There's a kind of beautifully perverse brilliance to the Pussycat Dolls. Not only are they a sextet who got their start as neo-burlesque dancers in Los Angeles, but they make no bones about being a gleefully manufactured dance-pop act. Open the booklet for their 2005 debut, PCD, and their artificiality is made clear: the first page reads "All lead and background vocals by Nicole Scherzinger," a former member of Eden's Crush, the failed prefab teen pop group assembled on the WB's pre-American Idol reality music show Popstars. There is no pretense that Kimberly, Carmit, Ashley, Melody, and Jessica are there for anything besides filling out the illusion that this is a real performing musical group and providing some serious eye candy for a group that is all about the visuals. The great thing about PCD is that the producers and songwriters behind the album -- and, since this is a big-budget urban dance-pop album in the mid-2000s, there are many credited writers and producers -- are eager to play with the Pussycat Dolls' hyper-sexual image, creating a sleek, sexy sound ideal for both nightclubs and strip joints across this great land. And, at least at first, the songs are about how irresistibly sexy the Pussycat Dolls are, starting with the genius hit single "Don't Cha," where Nicole and the rest of the Pussycats strut around, taunting a hapless man with such come-ons as "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me/Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me." There has never been a sex song quite as knowingly ironic yet undeniably sexy as this, and for a while the album keeps the momentum up, first with will.i.am's "Beep," a rewrite of Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps," except this is funny, not embarrassing, and since Nicole is sexier than the Peas' Fergie, it's also sultrier. Timbaland's "Wait a Minute" is in the same vein and, for a brief moment, it seems like PCD will be that rare thing: a mainstream club/dance album devoted to nothing but dance songs. Then, reality comes crashing in with the fourth song, "Stickwitu," the inevitable romantic slow jam whose sappiness undercuts the joyous carnal celebration of the first three songs. Although the rest of the album has more dance tunes than ballads -- and some catchy ones, too, like Beyoncé-styled "I Don't Need a Man" -- the album never quite recovers, since the fantasy of a girl group that's only it for the sex, not love, has been ruined. Since that fantasy is the very reason the Pussycat Dolls exist as either a dance troupe or a pop group, it's a bit of a disappointment, but PCD is still worthwhile because there enough good cuts to make it a fun soundtrack to parties or strip clubs, even if there aren't quite enough to make this the camp classic that the beginning of the album suggests it could have been.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Busta Rhymes