We’re barely two bars into Paris Hilton’s debut CD before she breathlessly assures us, “Uh, that’s hot.” It’s a canny move, since this greeting is Paris’s all-purpose catch-phrase, one that she valued enough to recently copyright (which is a bit like your toddler copyrighting “I poop!”).
Paris may not know much, but she understands her public persona. She knows that the flat, above-it-all-smugness she projects is a Rorschach test for our culture: It makes the haters revile her, it makes the fawners hold her up as an inspiring example of poise and self-confidence, and it makes guys who like their women a little bit on the wealthy-inflatable-doll side fantasize about her. With her new CD, she caters to all three factions of her constituency in a dazzling display of dance-floor ennui.
The album continually shifts from soft-core porn fantasies to sincere declarations of the vulnerable girl inside the assured heiress. Paris employs the same whispery baby voice for both sets of songs, suggesting that she’s not entirely sure which is which.
Her most heartfelt lines come from the self-admiring “Fightin’ Over Me”: “Everytime I turn around the boys fightin’ over me/everytime I step out the house, they wanna fight over me/maybe ’cause I’m hot today/and I’m so so so sexy.” The song also provides one of the album’s few moments of unintended hilarity, when Jadakiss punctuates a guest rap by letting Paris know “she could use a little hood in her.” Incidentally, it took seven people to write this song, which — if memory serves correctly — is more than it took to devise a polio vaccine.
Ultimately, the album belongs to super-dork producer Scott Storch, and his bright, shallow pop fits Hilton like a pleather bustier. Sure, the dancehall crooner “Stars Are Blind” finds her shamelessly mimicking Gwen Stefani. And the weepy strings that introduce her Nicole Richie-bashing “Jealousy” might be a tad gauche. But this album is too competent to inspire much derisive laughter, and for Paris, that qualifies as a kind of triumph.