song. It may be a secret vehicle for the inept beyond dated Kevin Federline reference spouting Stack$ [who by the way, Brooke dated for a hot minute] but Brooke's vocals are actually pleasant throughout the song. It doesn't matter that she could barely carry a tune in a bucket, the production and vocal take used are fantastic together.
In what should be no surprise at all, this was the lead single for the album [which further raises the question what the hell she needed redemption from] and was also the second music video to her name that VH1 gave in-house love on the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown.
(I'd describe the music video but if you're not interested in a badly done special effects ridden video on a dime with Brooke in a blue bikini and Stack$ in board shorts...yeah, you're screwed here.)

6. "All I Want Is You"- For all the comparisons I've made to her and Britney Spears, apparently along the way Brooke Hogan aimed for a sunshine era Sheryl Crow and was hoping for at least Colbie Caillat [but ended up with only a slightly better Debi Nova but not by much.] OK it's not the worst idea to move Brooke's album from the white girl going urban shtick to the airy/fluffy side of bubblegum pop but this empty sunny guitar pop is dated by at least 15 years and sucks OUT LOUD.

7. "Dear Mom..." - Now we move onto the uncomfortable in context song, Brooke made about her mom. Oddly enough, AllMusic pointed out how this is the only song Brooke ever sounded in control of throughout her storied dual album career. AllMusic happens to be right in this case; it's the only song that brings up a possible answer as to what Brooke was seeking redemption from.
"It's better to live than to love you" is also surprisingly the deepest lyric imaginable for a Brooke Hogan album. Oh and the dialogue used...was an actual argument between her and her mom. This especially is going to make the next set of songs awkward to take into consideration.

8. "Handcuffed" - Nothing says "we don't give a shit about a cohesive album" like this song playing after a letter to the artist's mom during a tumultuous time in their lives. Especially if you revisit the fact that Brooke Hogan's vocal style is "even more processed Britney Spears". Kinky sex is fine and this song is fine and all but who the hell wants a mood shift that severe?

9. "Ruff Me Up" (featuring Flo Rida) - From the 0:13 second mark onward this is the shittiest ripoff of "Womanizer" by Britney Spears imaginable. This is like if Brazzers or Vivid Entertainment wrote this for a "blonde pop star XXX spoof" but decided at the last minute to just use stock porn music instead.
Also I'm going to shame Flo Rida for even appearing on this. Shame on you Flo Rida. For shame.

10. "BeDDable" - Oh look, the crappy Apple keyboard spelling trick commonly associated with Zayn. Judging from its pacing, something tells me this was scrapped from Undiscovered and was supposed to be a Janet c. 20 Y.O. era impersonation. Nothing this sexual should be this lethargic sounding but leave it to the team behind this album to think the pretty blonde chick should sing about sex, sex, sexy sex obsessive [scrapped Willa Ford album reference not totally intended.]

11. "You'll Never Be Like Him" - *immediately skips once the saccharine half-hearted sunshine pop begins*

12. "The One That Got Away" (featuring Stack$) - OK, there had to be a bit of Undiscovered stink on it with its cheapened...err diluted urban shtick all over it. If it was tiring on her debut, her second effort makes it all the more sophomoric. Enough of this Paula DeAnda impersonation and on to the next song, PLEASE.

13. "Redemption" - The song that is supposed to be indicative of the album the most at least from the title. Once she calls upon her people and "h8rs"/haters to listen to her seek redemption...I had had enough of this album without remembering there's one more song to go.
If you're going to attempt an anthemic song, make sure you have your song let alone lyrics in order to fit with the beat. This is without a doubt, one of the most insufferable albums I've listened to.

14. "Finish Line" - Not even 0:40 seconds in and I don't want to break the finish line of this song. The title doesn't fit the song and to end the album on a pitifully bland and thin note only proves that the reason Brooke Hogan's music career exists is because of VH1 relevance and not a goddamn thing else.

Now that the album is out of the way, it's fitting now to see why the album ended up the way it was through a contextual analysis of pop culture at the time of its release.


AfterTHOTS: As mentioned before, 2009 saw the death of blatant skank culture in the U.S. after 2007 had done it in with Britney's VMA performance of "Gimme More" and the fact that Paris Hilton was nowhere to be cared about. Musically, "urban" pop music was also on its death bed after acts like the Pussycat Dolls...hell after most of pop divadom in general had exhausted all the sexual engines of "urban" pop music. Lady Gaga is mentioned again as being the weirdo that was seen as a breath of fresh air after so many years and so many projects enveloped in blatant skank culture. EDM led by David Guetta, bringing along Calvin Harris and in a way Gaga would ensure the death of "urban" pop music or at least the type tinged with blatant skank culture.

