These Clips Shine A Light On Shade From The Pussycat Dolls’ Past
It’s hard to imagine the 2000s without the Pussycat Dolls. Not only were their hit singles “Dontcha,” “Buttons,” and “Stickwitu”—all from their 2005 debut album PCD—bangers all over the world, but the group quickly became something of a small empire, touching everything from reality TV to commercial merchandise. They topped the charts worldwide, earned several award nominations (including a Grammy nod), and are ranked as one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. And although they experienced a great amount of success over a relatively short time (they eventually broke up in 2010), the Pussycat Dolls were marred by some serious internal drama that made even their best years a little less sparkly.
The main reason for their conflict was the excessive attention paid to lead vocalist Nicole Scherzinger.
Of the five Pussycat Dolls, there were two vocalists: Scherzinger and Melody Thornton. Scherzinger has admitted to singing 95% of the vocals during the Dolls’ heyday, even going to so far as to say that the other members of the group didn’t hear the tracks until they were finished. While Thornton did contribute to background vocals as a Doll, she never had a chance to sing lead. Years of frustration over this inequity ended up culminating in a pretty uncomfortable moment performing the bop “Dontcha”:
As you can see, Thornton clearly went off-script in this performance, taking advantage of the opportunity to finally step into the spotlight. There’s no doubt that the girl can sing, but Scherzinger was not impressed. The shade, though!
And this wasn’t the only time Thornton’s off-the-cuff solos made things awkward. Take this example from the 2006 American Music Awards (skip to 2:50 for her surprise ad-lib appearance onstage):
Earlier this year, Thornton told the UK’s Daily Mirror that she secretly went to therapy for low self-esteem during her time with the Dolls, and that it took many years for her to overcome her negative experiences with the group.
“I lost so much confidence and felt really worthless. Because it was pointed out, over and over again, that I was the weakest link in the group,” said Thornton. ”I had never felt insecure until I joined the Pussycat Dolls.”
Over the years, other Dolls have also complained about the overemphasis on Scherzinger. As a contestant on season 12 of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, Ashley Roberts said, “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.” Roberts confirmed that nothing in the group was split evenly, adding, “Why do you think the band broke up?”
But after almost a decade apart, and in spite of all the tea that’s been spilled, the Pussycat Dolls are back, baby!
Well, more or less. On Saturday’s episode of the UK’s X Factor: Celebrity, the newly reunited Pussycat Dolls performed a medley of their most popular songs, offering a sneak peek into an upcoming UK reunion tour. Whether surprising or not, several people served some serious criticism of the performance, conceding that while the choreography was stellar, there still seems to be too much of a focus on Scherzinger. Perhaps that’s because Thornton, as the Dolls’ only other vocalist, will not be joining them for the tour.
No, it’s not because Thornton has held a decade-long grudge against Scherzinger—in fact, neither Thornton nor any of the other girls have ever been angry at Scherzinger for the disequilibrium of the group. Instead, Thornton took issue with the label, Interscope Records, and the way the group was managed. Still, she insists that she has no bad feelings toward Scherzinger or Robin Antin, who founded the group back in 1995 when it began as a burlesque troupe.
“People would assume that I was so mad at Nicole because she sang and I didn’t. Well, no. That was her dream and it was coming true for her. I just wanted it for myself too,” said Thornton. “I wanted the best for everyone. I’m a phenomenal vocalist, you just never heard it. But it wasn’t Nicole’s fault.”
Both Robin Antin and Ashley Roberts insist that Thornton’s past difficulties with the group are not the reason for her absence from the 2020 reunion tour, which will reunite Roberts and Scherzinger with group members Carmit Bachar, Jessica Sutta, and Kimberly Wyatt.
“She was included in all of this. She’s our sister, and the door is always open, but it just wasn’t the right timing for her right now,” Roberts told the BBC. “We wish her well.”