The Pussycat Dolls were an American pop girl group and dance ensemble, founded in Los Angeles, California, by choreographer Robin Antin in 1995 as a burlesque troupe. After attracting media attention, Antin negotiated a record deal with Interscope Records in 2003 turning the group into a music franchise comprising Nicole Scherzinger, Carmit Bachar, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta, Melody Thornton and Kimberly Wyatt. Overseen by Antin, Interscope and various partners, the group was transformed into a global image and commercial brand. The Pussycat Dolls were launched into mainstream recognition following the release of their best-selling debut album, PCD, which contained the number-one singles "Don't Cha", "Buttons", and "Stickwitu". However, despite their commercial success, the group was plagued by internal conflict due to the overemphasis on Scherzinger, the group's lead member, and the subordinate treatment of the other members. Bachar's departure from the group preceded the release of their second and final studio album Doll Domination, which contains the worldwide hits "When I Grow Up", "I Hate This Part" and "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)".
In 2009, they announced a minor hiatus and was later revealed to be an official break up. The Dolls brand diversified into merchandise, reality television programs, a Las Vegas act, product endorsements, spin-off recording groups (Girlicious, Paradiso Girls, G.R.L.) and other ventures. In 2009, Billboard ranked the Pussycat Dolls as the 80th most successful musical act of the 2000s. The group has sold 50 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.
1995–2002: Beginnings as burlesque dance troupe
Antin began exploring the idea of a modern burlesque troupe during 1990 with Carla Kama and Christina Applegate as performers. The troupe began to perform in 1995, with a repertoire of 1950s and 1960s popular music standards while dressed in lingerie or old-fashioned pin-up costumes. They secured a Thursday night residency at a Los Angeles nightclub, The Viper Room, where they stayed from 1995 to 2001. They appeared briefly in the 1998 films Matters of Consequence (dancing to Mancini's "Hub Caps and Tail Lights", and Keely Smith's "When Your Lover has Gone"), and The Treat (directed by Jonathan Gems). From 1995 to 2003 there were numerous guest vocalists, and many changes to the dance personnel.
The troupe received wider press coverage during June 1999, when Playboy featured a Pussycat Dolls pictorial, featuring at least seven contemporary members posing semi-nude (Kasey Campbell, Kiva Dawson, Antonietta Macri, Erica Breckels, Katie Bergold, Erica Gudis and Lindsley Allen). Three years later, the Pussycat Dolls moved to The Roxy. They were featured in magazines, television specials for MTV and VH1, ad campaigns, and films. Some of the Pussycat Dolls appeared in the 2003 film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, dancing to Mancini's "The Pink Panther Theme". They were also featured in Pink's "Trouble" music video. Along with Christina Applegate, Christina Aguilera and Carmen Electra (who was the group's lead performer for many of their shows) the troupe was featured in a Maxim magazine shoot in 2002, which increased public interest in them (Aguilera later appeared in the similarly themed 2010 film Burlesque directed by Robin Antin's brother Steve).
Following their growing popularity, music producers Jimmy Iovine and Ron Fair became involved with the group helping them to transform into a franchise. The former dance troupe evolved into a popular music recording group and became employees of Iovine's label Interscope Records. The only troupe members who remained after the re-casting process were Robin Antin (taking on the creative, executive and managerial roles), Carmit Bachar, Cyia Batten, Kasey Campbell, Ashley Roberts, Jessica Sutta and Kimberly Wyatt. Electra, when asked about her lack of involvement with the group's evolution into a popular music group, she said, "I was part of [The Dolls] for over two years and did every show with them [...] but financially, I couldn't become part of their new music project [...] It was a sacrifice I couldn't make.
2003–06: Recording group formation and PCD
During 2003, Scherzinger, a former member of Popstars winners Eden's Crush, became the recording group's lead singer. In the same year, vocalists Melody Thornton and Kaya Jones were also recruited to the group. The musical group's initial line-up consisted of Scherzinger, Thornton, Jones, Bachar, Batten, Campbell, Wyatt, Roberts, and Sutta. The group appeared in two soundtracks during 2004, for the films Shark Tale and Shall We Dance?. The newly formed recording group's first single was "Sway" from Shall We Dance?, with a music video inspired by the film. In 2004, Jones left the group after recording a few demo songs for the debut album, to pursue modeling and a solo musical career. Antin remained with the group as founder, manager and business associate to Interscope. By the time the recording group was launched the musical lineup was a sextet composed of Scherzinger, Bachar, Thornton, Sutta, Roberts and Wyatt.