As for Brooke at this time, she was seeking redemption for no reason. Think back to the intro-lude mentioned earlier. Remember that no scandal mentioned her as the root cause, nor should they because Hulk and Linda's divorce was the result of unresolved marital issues having been magnified under the reality TV lens; Nick's arrest record came from the fact that he had had a messy history with anything involving a car [specifically, 2 of his Dad's cars in a street race which later resulted in his passenger being so injured left them in a nursing home for the rest of their life.]

Think back to "Dear Mom" and the tension between them; it was not Brooke's fault that her mom was dating a guy younger than Brooke [and if i recall correctly, he either went to the same high school as Brooke or were classmates which makes the tension on "Dear Mom" all the more that uncomfortable.] The biggest question comes from the album concept.
What the hell was Brooke Hogan looking to be redeemed from?

The answer could be one of two things; one way of looking at The Redemption is this weirdly apt shedding of original sin/not wanting to be like your parents if you witness a vicious cycle of theirs/wanting to make something of yourself in spite of who you came from. Understanding that due to unforeseen and certainly unplanned circumstances, "Dear Mom" type of sentiments need to be said just for eventual healing or to once and for all keep distance and space between any feuding party.

Another way to look at The Redemption is to view it as a form of damage control to the Hogan brand [but only from a fly on the wall perspective]. Brooke survived this with little if any damage, cancellation of her show aside. After all, she got to release another album and in a way prove that at least one member of the family was able to keep the machine running.

The truth, however, is uglier than you think; The Redemption is a poorly thought out album that in a sad way was Brooke Hogan going through the motions (as if Undiscovered wasn't enough proof she or Storch Music Group did that already) but this time not meaning to do so.
For all of the unfortunate flaws she couldn't control, it's not like her music career was meant to last. The Redemption is proof that although in-house privilege by way of celebrity status can get you in, it's the same thing that can boot you out just as quickly.

The THOT That Counts: Brooke Hogan's "Undiscovered"

In a need to stretch content, I'll be launching and giving spotlight to certain albums that fall under the category known as "stripper-pop", "slut-pop" or have one or more songs considered to be "stripper anthems".
Not everyone has a fascination for stripper-pop but hey; it's The THOT That Counts.

The year is 2006 and in the midst of pop culture's blatant skank phase, a VH1 famous figure decides to pull a low rent version of Danity Kane and release a pop album to gain relevance in the world outside their original format. The "celebutante" [mashup of the words celebrity and debutante] deciding to cement a place in pop music is Brooke Hogan; daughter of the famed wrestler Hulk Hogan and amazingly, a 2 album wonder.
This installment will focus on her debut effort, Undiscovered.

Like any stripper-pop album of the mid 2000s, the album was mainly birthed by super-producer of the August 2004 to August 2006, Scott Storch [To understand his relevance and caliber of talent at the time, imagine if Pharrell Williams only cared about fame instead of music and imagine a Chanel vs. Walmart meme and have Timbaland represent Chanel. Take it from there, sparky.]

As to whether or not the album has any merits will be measured first through a standard review by yours truly and then a compilation of thoughts gathered from other reviews and applying context to why the album ended up the way it was. [and to truly give the biggest picture, I'll be forced to reckon with iTunes bonus track, "Certified" and Japanese bonus track "Crazy Love".]

1. "About Us" (ft. Paul Wall) - It's her only hit on the Hot 100 and it makes sense for the best and worst reasons; it's a product of its time. Paul Wall was the breakout star of the Houston Hip-Hop moment of the mid 00s. "Grills" or jewelry meant to fit a person's teeth, were the trendy must have/must fawn accessory in the ever complicated street style to "fashion"/mainstream accepted for a hot minute timeline of the fashion industry.
Brooke herself plays less a Britney Spears knockoff and more of an Ashanti wannabe considering she's the hook girl on her own song. All of this was culturally kosher at the time considering she was the product of the "white girl goes urban" trend of 2004-2007. The song itself kind of sucks but is enveloped in a catch 22 of nostalgia; in this case it's both a welcome trip for the pink Motorola RAZR sporting teens of the mid 00s and also a "what was I thinking? Oh yeah, this song is cute."

2. "Heaven Baby" (ft. Beenie Man) - Another product of its time but this time with the added bonus of disturbing lyrics. "I could wear you on my sleeve/Even when you're makin' me bleed". *record scratch* what the fuck? Without considering the fact this sounds like an omen for "(Flex) All In My Head" by Fifth Harmony, this is bad.

