Side note: So apparently my blog is Sam Raimi approved. Just throwing that out there because, well, it's pretty fucking awesome and flattering.
As The X Factor US is about to make its debut on Wednesday, so will Nicole Scherzinger's breakthrough as a solo artist in the US. Reality singing competitions seem to be an absolute goldmine for pop artists that have lost their luster in recent years. Christina Aguilera has the goodwill of the public back after the disastrous flop "Bionic", Jennifer Lopez completely revived her music career when she debuted "On the Floor" on American Idol, and though Maroon 5's most recent album, "Hands All Over", was initially considered a disappointment, it vaults back into the top 10 on the Billboard 200 this week on the back of their current #1 single that debuted on... you guessed it- The Voice.
Though Nicole's solo success is finally just getting started, she's an industry veteran. If she weren't obligated to the reality band Eden's Crush back in 2003, she would have had Fergie's spot in the Black Eyed Peas. (Seems like a gigantic missed opportunity as Fergie already has 3 solo #1's)
The Pussycat Dolls, her second manufactured girl group, broke in 2006 with their version of "Don't Cha" (it was originally a very minor R&B hit by a now obsolete artist) and had a massive string of hits from their debut self-titled album. The quick follow-up, "Doll Domination", dropped like a rock on the charts but produced 2 moderate hits.
The first attempt at solo success was to be her solo album titled "Her Name is Nicole". The first single, "Whatever U Like" had everything going for it to ensure a surefire hit- production from A-list producer Polow Da Don, and a T.I. feature at his zenith. However, the song lacked a memorable chorus and went nowhere. The will.i.am produced and featured second single, "Baby Love", was a substantial success in Europe, but again- went nowhere in the US. The album was eventually shelved as it turned from one of Interscope's most promising debuts to one of its biggest financial disappointments of 2007. An album track originally intended for the album, "I Hate This Part", was put on 2008's "Doll Domination" and became The Pussycat Dolls' last major US hit. (other than the "Jai Ho" remix that was ridden on the Slumdog Millionaire wave) Most recently, she's released another catchy pop-R&B Rihanna-esque hybrid with "Right There", puzzlingly featuring washed-up rapper 50 Cent. While it's performed much better than any of her other solo singles, it's not gaining anywhere near the traction I'm certain was anticipated.
So, what happened? A major marketing push from Interscope, exposure and proven success with The Pussycat Dolls, A-list rap features, great voice, and stunningly good looks? Perhaps it's because she simply fit the mold all too well. As the internet becomes more influential in breaking and signing artists to majors, the public has much more weight than it ever has before in determining stars. Individuality and identifiability are absolutely crucial among her peers, and when you can't see the personality behind the singer, they become less relevant.
Interscope believed that if you simply put an artist on the assembly line to manufacture the perfect pop star, you can launch a successful career- and that business model just doesn't work anymore. With Twitter and Facebook, we are more connected to the artists we listen to than ever, and we now feel a stronger urge to identify with them than ever before. Even before the social networking craze- look at Jessica Simpson. Her career was on the way out when the first single from her 3rd album, "The Sweetest Sin", tanked on the charts. Then the reality show with Nick Lachey happened. She had absolutely no way to distinguish herself on her first two albums, and simply rode the teen pop train as a G-rated Christina Aguilera. After the show became a hit, portraying her as a human going through every day life and a lovable ditz, the song "With You" jumpstarted her resurgance and became an A-list figure in music.
The exact same will happen with Nicole on The X Factor. Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller were incredibly smart in picking her over, say, Mariah Carey- whom probably won't find too much more success on the pop charts. As referenced before, Nicole is the complete and total package- the US simply needs to see her personality and identify with her as a human being. Nicole is an incredibly hard worker that in any other time period would be one of the biggest of her generation. I'm especially invested in her success as she has Louisville ties and shares a mutual friend with me. Just as so many other artists have increasingly used multimedia formats to market themselves, this tactic is certain to work for Nicole. Look for a conveniently placed new single from her towards the end of The X Factor run.