Ten years ago, Paris Hilton released her debut single, "Stars Are Blind," and it made everybody mad.
Well, not everybody. Some of us (like me — hello!) were self-declared Paris apologists who genuinely liked the song and also owned her book, her perfume, and several seasons of The Simple Life on DVD. The track peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100, which means that my friends and I can't have been the only people proudly yelling "Turn it up!" while trying to figure out what flip-flops to pair with our Roxy t-shirts. "Stars Are Blind" wasn’t exactly a disaster. Some of you just wanted to feel smart, so you made it seem that way.
OK, fine: Was the video good? Not particularly. Were the lyrics awe-inspiring? Absolutely not. But both fell smartly in step with the aughts’ "Look at me!" mandate, paving the way for today's pop music and pop culture at large. Don't forget: While we may scoff at the memories of a particular heiress, the Kardashian empire might never have come to be without her.
In the wide world of movies, music, and television, a decade means something — like, a century in regular time, or more than three seasons of a TV show. And a lot has gone down in the particular decade since "Stars Are Blind" and Peak Paris. She stepped back and abdicated her throne long ago, and most of the hate once aimed at her has been transferred to her old pals Kim and fam. In hindsight, Hilton’s capacity for branding herself looks less like an exercise in egomania and more like good business. (And OK, fine, maybe a little bit of egomania, too — but that’s what social media is built on anyway, and we have her to thank for that as well.)
Today, high on nostalgia and Von Dutch rediscovery (#bless), we’ve slowly begun to welcome Paris back. Aside from a little jail time, she didn’t do anything wrong. She made a sex tape, her asshole ex leaked it, and from there she parlayed her public embarrassment into a bona fide career, defined simply by being herself. This is the definition of a dream job in The Year Of Our Lord 2016 — at least for anyone vying to be a Snapchat star.
This month alone, Paris Hilton attended Cannes as the producer of a new film (about Paris Hilton, naturally) and gave Vogue a reverent tour of her closet. Giving a shit about Paris Hilton isn’t a disgrace anymore — it’s a currency. It’s become the pop culture and/or reality television equivalent of bragging about loving a band before they got famous. If you’re a day-one Paris OG, it means you were with it, that you could see through time and predict the ways our shared cultural heritage would evolve. It meant you went against the curve, that you were contrarian, and that you had the courage to stand up for a woman you knew wasn’t the villain the media made her out to be.
Or it says that you were a 20-year-old suburbanite who recognized that "Stars Are Blind" was a "perfect beach song, oh my god." (I was both. Obviously.)
But "Stars Are Blind" was also more than a perfect beach song. It was a legitimate jam. And I’m not the only person who’ll stand at the corner of an intersection and scream this important truth at anybody within a vicinity of several blocks. In September, Charli XCX cited the heiress as an influence on her own music, while Hilton’s 2014 video for "Come Alive" (FYI: a thing that exists) prompted a more or less serious publication to declare her the most underrated artist of all time. And with good reason. "Stars Are Blind" is a catchy, girl group–esque ode to someone she’s trying to win over. She praises the merits of being seen as the "real her," rejects the try-hards who front for her attention, and keeps her content PG enough for a Taylor Swift album. (Plus, she uses the phrase "this moment is critical," which is itself a very critical move.)
It's time for us to face a serious question: If "Stars Are Blind" had been released last week by Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, or even Demi Lovato, would it have received so much hate? The single’s mandate isn’t that Paris Hilton thinks she’s better than anybody (like Iggy Azalea’s "Fancy"), that another woman is the enemy (like most of the songs on Swift’s first two records), or even that she’s in a particularly volatile situation (like Gomez’s "The Heart Wants What It Wants"). It’s just a love song — an accessible, semi-vulnerable, easy-to-sing love song. Justin Bieber would kill to have been able to release "Stars Are Blind" as his follow-up single to "What Do You Mean."
I hate to say I told you so, but I did. Back in 2006, and now, 10 years later, before everybody steps up to say, "Paris Hilton wasn’t that bad!" as if they were the first people to realize it. But if you are just realizing it, welcome. While I don’t recommend Confessions of an Heiress, I do miss the perfume, and I believe The Simple Life to be one of the greatest reality television series of all time. Although, let's be serious, nothing can compare to "Stars Are Blind." That’s hot.