Nicole Scherzinger was extremely close to pulling a Beyoncé and going solo in 2007. Luckily for her career’s sake, and for the sakes of the rest of her burlesque dance-group-turned-vocal-girl-group Pussycat Dolls, her solo stuff tanked. It’s only a great coincidence that the first single from “Doll Domination,” “When I Grow Up,” brought her back into the spotlight. She clearly needed to do so.
For now, Scherzinger is head cat in charge, being credited for both “lead and backing vocals” on all tracks, even though there are five members in the group (quick — name the other four).
She gets plenty of help from top-name producers and co-writers, such as Rodney Jerkins (Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears), Polow Da Don (Usher, Ciara), Timbaland and Ne-Yo, to throw everything at the board in 16-plus tracks (the bonus CD has eight more).
While the boys behind the boards try and knock everything out of the park in hopes of each being a hit single, Scherzinger changes direction from the “girls want to be me, boys want to be with me” brand that the Pussycat Dolls so well established on the group’s “PCD” and shows some ache in her tough-as-nails heart.
The standout tracks on the album are the ones that stick out and slow down through the club-ready pack, like the ballads “I Hate This Part,” “Happily Never After” (Ne-Yo in fine songwriting form) and “Love The Way You Love Me.” They give depth to the unreasonable amount of tracks.
R. Kelly shows up for something other than a court date on “Out Of This Club,” as he flirts to score while Scherzinger auto-tunes and croons back. The girls channel their inner early 90s Mariah on “Hush Hush,” with Scherzinger’s voice showing its flexibility while she signs about the silence of yet another man thrown to the side because of unfaithfulness.
Not to harp on the slow stuff, though, as the upbeat tracks provide just as much fun regardless of the missteps. The Dolls try to recreate a little bit of magic with Snoop Dog on “Bottle Pop,” but sadly Snoop phones in his lyrics and Missy Elliot steals the collaboration show on “Watcha Think About That,” as she flips the script on the boys and name drops Katy Perry.
Timbaland brings his producing A-game and lets the girls expand their horizons on all his tracks, from the “FutureSex/LoveSound” B-side of “Magic” to the church-organ stomp of “In Person.” It gives the album a change of pace in the middle tracks.
With two solid albums in the group’s skin-tight pockets, the Pussycat Dolls shine on “Doll Domination.”
But, what exactly are these Pussycats? It’s hard to determine after two albums. Destiny’s Child had Beyoncé, whose attitude spoke for the team and was merely a platform for her next step — a step Scherzinger failed. The Spice Girls had girl power fueling its double-decker.
It just goes to show that in the declining music industry, production, outside songwriting and selling the brand, is bigger than the group itself.