Esthero is sure to win the hearts of disgruntled music fans everywhere, in the opening moments of her second album, "Wikked Lil' Grrrls." It opens with the announcement, "I'm so sick and tired/of the shit on the radio/on MTV they only play same thing/no matter where I go, I see Ashanti in the video/I want something MORE!" Well, who doesn't?
It takes a certain amount of guts and flair to successfully harpoon the flaws of the music industry, or to demand to know why "a grown-ass man can videotape a little girl/but we still see his mug up on our video screens." Alas, the rest of the album isn't quite as riveting or as bold. But the Toronto singer's jazzy-funky-trippy-retropoppy sound is colorful enough to keep listeners stuck there.
The songs after that tend to focus on sexy love, or on the loneliness of being betrayed romantically. That in itself isn't too exceptional -- what is exceptional is the sparkling trip-hop melodies, the catchy complexity, and the inclusion of piano, guitar, lots of horns and earthy, funky beats. They spice up what could have been a terribly ordinary pop album.
To grit things down, there's also some colorful rapping from Shakari Nite, Jemeni And Jeleestone, and some exceptional work in the swooning, funky "Junglebook" by Outkast's Andre 3000. The only one that doesn't work is a collaboration with Cee-lo Green, who sounds horribly out of place in a trippy ballad.
The songwriting is pretty good but not exceptional, though Esthero falls through in the occasional sour line like "would you let me lick you with alliteration and tie you up with similes?" Her husky voice makes up some of that lost ground, usually sticking to the jazz vocals, but sometimes shifting over to a sultry trip-pop style.
Esthero's "Wikked Lil' Grrrls" may not be the stuff of which musical revolutions are made, but it's a little rebellion all on its own. And a pretty funky, danceable one as well.
on November 3, 2005
A wise person once told me that there is good music everywhere if you look for it. This is the most true statement ever said. You could go for middle-of-the-road mainstream music, but if you search, you'll find artists like the brilliant Esthero. The sultry songstress screams 'cool' and 'funky' and 'fresh'. She's sexy without being sleazy and vivacious without being showy. This CD is for everyone, no matter what your musical genre. It's really good.