3. "Next Time" - Spoiler, this album is dated as hell and I will be mentioning that a lot. This isn't the worst direction for Brooke's album to go, but this sounds like a Cassie reject [or a very rough demo of "Long Way 2 Go"]. To be fair, mid 00s pop revolved around an "urban" phase meaning if you were a producer that specialized in music popular on R&B stations, the pop gods were going to give you success if you helped pop become accessible to black people.
*What the hell did you think "urban" meant in music? Music made in or mostly made in a city?*

4. "For a Moment" - Taking a slight detour from outright "urban" labeled pop, something resembling a rhythmic ballad brings out that for all her faults as a vocalist on the preceding tracks, Brooke Hogan could actually kind of sing on slower or less blatantly "urban" labeled music.
Granted, a saccharine ballad that sounds not to snuff on a Jessica Simpson album wasn't going to help her case as a pop singer, Brooke can kind of sing in a pleasant enough tone to make this song suck less.

5. "My Space" - Nothing says a dated 2006 album like a song title that inadvertently references MySpace [even if the song has not a damn thing to do with the former Facebook of its time]. Her cooing vocals aren't bad but this is essentially a rack of clothes at A'gaci of a song.
*For those wondering what I'm talking about when referencing A'gaci, it's a clothing store that in the mid 00s was for teenage girls who said "Limited Too isn't me anymore, I wanna be Paris Hilton" and became the type to not only frequent that place but also purchased Rocket Dog and Chinese Laundry brand shoes and heels. Essentially, it was a "bad girl" training ground. It reeked of Bad Girls Club wannabe behavior.*

6. "All About Me" - The true departure from "urban" and the first "ABC Family" style pop/rock that any "bad girl" or stripper-pop diva of the 2001s to 2007s ended up getting stuck with. Oddly enough this is Brooke's strongest song on the album thus far. Again, Brooke Hogan before this album, during this album and well after this album is no singer but she knew how to commit.

7. "My Number" (ft. Stack$) - Oh we're back to "urban" alright. Stack$ is introduced and he's going to pop up on her next album when we get to her second album. Hogan's vocals aren't the worst thing ever, but this production and pop act matchup was really bad. Not that I was expecting lyrical depth on this album but who the fuck would ever sing "I'm gonna write my information on this napkin" to a diluted urban/pop beat?
Also, if you couldn't guess, Stack$ was nothing special on the song and was like any other pop friendly rapper a 3rd rate label like SoBe got to appear on the album.

8. "Beautiful Transformation" - A coming of age song...can be found somewhere else because this is like a mansplained version of Britney's "I'm Not A Girl...Not Yet a Woman" down to the creepy shit someone had Brooke sing for the first 0:49 seconds.
*Or is it a predator written version of "I'm a Slave 4 U"...I can't tell when it comes to rewrites of a Britney song but without the sharp lyrical nuance or the ability to not sound like the creepiest shit this side of Lolita.*

9. "Certified" - Stop relying on that body-ody-ody. Sorry, I had to. OK, a boring filler song *remembers this is the iTunes bonus track*. NEXT.

10. "One Sided Love" - More like Lop Sided Album, but cute guess. Quick math lesson, kids: Danity Kane demo + that sheen of a white girl MySpace page = this song. Although a sheen of white girl MySpace page was probably a co-producer of this album so perhaps a different description of the remaining songs is in order.

11. "Letting Go" - Well at least this schlock of "urban"/pop is one of the better or more fitting production choices for Brooke's limited but committed vocals. FUN FACT: most of the standout tracks of "urban"/pop of this era were either playing one of these two extremes; sex or breaking up. This is a great example of a breakup track working so well in this sect of pop music.

12. "Dance Alone" (ft. Nox) - Oh dear GOD who allowed someone to use a Street Fighter midi file on this song? [Like this is when you fight DeeJay in Hyper Street Fighter II] Wait, this is like "Una Noche" by 98 Degrees but a tackier rewrite of it. Brooke again is relegated to the Ashanti role of hook girl on her own song

13. "Love You, Hate You" - In case you're wondering, yes indeed. Brooke. Hogan. had a song that sampled the piano that would later appear on a Jay Z song...again...Brooke. Hogan. was ahead of Jay Z in terms of scoring samples on her album.
Sadly, the song that got a wonderful sample falls short of being good. It worms its way to decent [and kind of sounding like a "No Air" by Jordin Sparks wannabe.]

