Most find it hard to believe when I name Paris Hilton as being one of my favorite notables, but the judgments get more critical when I mention that I’m a huge fan of her 2006 pop album.
At the most basic level, I suppose can I understand their sneer-like reactions: Lots of folks to date still laugh at the fact that there was a period of time that the hotel heiress-turned-media empire head, was a thing at all to be entertained by. But the problem I have with that collective logic lies is that it’s wholly untrue.
In actuality, for better or worse, Paris Hilton has long since proved herself to be far more than just the vapid characterization that she effected for maximum laughs and/or groans on The Simple Life, her first real foray into the entertainment medium back in 2003 for Fox Television.
“Nowadays, I mostly focus on my empire and my brand, rather than everything else that comes with the reality star kind of life,” Paris told Harper’s Bazaar in a December, 2016, profile, while additionally saying that the red carpet events and frivolous hot-spot trips that early-to-late 20s Paris used to live for, tend to bore her now.
“I spend my time working rather than just enjoying myself and being on vacation,” Paris further explained.
“I am very focused on my business and when you live in that mind frame, you can stay away from the trashy tabloids.”
The thing is, that side of Paris Hilton, the savvy businesswoman, was wholly obvious almost from the start of the time she began to turn up in Page Six on the daily, even though most failed or chose not to give her credit for her smarts.
Lest we forget — and none of us ever will, unfortunately for Paris — this was the same person who managed to turn one of the most degrading entries into the world of public consumption and opinion, into the start of a multi-million-dollar mainstream career that revolves around, in no set order, hair care products, surprisingly-acceptable acting skills (House of Wax, Repo: The Genetic Opera), a reality TV empire (the five-year Simple Life proceeded a four-year run of My New BFF on MTV, and the one-off Oxygen series) The World According to Paris, in 2011) and even repeated entries onto the New York Times best-selling author’s club, all before she hit the age of 30.
Hilton’s aforementioned pop album, the aptly-titled Paris, was also released somewhere in that mix of admirable accomplishments in August of 2006, and like all of Hilton’s projects before and after it, is chock full of the thriving ambition that the now 36-year-old mogul never really got to exude publicly due to fear of ruining her then not-so-wholesome image.
It’s even crazier once you realize that in another life, Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson would be pretty much interchangeable (seriously, look it up), but I temporarily digress from my point.
However, whereas Simpson’s natural talents were more about her known talents, Hilton’s were either forcibly downplayed by the media or mostly ignored altogether, due to that whole little nasty business regarding that video with Rick Solomon (who, by the way, does not get enough crap about its open release as he probably deserves), which was disheartening, to say the least, because had things gone differently, Paris Hilton would’ve been the most amazing pop star ever.
And that’s proven tenfold and more on Paris; an album that, to this day, remains one of my all-time favorite pop offerings that has ever been released throughout my entire 30-something years of life.
Yeah, it’s that good.
Perfectly crafted by famed, yet troubled music producer Scott Storch and Tom Whaley, Paris was smartly molded to both fit Hilton’s played-up party girl image, while also providing glimpses of the maturity and humbleness that Paris seemingly wasn’t allowed to show beyond the mic.
It is always been my belief that missteps are hard to come by on Hilton’s 11-track long LP, and that’s coming from an album that includes a non-ironic, almost incessantly breathy retake of the legendarily cocky, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by the eternal ham himself, Mr. Rod Stewart, as its closer and incidentally, was the best cover to have Paris record.
On top of this, unlike certain present-day female vocalists who presently over-shriek each and every syllable, while also somehow managing to either over-or-under enunciate (usually the latter) their already hard-to-understand lyrics to the masses, Paris stays well within her minimal, but strong — yes, I said “strong” — vocal bounds throughout the Paris album, and never once tries to let her inner Christina Aguilera, or even her inner Britney Spears, whom she befriended around the time she recorded the offering, to shine through.
Instead, Paris Hilton remains steadfastly, essentially and completely Paris Hilton on every single note that emits from her lip-glossed mouth on the album; and to me, for a first-time recording artist who had far too much to prove to people who straight-up didn’t like her just because her name was Paris Hilton, the fact that exposed herself so fully, so unabashedly as no one else but Paris Hilton, was beyond impressive to me.
Be that as it may, however, I do continue to carry one small grievance regarding the disc more than a decade y after its release, and no, it has nothing to do with her never releasing what I would deem to be a semi-decent follow-up (only two singles, “Stars Are Blind” and “Nothing In This World,” received proper pushes from Paris).
In fact, my issue actually lies with the song “Screwed,” which is actually a reworked take of what was to be the initial lead-in single to Paris before it was changed over label heads to “Stars Are Blind,” an eventual top 20 Billboard hit and an admittedly-wise switch-up.
My problem is not the song itself, which appears on Paris as a pop-rock jam, but the way it was first introduced to the world back in 2004; through an unfounded leak that purportedly came by way of a supposed semi-spiteful Hilton getting back at singer Haylie Duff, Hilary’s sister, depending on whom you believe.
There was a whole big thing about it and you can tread through all the details, if you’d like, but my point is that Hilton’s original take was always the better choice, although I do admit that the altered, “rougher” version fits the flow of the LP a lot better.
If I was forced to pick one standout over the rest of Paris standouts, however, then I guess I’ve have to give that trophy to the one type of song one would think the club-ready Paris would avoid tackling: “Jealousy,” an emotive ballad co-written by Paris (along with more than half of the other original album tracks, for those who are still judging) about being deceived by someone she once considered to be a close, unwavering friend.
Sound familiar to anyone?
“I was always happy when I was watchin’ you become a star,” Paris wistfully croons, “but you were only happy when the world was openin’ up my scars.”
For those who got the reference, yes, they’re both on good terms now.
Overall, I think the Paris album was undoubtedly good for someone like Paris Hilton at that time. From its conception, it was themed as being a passion project from someone who knew what her strengths and weaknesses were when it came to the world at large,and rather than hide from them, she placed them all out on literal record in hopes of changing the public’s narrow view of who was, is and, in all totality, has always been.
I’m often the first to admit when a notable, whether a personal fave or random problematic figure, steps out of line and tries to tackle something that they surely know they didn’t have the most marginal of skills to begin to try, but Paris wasn’t that at all.
The Paris album was, despite what most may think of it, a real, honest-and-true music offering from someone who deserved to be treated a lot less harshly than she was. The Paris Hilton that most think they know doesn’t come close to the Paris Hilton that shines through on Paris; a person who, in my humblest judgment, I have always viewed and appreciated as truly being anything but simple.
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]