Sunday, July 23, 2017

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.

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