Perhaps Paris Hilton should have called her debut Album. Not only would it have been an obvious indication that she doesn’t take herself too seriously, but it would have poignantly called attention to this generation of socialites’ absurd sense of entitlement, not to mention the obnoxious irony of being, as one too many entertainment news anchors have put it, “famous for being famous.” What’s most surprising about Paris’s album is that it’s really not all that bad; released by any other, ahem, artist, it would likely earn better notices than recent albums by the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, or Ashlee Simpson—not that that’s really saying much.
Still, Paris’s debut single, “Stars Are Blind” (which was commissioned to bridge the gap between the hip-hop and rock-inflected tunes on the album), has been the surprise of the summer, Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscous” notwithstanding; it’s a sunny, reggae-hued love song that has eclipsed new singles by some of music’s biggest stars. Paris takes a page from Gwen Stefani on the pop-perfect “Not Leaving Without You” and the disco-inflected “I Want You,” which was produced by Jonathan Rotem, the man behind Rihanna’s “S.O.S.” (here he samples the horns from Frankie Valli’s “Grease”). Disco is a good color for Paris (she wears Rod Stewart’s chintzy “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” well, though anything’s better than the original), as is frothy, neon pop/rock.
The hip-hop tracks, however, weigh the album down and it’s obvious that, at first, producer Scott Storch had no clue what to do with Paris’s thin but not unpleasant voice. She opens Paris by cooing like a porn star (“Uh, yeah, that’s hot, uh, yeah, Scott Storch, yeah”) and is relegated to a hood ornament on “Fightin’ Over Me,” which features Fat Joe and Jadakiss. These tracks rely too heavily on lyrics that reference the Hilton heiress’s public omnipresence: “Everybody’s lookin’ at me/But that’s all right, I like attention/The club’s not hot until I walk through,” she drones coquettishly on “Turn You On,” a kind of modern update of “Didn’t Mean To Turn You On.” Don’t worry, Paris, you didn’t turn us on. It’s a lyric that only calls attention to the vulgarity of club owners using (or renting) celebrities as commodities to boost prestige and bar receipts.
Scorch got it right (or at least better) on “Heartbeat” and the more rock-oriented “Jealousy,” allowing the actual songs to bask in the paparazzi glare. The former was composed by Billy Steinberg, who co-wrote hits by Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, giving the track a sweetly nostalgic ‘80s vibe, while the latter, co-written by Paris, actually has a hummable melody and outlines her soured relationship with former best bud Nicole Richie: “I was always happy/When I was watching you become a star/But you were only happy/When the world was openin’ up my scars.” It’s an illuminating moment from a star who’s always—intentionally or unintentionally—revealed too much.