On September 13, 2005, they released their debut album, PCD. The album combined several dance-pop songs with their burlesque style, while the second half of the album contain tributes and covers. Lead and backup vocals are by singer Nicole Scherzinger. The album peaked at number one in New Zealand, the top-five in Canada, the Netherlands and the United States, and top-ten in United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Worldwide, PCD has sold nine million copies. Their first single, "Don't Cha" was a success, reaching number one in multiple countries including United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was originally sung by Tori Alamaze and featured rapper Busta Rhymes. The ballad "Stickwitu" was another top five in the United States, and was their second number one in the United Kingdom. It was later nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group. "Beep", featuring will.i.am, was less successful but did reach number one in Belgium and New Zealand. "Buttons" (with rapper Snoop Dogg) scored number three on the UK Singles Chart and in the United States. Their next single, "I Don't Need a Man" was not as successful, although it scored the top 10 in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and United Kingdom. The group's sixth single from the album was "Wait a Minute" featuring Timbaland, becoming the groups top 30 success in the United States. The group was selected to perform for the introduction for ABC's coverage of the NBA. The Pussycat Dolls first opened for The Black Eyed Peas Honda Civic Tour in North America. At the beginning of 2007 they toured in North America as a support act for Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics Tour, along with Danity Kane and NLT. In November 2006, the Pussycat Dolls embarked their PCD World Tour with Rihanna as the opening act in the UK leg. The Pussycat Dolls performed at the Manchester Evening News Arena in a concert that was recorded and later streamed via .
In parallel with the Pussycat Dolls franchise as a recording act, during April 2005 a resident live show commenced at the "Pussycat Dolls Lounge" adjacent to Pure Nightclub in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. This show contains "cast members" who continue the burlesque-style show which began in Los Angeles during 1995. At least one early member of the L.A. dance troupe, Rachel Sterling, made the move to the Las Vegas show. The cast includes vocalist Jamie Preston, Hayley Zelniker, Amanda Nowak, Colby Amanda and Alicia. Former dolls include Meredith, Jessica Lea, Rachel Sterling, Laurel, Laura Diane, Cindy, Ashley Gates, Bridget Nicole, Jennifer Affronti, Sheila Joy and Jamie Ruiz from Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious.
2008–10: Doll Domination era and disbandment
On March 8, 2008, Carmit Bachar announced she was departing the group to pursue other projects. The group performed for the first time after their hiatus and now as a quintet for US troops in Kuwait for Operation Myspace in February. The group, mostly just Melody Thornton and Nicole Scherzinger, soon regathered in the studio to record their follow up album and add additional vocals from other members before completing the project.
On May 27, 2008, the Pussycat Dolls released "When I Grow Up", which reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play. The song topped several European charts and became a worldwide top ten hit. Follow-up single "Whatcha Think About That", a collaboration with Missy Elliott, failed to enter the US charts but managed to reach the top 20 in several other countries including the UK. The group's second album, Doll Domination, was released on September 19, 2008. It debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, with 79,000 copies sold in its first week of release. A third single from the album, "I Hate This Part", was released in October 2008 and reached the top ten in the majority of the charts it appeared on. The album's fourth single "Bottle Pop" received a limited release in the US and Oceania during March 2009. The Pussycat Dolls on the Doll Domination Tour to support Doll Domination.Lady Gaga opened for them in Europe and Australia, while Ne-Yo supported the Pussycat Dolls in the UK leg. In mid-2009 they opened for Britney Spears' tour The Circus Starring Britney Spears on the first leg in North America. In April 2009 Scherzinger confirmed to Billboard that the album would be re-released to give more people a chance to get their music. In Europe, the album was re-released with four new songs. The repackaged versions spawned two more singles: the worldwide number one "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)" (featured on the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire) and euro-pop remix of "Hush Hush" (retitled "Hush Hush; Hush Hush") which reached top 20 internationally. Following Scherzinger's over-emphasis in the release of these two singles, there were several emotional outbursts to the media including one by Thornton during one of the group's appearances on tour.
