KINNIE STARR with LILY FROST and DJ MURGE at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (September 28). 7 pm. $10. 416-532-1598.
Kinnie Starr doesn't shut up and sit tight when something pisses her off. In the six years since the culture-jammin' chunk-hop, girl-powered dynamo started peddling her punk-hiphop fusion, she's shot her mouth off about body image, gender relations, bisexuality, race issues, the beauty of masturbation and the evils of tampons.But listen to her upcoming disc, Sun Again (Violet Inch) -- her second since not-so-amicably parting ways with former label Mercury after a nasty merger that left smaller artists gasping in its wake -- and you'll hear a softer, gentler Starr rising.
There's the same rhythmic, beat-driven poetry, but the lyrics are less prickly. Seems Sun Again is settled on, well, the sunnier side of the street, with Starr more liable to riff on opening her heart than smashing the state.
So what gives?
"Being political is different to different people!" responds Starr, over black bean soup at a Queen West joint. "If you change your focus and turn a corner, your fans can fuckin' turn on you. Where I'm at right now, my politics are about love and acceptance. I'm trying not to finger-point and blame. I notice my fans only want me to be one way and talk about one thing."
"For instance, with feminism. If you love a man, all of a sudden you're not a feminist any more. I really disagree with that. I want to create music that makes people feel fucking good and gets them up in the morning, not music that pulls people through my emotional and political chaos. Why can't I just write a song 'cause it's beautiful?"
Sun Again, which is slated to drop in January, follows the same vibe as Starr's last disc, Tune-up, with a mellow, triphop tip and squelchy beats. But this time around the recording is far more polished, with streamlined production and hooky melodies that sometimes verge on -- dare I say it? -- mainstream R&B.
Backing vocals from folks like Moka Only, the divaesque Coco Love Alcorn and Starr's cousin Lily Frost (the nouveau cocktail chanteuse also opens her show at Lee's) add atmosphere, and the murky, disjointed punk edge of Starr's earliest work is all but gone.
Is this an attempt to crack the mass market without big-box backing? Labels are definitely not this lady's friends. In the past, she's written about struggles with Mercury, who still own the rights to her album Mending.
"Oh, Mending is a joke, man," she snorts. "It's like a piece of tape stuck on the wall of some rich guy's office. On that record, you can really hear that I don't know how to sing. I hear it, and I'm like, "Thank god it didn't fucking come out!'"
She was courted heavily by Jeepster, Belle & Sebastian's indie label, and spent $6,000 in negotiations with them until discovering -- right before she signed -- that they didn't have the dough to properly promote her disc. She says there are no hard feelings there, though.
So Sun Again just might be Starr's big mainstream break. It could score radio airplay, and the message of peace and love isn't gonna scare off listeners who think Avril Lavigne's as complicated as it gets.
But I suggest she runs the risk of alienating hardcore fans by making a record that's accessible to the masses.
"Please, Lord, let you be correct!" says Starr, making a face. "Otherwise, all the people who need to hear different music, they're never gonna hear it. It pisses me off that people always say the state of music today is so terrible. It's not. It's just that all the money goes into Britney fuckin' Spears or Nickelback."firstname.lastname@example.org