‘Misunderstood’ Pussycat Dolls hit back at critics
Where the Pussycat Dolls go, controversy follows.
The five-piece - Nicole Scherzinger, Carmit Bachar, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta and Kimberly Wyatt - had performed an energetic medley of hits alongside brand-new banger React.
The outfits were tight, the hips were thrusting and the viewers were outraged: "Won't somebody please think of the children?" was the complaint from many who tuned in.
The pop group - reunited after 10 years apart - speak eloquently, if a little wearily, when I ask about the moral outrage that seems to follow wherever they go.
"I thought we were beyond this, but obviously the conversation needs to continue," says Wyatt, who has forged a successful UK media career since the group disbanded.
"It really bothered me the first time around, the words people in the media would attach to the Pussycat Dolls. We come with intention when we perform - we're warriors when we step on stage, throwing everything into it. It's unfortunate that it's so misunderstood by so many people … People who feel that they are so affected by it that they have to have something to say."
"Luckily we have a presence online now and we can help people understand us, understand dance, understand what intention means as a performer. That's why (the reunion) does feel a bit like unfinished business, because there is still a conversation to be had, and the Pussycat Dolls are a little bit misunderstood by those who don't seek to know who we are," says Wyatt.
The hoopla about whether the Dolls are "family-friendly" - an odd demand of a pop group who are, at this stage, largely beloved by adult gay men - obscures the far more interesting aspect of their performances: the Pussycat Dolls go hard. Take the X Factor comeback that sparked 419 complaints to the UK's communications regulator Ofco:
Those feats of athleticism are even more astonishing when you consider Wyatt gave birth to her third child just six weeks before that performance. Is there pressure in being a Pussycat Doll?
"It's more a pressure on myself to find acceptance within my skin and in my new body. The tough thing was I didn't have much time after a caesarean to whip it back into shape. It gave me the challenge of a lifetime, and a chance to accept myself in that moment for what it was. I stood in that moment as a woman and a mother doing what I love," she says.
Bachar, who started out with the Pussycat Dolls in 1995 back when they were an LA burlesque troupe, is the other mother in the group.
"Kim and I have had kids; our bodies will never be the same as they were before. But we work our asses off, and we own it. It's about being the best version of yourself," she says.
That athleticism is also on display in the video for React, which may yet oustI Hate This Part as their greatest single yet. Take this jaw-dropping dance move:
They instantly know which move I'm talking about - and they happily report it wasn't easy to pull off. "Our legs kept getting caught on each other," says Sutta.
"We had to work for that move. We had bruises everywhere," Scherzinger reveals.
React comes 15 years after the Dolls' breakthrough single Don't Cha topped charts worldwide. For a few years after that, they were everywhere, releasing a dozen smash hit singles before spluttering to a halt in 2009. It seemed a premature end for such a popular group.
"To the fans it was short-lived, it was only two albums. But we were able to accomplish a lot. Nothing could prepare us for it: For many years they just didn't schedule sleep into our schedules. We were under a lot of pressure together. It is sweeter this time around," says Scherzinger. She says now feels like "a great time to be back; there's no other girl groups out there. We're carrying that torch right now." (Umm … Little Mix, don't read this).
Fans will be pleased to know they're working on new music to follow React and readying for their reunion tour, kicking off in Dublin next month.
Which just leaves the elephant in the room. I've already been warned they wouldn't be discussing Nicole's intensely awkward Project interview, and I don't want to risk the sort of death stare she shot Tommy Little when he asked her about her "boobies".
So let's finish on a positive note: Scherzo's hidden talent as a pop star impersonator, showcased in this 2012 Macy Gray album interlude. Check her uncanny impressions of Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears and Shakira:
"I have a really weird ear - if I hear something I can usually mimic it," she reveals. "I've done everyone from Bjork to Norah Jones to Cranberries … but my Britney's pretty good. We love Britney … and we love her Instagram. There's some Britney realness right there."
The Pussycat Dolls will perform alongside fellow pop acts Steps, Jesse McCartney, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Samantha Mumba and more at the So Pop festival, touring nationally in April 2020. React is out now.