BURBANK, California — It’s a scene that probably wouldn’t be out of place up the road at Hef’s humble abode, but here in a dance studio in Burbank, it’s a decidedly different affair.
The Pussycat Dolls — a five-piece now, since the departure of Carmit Bachar back in March — are bumping, grinding and sweating with a shocking level of precision and professionalism. They’re putting the finishing touches on their performance for Sunday night’s MTV Movie Awards, a shimmying, gyrating showstopper that’s designed to both drop jaws and promote “When I Grow Up,” the first single from their upcoming new album (due later this year).
And though there is plenty of giggling and a fair amount of horseplay, it’s also clear from their drill-team synchronicity and the looks on their faces that the ’Cats clearly mean business.
“This is a big deal for us. We just want to kill it. It’s all about the Dolls right now, and we’re coming strong,” said Nicole Scherzinger, the de facto leader of PCD. “We feel really good about this new album, we feel really good as a group, and we feel like this new album is really the next level for us. If you liked the first one, you’re going to love this one.”
That’s big talk, because lots of people liked their first album, the glossy and flossy PCD, which, based on the success of singles like “Don’t Cha” and “Buttons,” sold nearly 3 million copies in the U.S. alone and made the Dolls the heirs apparent to the Spice Girls’ bedazzled throne. So, clearly, there’s a fair amount of pressure on the group this time out, which is why they’ve turned once again to some old friends for help on album number two.
“We’re working with some of the same crew on this one. Timbaland is executive-producing, Cee-Lo Green is on it, Polow Da Don, Sean Garrity — they’re on it too,” Scherzinger said. “There are songs on the album that people wouldn’t expect from PCD — some smooth, slow jams, some alternative jams. We’re really coming ferocious with the music this time out.”
Of course, first single “When I Grow Up” is neither a slow jam nor a particularly alternative one, but it’s most certainly ferocious. A hyper-speed slice of super-pop produced by Rodney Jerkins, it features sirens, handclaps, pitch-shifted vocals and a certifiably undeniable chorus that attempts to dive a centimeter or two deeper than your average radio fare.
“All of us started with a dream. I know when I was young, and I would sign people’s notebooks, I wrote, ’Remember me when I’m famous,’ and I don’t know of a little kid who hasn’t aspired to be someone,” Scherzinger said. “The lyrics go, ’When I grow up, I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies,’ but there’s a twist at the end, because it says, ’Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.’ ”
It’s a theme that’s getting plenty of traction these days — beware the high cost of fame — but Scherzinger and the Dolls say they’re not trying to talk to the Britneys and Lindsays of the world. Rather, they want the song to inspire but hope that listeners will grasp the cautionary tale contained within. Or, you know, something like that.
“We’re not pointing a finger, because we don’t think it’s nice to judge,” Scherzinger laughed. “Because sometimes people judge us, and it’s mean.”
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