ESTHERO with OSCAR PETERSON and RON SEXSMITH as part of the Sonic Bloom fundraising gala for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe), Saturday (June 4). $30-$150. 416-593-4828. www.sonicbloom.ca.
The first track on Esthero's latest record, Wikked Lil' Grrrls, calls for a musical revolution.
She says she's sick and tired of the shit on the radio, that MTV always plays the same thing, and no matter where she goes she sees Ashanti videos.
It may seem just a teeny bit pretentious, but there's a whole mission statement in the liner notes of the EP that's supposed to explain the track. She knows that she's taking a risk.
"I'm not offering a solution," she explains on the phone in Toronto. "I'm not saying I'm the solution. All I know is those words were in my head and I had to say them. There's something really wrong, even if I can't articulate what that something is. I don't have a problem with Ashanti or Britney Spears. I think there's room for them. The problem is when there's no room for anyone else.
"That's such a hard song to deal with, because everyone's gonna think I'm just mad cuz I haven't sold any records. But do you know how many videos MTV has on rotation at all times? Ten. We need variety."
Esthero, a small red-haired imp with attitude and a big voice, came onto the scene six years ago with Breath From Another, then pretty much disappeared before anyone had even heard of her. Now she's back, after doing what all that time?
"The common joke," she says, "is that I was watching CSI."
There was some writer's block to contend with.
"Yeah, I go in and out of writer's block. After the big flood of productivity, I was asked to write for somebody else (Handsome Boy Modeling School), and I really wanted to be a part of that record and got the gig, but I was just, like, uh... I don't really have anything left to say.
"But when I went to work with Andre (3000), just being around him and his energy - he's really creative - inspired me, and I came home with all these little songs in my head."
Aside from Andre, Esthero has spent the past few years hooking up with myriad artists, including Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez, DJ Krush, Blue Man Group, Black Eyed Peas, Goodie Mob, Cee Lo Green and Sean Lennon, some of whom make appearances on Wikked Lil' Grrrls.
The album plays with hiphop, Brazilian percussion, house, dancehall and torchy vocals and Esthero displays great vocal versatility, from girly to big mama. The lyrics are pretty bratty and bawdy. One track is all about fucking another girl's boyfriend, except it turns out I've got it wrong.
"That's a story about when I dated a guy and he cheated on me, and the reason I say, 'I fucked your boyfriend' is that the minute he cheated on me I was like, 'That's not my man, that's your man. I just happened to fuck him first, but, here, you can have him. '"
She's got a feisty side, the side that allegedly gets into bar brawls.
"My nickname is Little Dukes, and I earned it through a series of altercations. I'm a fighter in my heart. I probably have an overdeveloped sense of self-righteousness, and I have a tendency to stick up for people who can't stick up for themselves.
"I'm a lover."
I wish she'd make up her mind.