On January 29, 2010, Jessica Sutta revealed to E! Online that she had been ousted from the group, following a broken rib she sustained whilst on tour with the group and thus confirmed her exit. On February 26, Kimberly Wyatt confirmed she was also leaving the group. One day later, Ashley Roberts announced her departure from the group via her website. Wyatt would later go on to confirm that all of the members had left the group, including Melody Thornton. Despite these changes, on 24 May 2010, a rumored third line-up, which would join Scherzinger, was revealed consisting of Kherington Payne, Vanessa Curry, Rino Nakasone Razalan and Jamie Lee Ruiz. However, in late 2010, Scherzinger officially left the group to pursue a solo career. As a result, the original recording group line-up had officially disbanded and parted ways
In 2006, The New York Times reported that Interscope executives were working to produce their own reality TV series called Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For the Next Doll which would search for a new member for the recording group.Asia Nitollano became the group's seventh member after winning the reality show, however left for a solo career. A second season of the show commenced broadcast on February 18, 2008 as Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious and unlike the previous series which tried to find a new member to join the Dolls, the second series auditioned women to become part of a new three member all-female group, Girlicious. Members of the Pussycat Dolls appeared on both seasons of the Pussycat Dolls Present: either as guest judge, performing songs, or in a video message shown to the contestants each week.
Interscope Records formed a London-based spin-off group called Paradiso Girls through an open audition, however in 2010 were dropped and further promotion of "Crazy Horse" was cancelled, deliberately disestablishing the group.
On February 2013, Antin announced that she had scrapped plans for the new line-up to replace the former members of the Pussycat Dolls and would instead form a new group who will be the "next generation". They eventually became known as G.R.L. and released their debut, "Vacation", on June 16 as a B-side track to pop singer Britney Spears' single "Ooh La La".
The Pussycat Dolls had re-recorded "Don't Cha" in Simlish (as "Do Ba") for inclusion in the computer game The Sims 2: Pets. They also appeared in character form in the video game Asphalt: Urban GT 2 in November 2006.
In a merchandising agreement with Interscope in 2006, toy manufacturer Hasbro planned a line of dolls modeled after the Pussycat Dolls, reportedly to be marketed to six to nine-year-olds. Two organizations, Dads and Daughters and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, successfully lobbied Hasbro to scrap the plan, saying they felt the dolls would have been inappropriate for children due to the overtly sexual nature of the Pussycat Dolls' songs, videos and performances. Also in 2006, Interscope negotiated a deal with Estée Lauder for a Pussycat Dolls line of cosmetics under the Stila brand.
In 2008, Robin Antin and the La Senza Corporation of Canada produced a line of Burlesque/Pussycat Dolls-styled lingerie called "Shhh...by Robin Antin", and on December 15, Antin released Robin Antin's Pussycat Dolls Workout. The DVD release is composed of dancers from the Pussycat Doll Lounge Review, Chrystina Sayers from the group Girlicious, and features Nicole Scherzinger.
In November 2012, it was reported that the Pussycat Dolls had become brand ambassadors for Holler watches.
In 2006, the group ran into trouble in Kuala Lumpur with the authorities for sexually explicit dancing. The performance, part of their PCD World Tour, was not well received in the Muslim state which frowned upon the group's "eye-popping attire" and "sexually suggestive stage routines". 'Absolute Entertainment', the company behind the group's appearance in Malaysia was fined $3000 for the incident.
