1. Paris, Paris Hilton's 2006 debut, and, to date, sole album, is a piece of music that people love to tell you is "not as bad as you think." (The truly bold go so far as to say it's "actually pretty good.") Supporting evidence generally pointed to the finely pedigreed songwriting talent Hilton was able to assemble, namely Dr. Luke, JR Rotem, and executive producer Scott Storch, then at the precipice (but not yet over the cliff) of cocaine-induced financial ruin and cultural irrelevancy. Storch wasn't exactly picky with his projects at the time; that same year, he also did the majority of Brooke Hogan's Undiscovered. But seeing as Paris and Storch dated — in later years, after the Piano Man blew $30 million, Scott's mom would make the fair point that "maybe you should make sure your mother has her retirement taken care of before you buy another $2 million necklace for some hotel heiress" — he might have been feeling particularly invested in Paris. The most effective weapon in the pro-Paris camp's arsenal, though, isn't Storch, but "Stars Are Blind." It was the lead single, it's probably the only song anyone actually remembers from the album, and it happened to be written by a couple of lesser-known names: Sheppard Solomon, Ralph McCarthy, and Fernando Garibay, who in recent years has become a close collaborator of Lady Gaga's.
On "Stars," Paris goes in over a perfectly airy ska upstroke, sleepily cooing nonsense to her man. "Even though the gods are crazy," she sings, her voice small and thin, like she might lose interest in what she's doing at any time. "Even though the stars are blind / If you show me real love, baby / I'll show you mine." What the hell is she talking about? Technically, the saving grace of love in a cruel, meaningless world, squeezed awkwardly into the classic "let's play doctor" formulation. It's willfully inane, and therefore it resonates; who among us had a hard time imagining, considering her public persona, that this was exactly the kind of aggressive vacuousness with which Paris Hilton falls in love? Truly a great pop song.
Still, to borrow here from Chuck Klosterman, people talking for half a decade about how underrated Paris is has now rendered Paris overrated.
2. In 2006, Lil Wayne was ascending. It's almost hard to remember now, but the guy was at worst a joke, and at best an afterthought, before Tha Carter II, released in December of 2005, served notice that he'd developed mightily since his days as a teenage Cash Money hanger-on. (The process had begun with 2004's Tha Carter.) Wayne followed Tha Carter II with a ridiculous, lean-fueled mixtape run of Joyce Carol Oates–ian proportions, which eventually culminated in his next official album, Tha Carter III, a smash that coronated the young man as a superstar. That year's Dedication 2, for my money, is the best he's ever been. On the first track, Wayne bullshits for a bit, setting the stage. Then there's a vocal sample, a snooty rich guy saying "You are watching a master at work." And then Wayne just starts spewing; he opens his mouth and the most wonderful little tricky bits of language come tumbling out.
"Young God, baby, all them other n----s reverends / Sittin' in my big house surrounded by my weaponries / I keep them away like I got leprosy / Choppa right next to me, loaded up with pepper seeds / Got a extra clip but that's only for my especial-ies." Years later, I still get fragments stuck in my head, on loop.
3. It's probably a stretch to say this of the population in general, but — considering Wayne's massive deterioration in the last few years, and considering how Paris's reputation has risen in its dormancy — I'd argue that among a certain committed, informed pop consumer, this new Lil Wayne album, I Am Not a Human Being, Part 2, is somewhat less anticipated than a new album from Paris Hilton would be. Remarkable.