RECORDINGS Quick Spins

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

DOLL DOMINATION

Pussycat Dolls

It's been three years since the writhing mass of pancake makeup, hair extensions, leather bustiers and fake empowerment otherwise known as the Pussycat Dolls released an album. PCD pitch their wares to the same middle-schoolers who have, in the intervening years, likely been seduced by the less-gauche charms of "High School Musical," where the girl singers are fully clothed and do well in science. Their latest branding exercise, "Doll Domination," follows their better-in-retrospect debut, "PCD," without a moment to spare.

"Doll Domination" is canny, spunky, vaguely operatic and thoroughly entertaining, in spite of being quite terrible. It's one of those discs where the same tag team of super-producers everybody else uses (Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins) does the same thing as always -- club tracks, sad ballads, resolute mid-tempo something-or-others -- with much the same results.

There's something charming about the Dolls' ability to mime sadness (the pretty "I Hate This Part"), sassiness (the great "Whatcha Think About That" with Missy Elliott, who keeps a straight face and cashes the check) and at least two or three other emotions. It may help matters that comparatively likable Doll in Chief Nicole Scherzinger has taken more of a central role. Scherzinger's solo disc has been delayed forever, and, judging by the number of tracks on which she sings lead, someone seems to have given her "Doll Domination" as a consolation prize.

Any PCD fans discouraged by the group's gradual morphing into the Nicole Show, take heart: A separate deluxe edition of "Doll Domination" containing solo turns from the group's other members is reportedly available. If you want to know more, you're on your own.

-- Allison Stewart

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Whatcha Think About That," "Out of This Club"

FEARLESS

Jazmine Sullivan

For the ladies at least, making a decent R&B debut disc isn't as easy as it looks. First, you have to decide on a business model: Do you follow the already well-worn trail blazed by Rihanna (this usually involves Timbaland in some capacity, plus questionable '80s samples and Ne-Yo)? Or do you, like Jazmine Sullivan, follow the road slightly less traveled, and pretend to be Amy Winehouse pretending to be Lauryn Hill?

Co-produced by Salaam Remi, who was responsible for a good portion of Winehouse's "Back to Black," "Fearless" mixes the usual party anthems and old-school R&B, with an emphasis on old school. He and the 21-year-old Sullivan, who wrote most everything here, have labored, and with some success, to make a snappy, intensely human debut.


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