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.

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