14. "Incognito" - This isn't necessarily "urban" but this is definite stripper-pop friendly filler. Manufactured guitar licks mixed with half-assed bleep-bloop noises aren't normally worth castigating but considering this is the non bonus track penultimate song, it's unacceptable to have this towards the end of the album.
At least try to reach a high note; even if she were to miss it in spectacular fashion, she would be trying something new on this album.

15. "Low Rider Jeans" - Be warned; what this song does to a sample of "Lowrider" by War is considered a hate crime to LULAC. In 3 seconds, this song manages to sour the mood when apparently, a nickname for the fashion staple of the early to mid 00s, low rider jeans is "dun-dun-dun-duns".

"Hey guys, have you seen my dun-dun-dun-duns?"
- Brooke Hogan, souring the mood on her album

Just when you thought that was the worst part...then the song starts. Not even a minute in, I had had enough of this shoddily thrown together album and its bad sample work. "Low Rider Jeans hug a little tighter" is not the most disturbing thing said on this album but it's certainly the least palatable.


16. "Crazy Love" - Because I want to present the clearest picture possible [and might be a masochist to boot], this iteration will end on the Japanese bonus track. Production wise, this is the best track. Singing wise, this is Jessica Simpson but without the wasted potential Jessica had.
Oddly enough this is one of the strongest tracks on the album but considering the parent album I would NOT want to be the father.

Now that I slogged through 16 Brooke Hogan songs, it's time to see why the album ended up the way it was through the context of its time of release. In short, I'll be remembering my formative years of being a VH1 junkie/shut-in.


AfterTHOTS: Putting it nicely, as I'm sure it's clear by now Brooke Hogan's debut was a product of its time for better and worse. A reality show starlet who in true pop culture tradition was perceived to have overstepped her boundaries once she made a foray into music.

Pop music in the mid 00s was riding high on its low rider jean friendly stripper-pop by way of "urban" producers being the ones who made the most waves with Pharrell as the origin of it, Timbaland being the 2nd place now, frontrunner then super-producer of his heydays and most fitting, Scott Storch was the opportunist who wanted to milk this for everything it was worth.

Brooke was a rising star of the VH1 Celebreality [celebrity + reality TV] block's golden years thanks to her spinoff potential working in its favor as VH1 saw a way to give someone a spinoff mainly because music was said to be a passion of hers. Make no mistake, this is not saying how dare Brooke try to ride the waves of a hot trend to make her dreams of being a pop singer come true.
I'm saying this was a half-assed venture right from who released her album to the 3rd rate cuts she was getting passed off as songs "meant for her".

Considering that Storch Music Group by way of SoBe Entertainment was the one who had first dibs on a prematurely deemed VH1 answer to Britney Spears, it's kind of appalling how little was put into this album. Brooke Hogan is not a deep artist, y'all; she was trying to make a name for herself outside of being that wrestler's daughter from TV.
The first time around wasn't that fruitful; despite a Top 40 hit and constant VH1 [or in house attention] for Hogan, her debut album only peaked at #28 on the Billboard 200. Certainly not the worst thing to happen, but to be fair, 2006 was the peak and also the oversaturation point of blatant skank culture in the U.S. There's an AllMusic review of Danity Kane's second album Welcome to the Dollhouse that puts it the best way [even if it never meant to] as to why Brooke's album might have fallen through the cracks.

"Danity Kane exist in a strange netherworld of pop culture, where you either know everything about the prefabricated girl group or you know nothing about them. Despite debuting at the top of the Billboard charts with their eponymous 2006 debut, on its way to eventual platinum sales, the group didn't seem to make any impact outside of MTV, the place where their construction was meticulously, endlessly documented on the third season of Making the Band."
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, reviewing Welcome to the Dollhouse

Replace Danity Kane with Brooke Hogan, girl group with pop star, the #1 debut with a #28 debut, MTV for VH1, omit the platinum sales part and Making the Band for Brooke Knows Best and it's the same thing.
VH1 junkies like me knew that Brooke Hogan wanted to be a singer of some sort and she was pretty much using her show as the best kind of publicity someone could get...one that was pretty much free on their end. However, unless people were willing to slog through VH1 in general let alone Brooke Hogan's spinoff vanity project where every now and then she'd do something music related instead of live life as a freed teenager/early adult from her parents, no one cared about her let alone her music.

Yet due to the in-house effect of VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown and the fact Brooke Knows Best was getting ratings, a 2nd album would be made and instead of Scott Storch's stench all over it, she'd be on another imprint of SoBe Entertainment, Fontana Records...next time, The THOT That Counts will be Brooke's needless attempt at Redemption.