Welcome to my Bubble

The new breed of pop singers loves to tell us about the burdens of stardom. Their music is better when they don't.

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Even though Beyoncé includes Encore for the Fans--really just a spoken-word intro to Listen, a song from her upcoming motion picture Dreamgirls (Don't ya just love cross-promotion?)--B'day holds up because the bulk of the songs aren't about her or you or anything at all. Get Me Bodied has no hummable melody, a title I don't understand and a chorus that repeats "Can you get me bodied/ I wanna be myself tonight." But set to a double-Dutch rhythm by producer Swizz Beatz, with lots of hand claps and whistles and maybe a passing marching band, it's impossible not to sway from side to side, and Beyoncé, whose voice really is a wonder, cuts through all of it with crystalline joy. Suga Mama ("I'ma be like your Jolly Rancher, that you get from the corner store/ Or I'ma be like a waffle cone that's drippin' down to the floor") is another song so exuberant in its desire to entertain that it literally invites you onto its lap.

When word got out that Paris Hilton was planning to sing, people reacted as if killer bees were headed north from Mexico. Their instinct was to flee, but they were kind of curious too. Really, how bad could it be? As expected, there's some not-so-nice stuff on Paris. Hilton's genius, if you care to call it that, is that she has commodified every ounce of herself, and it takes a mere 6 sec. on Paris before she coos her signature catchphrase, "That's hot." She also includes a nasty song about Nicole Richie and a trashy cover of Do Ya Think I'm Sexy that makes Rod Stewart's original seem like Nessun Dorma.

But the truth is...Paris ain't bad. Hilton can't sing in any traditional sense of the word, but I Want You and Stars Are Blind--"Even though the gods are crazy/ Even though the stars are blind/ If you show me real love baby/ I'll show you mine"--are credible pieces of late-summer pop, on which she not only banishes her persona and exhales in tune but also understands that a crush is not the end of the world, just something everyone happens to relate to. Could it be that Paris speaks for all of us? Well, no. But not speaking for herself is achievement enough.

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