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It was the summer holidays of 2005 and there were six girls that were constantly on the music channels asking the rhetorical question ”Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”, it was the 21st Century version of Wannabe and of course the answer was ‘Yes’.
Unlike the Spice Girls formula of sharing vocals and having a bit of fun with pop music, the Pussycat Dolls were the serious, dance-trained burlesque group to emerge from Los Angeles, with one leading vocalist and the other five chipping in now and again or lifting their leg in the air to show they were still part of the show.
There was Nicole (the leader), Carmit (the ginger who left after the first album), Kimberly (the one that lifted the leg and is now a judge on ‘Got To Dance’), Jessica (the dark-haired who broke her rib and was dismissed by PCD creator Robin Antin), Ashley (the one that I am going to marry) and Melody (the youngest who shared the most vocals with Nicole but never quite got the admiration she desired). This was the Pussycat Dolls and they brought ‘Doll Domination’ to the world – until they parted ways in 2009.
Rumours circulated the tabloids that the other ‘Dolls’ were becoming “increasingly concerned” in focusing the group entirely on Nicole, not helping matters when the group released their version of Slumdog Millionaire song Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) as Pussycat Dolls (feat. Nicole Scherzinger). It was the pop equivalent of Paradise by Coldplay (feat. Chris Martin), it doesn’t sit right and it was a tale of David and Goliath as Melody Thornton stood up to her rival during her homecoming concert in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I want to say a big shout out to my family, even though I’m not featuring – you know what I’m sayin’. I feel like it’s my responsibility to all the little girls and boys in the house tonight that myself and Ashley Roberts are examples that you can do anything to want to do. You can do whatever you want to do. Don’t give up on your dream and don’t let anybody stop you.”
The outburst was followed by a high five from band mate Jessica Sutta in a somewhat girl solidarity against-the-world (Nicole/ Interscope Records/ Robin Antin/ the Music Industry) manner. From then on Nicole was seen more as a “work colleague rather than a friend” as Kimberly Wyatt described, the band went on a ‘hiatus’ – ultimately ending their “working relationship”.
Now self-titled ‘Baby Doll’, Melody is stepping back into the limelight
releasing sharing her solo material with her fans on her website. Her solo career has been limp thus far, featuring on Jibbs’ track Go Too Far in 2006 (charted at 17 in New Zealand) and an early departure from ITV’s ‘Popstar to Operastar’, but is the girl who “really annoys” Cheryl Cole leaving fans shouting “Jai Ho” or “I Hate This Part”?
Opening her mix tape ’P.O.Y.B.L’ (Piss On Your Black List) is snappy titled Intro and for someone who claims “I’m so happy to be here. I’ve been down for too long. I’m so happy to be here and just sing you this song.” could come across as desperation but it doesn’t. It’s reminiscent of Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. There are too many ‘woahs’, ‘ahs’ and ‘yeahs’ but Melody creates optimism for the next nine tracks by suggesting “the best is yet to come”.
Sweet Vendetta has an influence of Tina Turner but more of an album track rather than a smash hit. At times it’s difficult to understand what Thornton is singing which I’m sure has nothing to do with the track not entering a single chart when it was released digitally last year. Using the instrumental of Jay-Z & Kanye West’s No Church In The Wild from ‘Watch The Throne’, Lipstick & Guilt presents a dark tale of Thornton going to champion her enemy admitting “if you make it out alive, don’t wanna be around to see your demise”. The video, however, is even less exciting showing Melody as a cross between Lady Gaga and a Dementor from the Harry Potter books.
Comparisons could be made between Smoking Gun and Rihanna’s Russian Roulette with lyrics reminiscing ”Remember I was the one who showered you with the sun” and “Your time is up, darling raise your cup and take your bow – do it graceful now”. It’s easy to believe that Melody is singing about her unhappiness in the Pussycat Dolls and how Nicole got all the limelight, but it could be about love – a heartbreak perhaps? No reference is made to gender which makes it difficult to determine if Melody has had her heart ripped out or if she is just bitter.
Another racket in Love You Better showcasing the production more than the voice, it is unusual to have the music louder than the vocals but that must have something to do with the lack of budget, if at all. The second half of the album/ mix tape/ compilation begins with Crazy Mixed Girl which isn’t a song in the sense you can sing along and there’s music you can tap your fingers to. No, instead Melody Thornton has subverted the stereotype and instead reads out a ghetto themed nursery rhyme about toothbrush.
Disappointingly The One That Got Away is not a cover of Katy Perry and again there is too much whining which leaves you wondering if there was a reason why he “got away” in the first place. Apparently Melody is in love though “y’all”, which leads into her cover of La Roux’s Bulletproof with a duet with Bobby Newberry. It’s stripped back and haunting, something you’d hear in a live lounge environment. It’s perhaps the first time we’ve got to hear Melody’s voice without a noisy production, it’s simple and it works. Newberry takes the lead vocals but there is still room for Thornton to “yeah” and “ah”.
Taking inspiration from her stint on ‘Popstar to Operastar’ is the penultimate track Someone To Believe, Melody describes “I don’t believe in fairy tales no more, but I still believe in me” and how she will “fight all the way”. This is someone who clearly dreamed of her name in lights and she won’t stop until it happens. It stands out on the album as the most believable, should not have been relegated to second to last on the album, being a contender for the next Christina Aguilera’s Hurt and could easily feature on a Disney soundtrack.
Hit The Ground Running is something Melody has not done but as the title of the last song, you get the impression that Melody has been knocked down. She’s been knocked down too many times, she’s been pushed to the back, she believes she should be a star and will challenge anyone that tries to “change what was written in the stars” and as Melody innocently sings at the end “I’m still here”, you get the impression she doesn’t want to be forgotten. It’s a sad tale but not commercially appealing but fortunately is free of “yeah’s” and “ah’s”.