Eliot Spitzer's Hooker, Reviewed!

Hey, here's this picture again

New York is full of singers and rappers and producers a whole lot like Ashley Alexandra Dupre, would-be mainstream superstars with MySpace pages and business cards and cheap production made to sound expensive. I see them at music-industry parties all the time, passing their cards to each other and trying to network their way into something resembling fame. This isn't anything like an underground music scene; the people involved make vaguely desperate-sounding simulations of actual major-label pop-music, possibly based on the idea that if they act famous they can become famous. Watch, for instance, this video, from NY rapper-I've-never-heard-of Mysterious, which features Dupre as a video-chick. This video is cheap as hell and all kinds of clumsy, but it's full of standard moneyed-up rap-video cliches (cars, wads of bills, a video-chick) like we'll see it and think Mysterious is actually someone. It's not hard to see why a world like this exists; after all, people with no evident musical talent score hits all the time. With MySpace and American Idol and cheap home-recording equipment demystifying the creation of pop music, there's this idea that anyone can become a star if she tries hard enough. But it's not that simple. Someone like Cassie, who looks great and can't sing especially well, needs someone like Ryan Leslie, who produces airy and impeccable tracks specifically designed to work well with her voice. Without mastermind collaborators, these would-be pop-star MySpace hoards just come off looking like MySpace hoards. They don't stand much chance of actually becoming stars unless, of course, they get paid a gang of money to fuck the governor of New York in a DC hotel room and inadvertently bring down a gubernatorial administration in the process.

"What We Want" is the first single from Dupre, aka "Kristen," the woman who allegedly made all that money off of Eliot Spitzer, and it's not especially good or bad. It's serviceable post-Britney dance-pop, Dupre panting and sort of bleating over a clubby track with Middle Eastern pretensions, the sort of thing Scott Storch might make if he only had access to a $45 Casio. I love that the Times, in their big reveal of Dupre, called her out for using "dated slang, calling someone her 'boo.'" Boo is dated slang? Aw shit, I need to stop using it! So, apparently, does Chris Brown, who sings the word about six hundred times on "With You, the song I hear pretty much every time I turn on the radio these days. "What We Want" is no "With You," but it's got a catchy-enough hook, and it makes a pretty compelling case that Dupre can actually sing. Her voice, a sort of high-pitched nasal wail, doesn't really work on a track like this, but she can hit big notes and credibly deliver dialed-down choruses. "Move Ya Body," the other song on her Amie Street page, works better because she doesn't try to outsing the song; instead, she just calmly monotones the come-ons, trying out dancehall inflections and staying on top of the (equally cheap-sounding) beat. It takes more than songs like these to make someone famous, but as anonymous MySpace jams, they're OK.

Two days after the Times revealed her identity, the singer of these OK songs is one of the most famous women in the country. As I'm writing this, "What We Want" has nearly three million plays on her MySpace page. Z100 has started playing the song. And now Dupre may be one of the only people in the music business actually making money. The Daily Intelligencer blog is reporting that her two songs, priced at 98 cents each, have been downloaded more than two million times. Since she gets 70% of that money, she is caking hard right now. I'm guessing the major labels of the world are going into feeding-frenzy mode trying to sign her, and maybe one of them will actually team her up with a producer who can figure out how to use her voice and make her sound like something other than an anonymous MySpace pop chick. Pop stars have been made in stranger ways than this.

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