By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 15, 2013
Nicole Scherzinger. If this name doesn’t call up any familiarity, that’s only expected, given the generous (and dynamic) number of Pussycat Doll members. It’s no secret, however, that Scherzinger is essentially the only musical contribution to the best-selling girl group.
What’s missing from a Wright State University musical theatre major with a minor in dance, a lead singer for a best-selling group and an exquisite appearance that turns heads worldwide? A solo career fits snugly into this unfinished puzzle, and not the pseudo-solo career of a Pussycat Dolls frontwoman.
Her Name Is Nicole
Interestingly enough, will.i.am wanted the Hawaiian pop performer as the female member of the Black Eyed Peas, but recording contracts hampered this contingency, and BEP settled on Fergie instead.
Scherzinger’s musical objective didn’t include being lost in an ensemble, so the singer commenced scheming a solo career almost immediately after joining PCD. Only a year after the release of the Dolls’s debut album,PCD, Scherzinger finished many of the tracks for her own debut record Her Name Is Nicole, an abbreviated version of the original title Nobody Knows Who I Am So Here Is My Name.
Scherzinger’s second independent single, “Baby Love,” became an international top-20 hit, but a predicament arose. “Baby Love” (and every other song prepared for Her Name Is Nicole) was essentially a Pussycat Dolls track released under a new name. In fact, when the ill-fated solo artist scrapped this debut album, a majority of its material appeared on Doll Domination, the sophomore album and follow-up to the Dolls’s reassembly with Nicole.
A second platinum-selling PCD album would not stammer their leader’s pursuit of musical independence, however. Scherzinger needed to stop chasing her tail if she wanted to disassociate herself from the sensual, beat-focused style of the Pussycat Dolls.
In 2009, Nicole Scherzinger prepared for a 180 on her career — to go where no Doll had ever gone before. Regrettably for us, Americans would exclusively miss out on this international platinum-status, post-burlesque music from Scherzinger.
When I initially glanced at a statement from RedOne that announced his alliance with Scherzinger on over half her debut album, I grieved at the death of so much potential. The expectation of collaborating with RedOne is The Fame Monster, but the reality is more like Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
All certainty pointed to a career poisoned for the sake of a basic hit, but without warning, a lead single sprouted in the U.K. After one listen, “I got poison on my mind.”
Rather than dive into a sea of electronica and drown in a mess of 21st-century timbre, Scherzinger grabbed the bull by the horns and began her command of dance pop. A mighty sound requires a mighty presence, and the trained dancer-opera singer wasn’t about to let the track drag her around, in the studio or on camera.
Following the release, a music video premiered, capitalizing on Scherzinger’s performance history with a substantially choreographed theatrical number, portraying Scherzinger as an undercover crime fighter. The valiant multimedia debut landed “Poison” at a No. 3 spot in the UK and a No. 1 spot in Scotland.
Killer Love arrived, confirming that the UK, Scotland and Australia were Nicole’s biggest fans. The emotionally paradoxical album had a universal attention grabber, however — “Don’t Hold Your Breath.”
This catchy mid-tempo dance track went No. 1 in three different countries, top-20 in eight countries and top-40 in four others. You get the picture. Killer Love was gaining momentum after its debut. I trust that the message made its way to the other Pussycat Dolls — “If you think (she’s) coming back, don’t hold your breath.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, Americans were sitting on their hands, waiting for a new Pussycat Dolls album. What gives, Nicole? Any tracks from the record had yet to be released in the United States, leaving the original PCD fans oblivious and excluded.
Scherzinger decided to get the ball rolling with U.S. promotion by including us in the release of the album’s third single, “Right There,” a mesmerizingly bizarre track — way too bizarre for a post-Pussycat debut in America. “Me like the way that you hold my body,” would’ve been appropriate diction for someone a bit more … foreign. And that, my friends, is why Scherzinger annihilated Killer Love’s American release — all because of one Ester Dean-written flop.
Killer Love’s American abandonment makes Scherzinger’s achievements bittersweet, given the lack of promotional interest shown for her home country. A tracklist of hits — including “Power’s Out” and “Heartbeat,” the two duets between Sting and Enrique Iglesias, respectively — will upsettingly fly over the heads of millions of fans.