Thursday, February 27th, 2020

The Pussycat Dolls – React

Personally I prefer Redux…



[Video]
[7.30]

Andy Hutchins: I can’t believe I truly love a Pussycat Dolls song in 2020, but I do. And how unlikely that was: “React” is penned by three Brits with no American profile whatsoever, Nicole Scherzinger (who got credits on “Buttons” and “I Don’t Need a Man,” but also, uh, “Whatever U Like”), and a fifth-string Scandinavian producer whose beat begins by riffing on what sounds like the immortal StarTropics theme and never gets too much more adventurous than some tick-click drums. It works so damn well together, though, with Scherzinger in full control of her range and tone, the well-written (“masochistic” sounds genuinely good on a pop song!) lyrics conveying the desired message — “I know what I want, nice guy, and I’ll push your every button to get it” — and the production keeping spaces open for filigrees like the panting after “lose my breath” and a “rrahhh” signifying a feline belligerence. Maybe “React” is too cool for the States (put Dua Lipa’s name on it and it’s a top-40 hit!), and maybe it lacks the show-stopping bridge or skyscraping runs that a better singer would have permitted, but this is the work of grown-ass women who know they’re good at their jobs because they’ve been doing them for 15 years, and that comes across in the competence and confidence on display.
[8]

Brad Shoup: It’s good to have Scherzinger back. I love the smeared dance-pop beat, and the way the measured syllogism of the chorus unravels in a heap. (I’m also a fool for a final chorus that introduces a new set of words.) She sounds marvelous — cool and strong, and one of the few people who could put this push-pull lyrical trope over.
[9]

Scott Mildenhall: Dead air is a crime, so heaven knows what led to the jarring snatches of silence in “React”, but they’re at least not the most jarring thing about it. In this age of SEO literalism, in which lyrics are assumed to be autobiography, and the vanguard of subtext is headed by Genius annotations, it’s odd to have something sound like empowerment while reading like flawed character study. Should “sometimes I want to fight” sound like an affirmation? It’s not the Pussycat Dolls’ fault that pop songs are rarely granted nuance, and that’s a problem that won’t be new to them; on the plus side, most people won’t even notice the lyrics. They could be lorem ipsum and this would still be solid: a tightly manoeuvred skeleton run of a standard that has remained surprisingly high.
[7]

Michael Hong: For every rush of a line (“you’re turning me cruel ’cause I’m just wanting you to react”), there’s another that Nicole Scherzinger draws out, like a tantalizing taunt (“so call me masochistic”). This push-and-pull of urgency then withholding gives “React” its alluring sound, intensified by the track’s strobe light pulse of a beat and the rest of The Pussycat Dolls’ breathy harmonizations and ragged sighs. The only downside is the production of Scherzinger’s voice in the opening verse, which sounds as if it’s been pitched downward for a more sultry sound but just serves as a reminder of the manufactured nature of the Dolls.
[7]

Will Adams: I have to applaud The Pussycat Dolls for re-upping their dubious premise of a girl group where only one of them sings over a decade after the fact. In 2005 it felt hugely cynical, as if Nicole Scherzinger’s solo break had been pre-baked into the recipe. This late in the game, it has a “sure, why the fuck not?” energy about it. The surprise, however, is how much the resultant song has going for it. It actually manages to do the Zedd tick-tock chorus correctly (i.e. not punish the mix with the clock sounds), it sports a nimble bassline that evokes “Body Language”, and Scherzinger is far more engaging a vocalist than Dua Lipa, who would have received this song in a slightly diverging timeline. But in the end, that gossipy periphery will endure, and it’ll be just as annoying and just as much a detriment to the music.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: The only Pussycat Dolls song I love unreservedly is “I Hate This Part,” which I love for its desperation and earnestness. This has some of the same emotional connection in lyric and performance, where Nicole Scherzinger grew outside the Dolls’ gimmick of a burlesque troupe gone pop for a song or two. Now it’s a song or three.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: The Pussycat Dolls were best when they got out of character. For every expectedly raunchy single like would-be Tori Alamaze vehicle “Don’t Cha” and cod-Middle Eastern “Buttons,” they released something like “I Hate This Part,” a precisely observed ballad (“We’re driving slow through the snow on 5th Avenue” is the biggest clash of first line and band image since ABBA’s “no more carefree laughter, silence ever after“) sung like a wringer, or “Hush Hush” (an early Ina Wroldsen co-write, an early EDM-disco song, really about 10 years ahead of trends). Much like the Chainsmokers smuggled female singer-songwriters back into the zeitgeist, PCD made surprisingly emotive pop for a Svengali-assembled burlesque group called The Pussycat Dolls in which only one person sings. “React” is in this mode, a mussed-up “All Your Gold“: club sleaze over a kitchen drama, about a relationship that’s mundanely meh. The track sounds great:, too: brash brass, a beat that sounds like it’s being continuously clipped out of paper with scissors, Nicole Scherzinger’s vocals (maybe others’, if you’re credulous) alternatively so throaty and rich they’re almost anachronistic, and airy — the post-chorus sounds piped out of a smoke machine. It also sounds utterly out of place in 2020, but maybe to you that’s a compliment.
[8]

Alfred Soto: On first listen the vocal pizzazz reminds me what the pop charts lack. Repeated listens reveal an outdated way of dealing with relations between the sexes, particularly the way the high harmonies settle around the chorus. The tick-tock relentlessness of its hook grates on me too. Still, should you hear it on the radio, rejoice.
[6]

Alex Clifton: There is a whole generation of girls who are going to listen to this and realize they are not straight, and I am extremely excited they have this opportunity.
[9]

Leah Isobel: “React” is a portrait of a woman as uncontrolled emotion, which fits right in with the Pussycat Dolls’ M.O. Their most distinctive maneuver in the 2000s was the push-pull between internalized misogyny and Bush-era empowerment. This dialectic made the infighting rumors a feature rather than a bug, but in 2020, it’s gauche for women to fight each other for our entertainment, so their rage has to go elsewhere. It’s a victory for feminism, maybe, but it doesn’t change the underlying psychodrama of their work: The track portrays its performers as sexy but crazy, and doesn’t do much to excavate the whys. And yet, despite or perhaps because of its retrograde inclinations, I won’t not bop to this in the club. What can I say? I’m sexy but crazy, too.
[6]

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One Response to “The Pussycat Dolls – React”

  1. i underrated this, and for dumb reasons :(

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