Ainee - Princess (2006)

There's an explosion happening in the local pop scene. A boom, so to say. This has made a number of Pakistani pop enthusiasts very happy. A tad too happy, really. Because what they are failing to realize is that this boom has no method, vision or direction. It is loud, ubiquitous and easily noticeable, but chaotic and rather disorienting.

It is chaos being fed upon by hoards of desperate 24 hour TV and FM channels and a highly impressionable audience. They have no sense of history (and thus no inkling as to what the future might look like). All that there is, is a today … or an understanding of a today peddled to them, on one hand by the channels and their corporate patrons, and on the other, by an army of dramatic evangelists and moralists to whom both the future and the present belong in a desert stuck in a time warp of fourteen hundred years ago.

Fine, but what on earth has all this got to do with Ainee's "Princess"? Nothing and everything. Nothing because Ainee surely doesn't want to be a Suzanne Vega of Pakistan. And everything because Ainee is about to go down in history as yet another one–hit wonder. She is an artist of today, for today, by today. Her album may be selling in great numbers, but do remember dozens of all those multi–selling boy bands who vanish from history like the acne that vanishes from your face the moment you exit puberty.

So this is how I am going to treat Lady Ainee. Here today, gone tomorrow. But as a consolation, I must add that this is how a chunk of artists in today's music scene should be treated as well.

Some six months ago, Ainee arrived on the land's television screens with a song and video called "Mahiya". Everything about the song and video was so awfully formulaic, that it sort of went unnoticed by most viewers for a good month or two … until many of us suddenly found ourselves actually humming it on our way to work. Something was on. Ainee's lil' tune was sprinting in recall value past the jungle of pop and rock videos that grace the music channels everyday.

As far as frivolous, Johnny–come–hastily commercial pop tunes are concerned, "Mahiya" is quite a cracker really. Don't bother about the truly bad lyrics. Instead stick to the curiously catchy beat and Lady Ainee's euphoric, one dimensional, teen Utopia vocals. This song's hit credentials left many among us waiting patiently for a full length album from the singer. And this month it came.

Kicking off with "Mahiya", it maintains its promise with "Taweetri", another curiously catchy and meaty bhangra ditty with illusionary house music undertones. So far so good, enough to forgive Ainee's unrequited desire to impersonate Britney Spears on the title track, "Princess". Not that she does such a bad job of it, because Spears ain't no Stevie Nicks, is she? But a singer trying to become a Britney Spears of the east is not such a pleasant thought, really. Well, as we move on, it becomes apparent that by the time "Princess" fades out, Lady Ainee's crown starts to slip.

Actually it's more than a slip as Ainee folds all ends up with a pretty pitiful piece of bhangra slop, "Deewani". Awful!

An energetic, sub techno reworking of old Punjabi chestnut, "Assan Jaan Ke Meet Lai", tries valiantly to settle the mess created by the two preceding songs only to be thrown back in the looming bin of bad pop with the tuneless "Aankhon Sey Chori". By now "Mahiya" is a distant memory and Ainee is hopping about hopelessly like a crownless, make–believe princess blowing kisses to frogs!

However, the next two numbers, "Chori, Chori" and "Nachna" do manage to somewhat clean up the mess with their generic Bhangra–meets–disco whippings and on which Ainee sounds like a queer cross between the '70s kitsch of Tina Charles and the filmi disco of Nazia Hassan. Rather entertaining listening, but nothing to write home about.

This pretense too ends up wobbling into creaky bhangra/disco minimalism on "Koka" which really is no more than a tune made solely for mehendi night desperados. A regulatory remix version of "Mahiya" works as an unsuccessful redeeming factor to the bad pop bashing your ears have suffered, but one can then take the headphones off to actually thank Ainee for making this album that finally rid our heads of "Mahiya" once and for all.

Alas, I'm back to humming Ravel's "Bolero" and the Signs' "Jaana". Good frog.

Nadeem F. Paracha
The News International, Pakistan