We gave it a B-
Certain albums force you to sit up and pay attention as soon as they begin. Others make your toes tap and your mind wander: for example, the debut record from Sean ”Puffy” Combs’ new girl group, Dream. Here are some of the thoughts that popped into my brain while listening to their It Was All a Dream:
1 — So this is the quartet responsible for the current hit ”He Loves U Not.” An utterly derivative piece of song-and-dance pop-R&B, down to its warm, processed-sounding harmonies. But those eccentric rhythms and snarly guitar are intriguing, and the musical catfight in the lyrics has just enough hiss in it to be interesting.
2 — How about that: Despite their association with Combs’ hip-hop-based Bad Boy label, these four teens are all Caucasian and sport the names Melissa, Diana, Holly, and Ashley. (Are these pop stars or Victoria’s Secret models?) Given his knack for get-rich-quick schemes, it’s only natural that Combs would jump aboard the girl-group bandwagon already occupied by Destiny’s Child, 3LW, and others. Plus, Shyne’s future is a bit up in the air …
3 — Like the single, the Dream album is blatantly imitative. At various times, it slinks like Destiny’s Child, shimmers like old-school En Vogue, coos like Janet Jackson, and bounces like younger Spice Girls. Still, the first couple of cuts — ”He Loves U Not,” the creamy strut of ”In My Dreams” — wouldn’t make me lunge for the dial if they came on the radio.
4 — In light of his current legal nightmare, I wonder if Puffy himself suggested the optimistic album title.
5 — After the disc’s agreeable start, it’s hard to say which becomes more trying: the largely unexciting, sashay-by-numbers songs (”What We Gonna Do About Us,” ”Do You Wanna Dance”) or the colorless production. At least the girls don’t overbelt like Jessica Simpson did on the recent American Music Awards telecast.
6 — With its noticeable absence of samples, It Was All a Dream is unlike anything previously released by Bad Boy, except for the inevitable Puffy cameo. Sticking with tradition, he awkwardly inserts a few ”come awwwns” into ”In My Dreams.”
7 — Okay, time to peruse the official Dream website (http://www.thedreamsite.com). Just like the made-for-TV boy band O-Town, Dream were assembled via mass auditions — which one could join by dialing, no joke, 1-800-Be-a-Star. On the site, it is reported that to Ashley’s dismay, ”10 other hopefuls performed her song of choice, Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On.”’ We really aren’t anywhere near Kansas, Dorothy.
8 — A few more dull songs. Hmmm, when was the last time I called my mom?
9 — ”Our Prayer,” track 15, is just that — a spoken-word recitation in which they thank the Big Guy (no, not Puffy — that other Big Guy) with comments like, ”I know sometimes I go astray — heh-heh — but I’ll always come back to you.” For God’s sake, shouldn’t these sentiments have been limited to the liner notes?
10 — Why does this album feel so interminable? The credits explain all — there are 17 tracks! But wait — four of them are skits and another is a Puffy-dominated remix of the single. Perhaps the record industry should forget about tackling illegal downloads and instead put a ban on the number of time-wasting, unfunny skits that pad albums.
11 — The remake of New Edition’s ”Mr. Telephone Man” only reminds me how much better ”Popcorn Love” was.
12 — Too bad for Puffy that these girls are all California-based, making them ineligible for jury duty in New York City.
13 — It could have been worse: One of the handpicked members could have been Puffy’s vocally challenged gal pal, Jennifer Lopez. B-
It Was All a Dream
DREAM Bad Boy/arista