07 June 2006

Surprise! It sucks!

For those who haven't heard it yet, the new Paris Hilton single appears to have leaked out to the Internet (thank you Save Manny), and it's worse than you could possibly have imagined. Amazingly enough, some of the commenters on the post linked above are reluctantly won over, leaving hesitant praise like "Not terrible. Not at all," and "It's not that bad. I actually kind of like it it." Are these people deaf?

First off, let me qualify this by saying that over the course of yesterday, I listened to the first Ashlee Simpson album in its entirety three times. I have a cassette dub of the latest Kelly Clarkson in my car, and it gets played a lot these days. I own Britney Spears' video hits DVD. I know cheesy pop, and I like it.

Furthermore, I harbour no knee-jerk loathing of Hilton, no desire to watch her fail. In fact, I find her somewhat fascinating; in a way she represents the absolute nadir of our obsessive celebrity culture, an A-lister famous for nothing more than being famous. Oh sure, she's rich, meaning she had a leg up on the rest of us as far as getting there goes. But there are plenty of other tycoons' scions at the same parties Hilton gets photographed at who don't wind up in Us Weekly several times per issue. And while the other glamorous somebodys in that and other celeb-gossip rags are famous for a reason (mostly actors, with a few models, musicians and athletes sprinkled throughout), Hilton had accomplished exactly nothing before becoming today's It Girl, making her arguably the first completely useless celebrity. She seems to have simply willed herself famous, talent be damned, and has parlayed that fame into a TV show that requires nothing more of her than to stand around and look confused; a clothing line; a fragrance; a few minor movie roles that qualify as little more than stunt casting; and even a book for which she could barely be bothered to hire a ghostwriter1. Oh, and for the record, I heard she pulls a share of the profits off that sex tape, which may be her most deliciously cynical ploy of all.

So I'm okay with Paris Hilton, and even find her perversely admirable. She's worthless, she knows it, she revels in it. Good for her. Having said that: this blows. Maybe I was naive to expect anything more given the palpable lack of effort she displays in all of her other endeavours, but really, this is just embarrassing.

It's bad enough, in fact, that I suspect it may be a fake. Not because I think she's talented enough to come up with something better (I don't), but because I think she's rich enough to hire better writers and producers. Honestly, this sounds like a demo recorded in a $50/hour "studio" in some mook's spare bedroom tricked out with the free version of ProTools and a big ol' semi-fancy keyboard with a bunch of genre-specific presets. And the song isn't much better; the melody is facile and repetitive, there's no climb, no tension and release, no climax. The lyrics lack anything annoying enough to stick in your head. The arrangement is thoroughly unimaginative, just verse-chorus-bridge and nothing else.

Where's the flash, the glitz, the glamour? Where're the hooks? Where the fuck is Linda Perry? Really Paris, is this it? I think the most surprising thing about the song is how underwhelming it is. Am I the only one who expected something a little more over-the-top? A little more ridiculous?

The first issue that needs addressing here is the production on the vocals. Since Hilton brings nothing to the table beyond the ability to make sounds and form words, the producer's job is to either create some charisma artificially or hide her deficiencies; here he does neither. In contrast, take the aforementioned Ashlee Simpson, who's father/manager/creepy-svengali Joe obviously spares no expense in hiring the best for his daughter/client/wind-up-doll. Simpson can't sing either, but her producers take whatever sass she can muster and either layer the shit out of it; or bury it in the mix and throw in a whole lot of reverb for good measure. On Hilton's song there seem to be one or two extra layers on the verse, but on the chorus she's all alone, and Lord knows she can't handle it.

And what of the backing track? Is this really the best faux-reggae anyone could toss together? Again, compare it to this Simpson cut. Listen to the shifts in the key, the subtle details in the arrangement. Then listen to the Hilton cut again. Actually, don't. It's just one white-guy frat-reggae guitar riff over and over again, mixed way up front. Reggae's about the bass, honey; that's why the guitar doesn't play on the ones: to stay out of the way.

On second thought, there was really no reason for me to expect anything more. Hilton appears to hold herself to pretty low standards; keep in mind, this is woman who's first taste of real fame came in the form of a homemade sex tape that, in hindsight, it's not that hard to imagine she may have leaked herself. And she seems intent on parlaying that fame into a public persona as the world's richest white trash. She's stupid, lazy, talentless, doesn't give a shit and, quite frankly, doesn't have to. You go girl.

UPDATE 6 JULY 2006: Re: my comment above that the track may be a fake. It's real. I've seen the video. Worse than the song, by the way.

    Tangents & Clarifications:
  1. It's sold as a diary. Meaning it's mostly blank pages with a few photos and some stray exhortations to share your secrets with Paris. As in, "Thanks for the money, now would you mind writing it for me?" [Return]

No comments: