The Pussycat Dolls’ "Magic", "Halo", "In Person" & "Whatchamacallit"

OMFG after my nerves that this collabo might not work, I am well and truly put at ease after the leak of PCD’s “Doll Domination” today! Firstly, The Clutch (Candice, Balewa & J. Que this go-round) did their thing as usual, the arrangements are gorgeous, the lyrics are diverse and Nicole has never sounded better imo. Secondly, Timbaland and Royal Court member Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon absolutely brought the heat on production, matching the fantastic writing perfectly and Timbo stepping out of his recent synth-heavy sound for more of an acoustic feel.

In order of my favourites as yet I’ll start with the funky 60s soul-inspired throwdown “In Person”. Nicole‘s vocals are what stand out on the track first and wow, anyone who says this girl can’t sing, can STFU now. After Fantasia’s hot Clutch tracks I should have known that Candice can write and arrange just as well with a SANGer as with a breathy vocalist like Brandy and she again proves it on here. Nicole’s vocals are agressive, off-the-wall and downright funky. The chorus wails of “In Person!” and harmonzing “aaaaahhhhs” on BGVs plus the male and female backing calls of “uh huh” (I assume by Candice and Balewa) bring you right back to The Supremes and Martha Reeves and the ad-libs of Nicole laughing and saying “how you gonna explain to your boys how you got beat up by a chick?” bringing an unplugged feel to the track just add the final touches to a very well-executed throwback-inspired arrangement. The lyrics are also fantastic as we’ve come to expect with The Clutch and just as agressive as Nicole’s singing style with her telling the man who did her wrong: “caught you with her, now I’m gonna scratch up all your toys”. The “I’ma KICK him when I see him” lyric also had me LMAO. Then there’s Timbo‘s production, after some of his recent generic output you’d be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t capable of something as inspired as this but he and J-Roc brought the heat with the track’s jingling cymbals, pounding drumline and heavy brass arrangement, its what’s expected for a Motown recollection but they manage to make it feel retro rather than completely of-the-era like say Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse do things. Not that either is better or worse of course, but its nice to see another slant on a past-era inspired production with so many old school-Soul & R&B inspired Neo-Soul entering the mainstream these days with artists like Amy, Joss Stone, Solange and Christina Aguilera.

“Halo” is my next favourite track and its definitely a close second. This was the first one I listened to on my way to the bus stop this morning and the fantastic intro gave me goosebumps. Just shows the quality of production and writing The Pussycat Dolls have come to demand as I never expected to hear such anthemic horns, strings and drums as the intro to this track brings, on a PCD track. Once that drum kicked in and then Nicole’s sexy vocal “I can make love feel just like heaven” came on I was done. The bridge just shows perfectly the Clutches talent with songwriting because its just as banging as the chorus and builds excitement for it so well, ensuring the listener doesn’t get bored and lost in an unstructured mess. (*cough cough Ciara’s “Work”) The chorus is my favourite part of the song due to the gorgeous background arrangement when Nicole says “halo” that goes something like “I’m Soo-reeee” I’d like to point out which, much like the track, with its haunting production (those organ-sounding horns in particular) is almost ghostly and I love it. My girl Candice (sorry again to the other guys ha ha) is just a beast on the arrangement front; like Brandy, she just sets a new standard. As I mentioned earlier, the concept of this one is completely different from the last with Nicole telling her man sarcastically that she’s sorry she couldn’t be perfect, while reminding him of all the things she does do for him that he clearly hasn’t bothered to acknowledge. Another ball-breaking female anthem for Candice but what did you expect when she’s writing for the PCD? 😀

“Magic” is the next Timbo/J-Roc/Clutch joint and probably ties third for me with “Whatchamacallit” and you guessed it, its another banger. I really like the production on this one, it brings us back to the old school Timbo production style with his vocals being used as part of the instrumental for the track, the indian female vocal sample about 2 minutes in and the marching band style, stuttering drum line its just very edgy and not of the norm which is what we have always loved Timbo for. I love it when the beat completely drops and turns into just an ascending drum pattern on the chorus. The arrangements are typical Clutch and recall “The Way I Are”, with Candice’s influence particularly being heard on the background “ohwowowohohs” on
the chorus plus the great combination of a heavily-sung breakdown/chorus and rap-sung verses and breaks
. (see Keshia Chante‘s rap on “Too Much”) Again, the concept of this one is fire and completely diverse from the other tracks while still retaining the female empowerment theme with Nicole bragging about all her riches on the raps and singing about hypnotizing an unsuspecting guy with black magic on the chorus/break. As usual The Clutch came with something other than your typical love song which is one of the reasons I love them so much. Its actually a very similar concept to “Captive” which I still maintain, along with the other Chris Brown/Graffiti Artists demo “Nasty Girl” should have been on this album! 😦

Final track and my favourite conceptually and lyrically “Whatchamacallit” doesn’t disappoint either. Look at the concept of this track and you’ll see why I love the members of The Clutch and respect their talent so much. They can put a pin on something small and quirky about human nature and male or female social behaviour and write an awesome song about it! This has been shown before on tracks like Bayje‘s “Jealous Of Ur Whip” and Katharine McPhee‘s “Open Toes” and this time they’re talking about people asking you where you got that haircut or that new outfit just so they can go and copy your style. I can definitely relate to this one, as I’m sure a lot of us can, as its sooo annoying when you’re feeling awesome about yourself, rocking a new t-shirt or whatever and someone asks you where you got it just so they can copy you and then you both look stupid rocking the same thing! I love the lyrics about the hairdresser of “they call him uh uh uh oh, the contact is under wraps, matter of fact he’s unavailible”don’t need the traffic backed up when I go back to get my pretty on” in particular, its so bitchy and girly! As I’ve said before you’ve got to respect writers who are talented enough to make ordinary everyday objects like “Open Toes” or an “Icebox” and turn it into a fantastic, credible arrangement, this time they reached a new peak of creativity by managing to incorporate the word “whatchamacallit” into a banging, fast-paced chorus! The production on this one is another throwback to Timbo’s heyday as a producer of the most awesome and same time weird tracks you’d heard for a long time with him seemingly incorporating some sort of fairground carousel sound into this, the most club-friendly of the four Timbo/J-Roc/Clutch joints. In many ways, its a typical eastern influenced R&B joint in production terms with its heavy string arrangement, thumping cow bells and heavy beat but you can forgive that when you know that Timbo was probably the originator of this sound in rap and R&B music. He has a damn right to use it! 😀

As far as the other tracks on the album go, other standouts for me as yet are the Chase ‘N’ Cashe-produced banger “Takin’ Over The World” with its addictive flute sample the previously bigged up “Whatcha Think About That”, the second and far superior Darkchild collaboration “Elevator” and the catchy Polow/Kara DioGuardi collabo previously intended for Nicole‘s solo project “Who’s Gonna Love You”. I, for one, will definitely be copping the album when its finally released on September 22nd, as although I’m annoyed Nicole didn’t get her shine as a solo artist, at least staying with the girls has brought us more tracks with her awesome voice and continued success for more in the future. I do hope some more tracks leak from this and Nicole‘s project though as I’m desperate to hear her collabos with Gary Lightbody, Macy Gray and Pharrell in particular, plus the full of the fantastic snippets of Keri Hilson-penned, Timbo-produced “Physical” and Sting-featured, Tricky/The-Dream-crafted “Power’s Out”. Interscope are way too good at keeping their tracks on lock with PCD, shame they couldn’t do the same with poor Keri. 😦

P.S. Is it really bad that I LOVE the 80s throwback song Kimberley did for the bonus disc? :S ha ha I hate the Jessica and Nicole songs but I love Melody and Ashley’s tracks too! :S :S

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