Overemphasis of Scherzinger
Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly took a major swipe at the group for their overemphasis of Scherzinger as the lead singer. Watson said, "there are two kinds of girl groups: those anchored by a superstar (The Supremes, Destiny's Child), and those made up of charismatic personalities endowed with limited individual gifts (Spice Girls, TLC). The Pussycat Dolls are neither — they're a brand, not a band. This follow-up to 2005's multiplatinum PCD finds lead Doll Nicole Scherzinger in the spotlight, and she's no Beyoncé. As for the others, well...can you name them? Do you even know how many there are?" On 5 October 2012, Nicole Scherzinger claimed in a VH1's Behind the Music special that she was responsible for both lead and backing vocals on the group's songs, with hardly anything sung by her fellow members. Scherzinger, who said that she didn't want to get in trouble for her revelations, explained that the other Pussycat Dolls members often hadn't even heard their tracks until they were recorded. "I never really talked about it, but I'll never forget I finished the album PCD and Ron Fair and I brought the girls into the studio and we played it for them, and it was the first time they'd ever heard the music," she said. "Do you understand what I'm saying? We played the album for the Pussycat Dolls. It was the first time they'd ever heard the songs." On 7 October 2012, former member, Kaya Jones, claimed that Scherzinger became the lead singer for the group because "there was a lot more going on behind the scenes". Jones told TMZ: "Nicole was always someone who wanted to be in the spotlight and would do pretty much anything to get it." "To call the other girls in the Pussycat Dolls 'window dressings' is a bit farfetched... every girl in the group was talented," she added.
Reasons for original line-up split
In November 2012, former member Carmit Bachar claimed that Nicole’s envy of Ashley was one of the main issues that tore the group apart. “Nicole was jealous of Ashley. She felt threatened by her — like people would prefer her because of the way she looked." Carmit stated Nicole’s insecurity as crucial factor behind the groups split. She also claimed that as well as resenting Ashley’s all-American looks, she held a grudge against Melody because her boyfriend, Lewis Hamilton, took a shine to Melody before he set his sights on Nicole. “I left the group right before Nicole got with Lewis. We ran into Lewis lots of times — in clubs in Amsterdam and here and there — and the chemistry I saw was between him and Melody, not him and Nicole. Melody and Lewis were popping off!"
She went on to described the girls as “like sisters” at first. But she said Scherzinger’s ego and insecurity started to dominate the band. She said: “One of the best shows we ever played was Live Earth in London. We were performing alongside Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas. There were tens of thousands in the crowd at the O2 and billions watching worldwide. But it was also at Live Earth where the trouble began. Nicole messed up the walk on and the first song and we all followed her lead. It was really embarrassing. Also, her vocals were off. Afterwards, Nicole blew up — ranting and raving — and some of the girls, including Ashley, left the room because they were so upset. That was the beginning of the end. I think Nicole got it into her head that she was the real star and would be better off on her own. She started travelling in her own tour bus and the divide between her and the rest us just got bigger. Nicole chose to isolate and alienate herself. There was constant bickering. Ashley was always the sensitive one back then. Nicole basically wanted to be front and centre all the time. We were expected to work our asses off to boost Nicole and her own career. The situation became unbearable.” Bachar walked out on the Dolls in 2008 as they were waiting to board a flight out of LAX airport. She said: “The band fell apart after I left. I was the peacemaker — the glue that held them all together. There was some talk of adding someone else but they didn’t replace me in the end. They had Jessica dye her hair red to look like me, but the fans didn’t fall for it.”
Bachar also insisted Scherzinger was the main reason they broke up: “Nicole tried to do a solo album, but it did not work and I think that hurt the label and everyone else in the end. I heard she did a ton of demos which weren’t cheap. In a scramble they tried to get the Dolls to do a second album. They weren’t really hot album songs, it didn’t sound like us. I think that’s when the other girls decided they had reached the end of the road. Ashley wants to act in romantic comedies now. Also, she would like to find a nice British man. I’m still good friends with Ashley — she’s my soul sister. All of the Dolls are still friends, apart from Nicole. Nicole knows I had a child, my daughter Kaela Rose last year, but she never got in touch. A Pussycat Dolls reunion isn’t out of the question. Five of us — and not Nicole — could happen. But all six? Never. Too much water under the bridge.”
Whilst being a contestant on the 12th series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, Ashley Roberts revealed that; "Even in the group I wasn’t allowed to talk, we were told to be quiet. Only Nicole was allowed to talk. We would occasionally pitch in.” She vented her frustration about it and revealed that nothing in the group was split evenly; "Why do you think the band broke up? U2 are still together and they split everything down the middle.”
- PCD (2005)
- Doll Domination (2008)
- List of awards and nominations received by Pussycat Dolls
- List of songs recorded by The Pussycat Dolls
- List of best-selling girl groups