Saturday, July 22, 2017

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 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 time, The THOT That Counts will be Brooke's needless attempt at Redemption.

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