If you wanted to try to figure out just who the heck Esthero (Jen-Bea Englishman) is by listening to her new album Wikked Lil’ Grrrls, you’ll be in for some troubling confusion. In fact, after listening to the new album a few times over, I’m convinced that the singer herself has no idea who she is. The Canadian singer-songwriter started out as a reported mix of Björk and countrywoman Alanis Morissette. While that may sound interesting, her continuing blend of styles, genres and sounds combined with lyrics that can contradict each other make things muddled and disappointing.
Opening track, “We R In Need of a Musical Revolution,” which first appeared on the EP of the same name which preceded Wikked, starts things off in that stated befuddled manner. With a title resembling a Prince tune, music that sounds like recycled Wang Chung (“Black-Blue-White” to be specific), beats that mimic the slew of ’80s breakdancing songs, and vocals that sound like Pink, Esthero then goes on to diss Ashanti and Britney (who make similar music), curse angrily for the sake of cursing, and then claims that “everybody’s so angry.” Huh? She then says “there’s gotta be a better way to communicate.” I agree, but she offers no solutions on the album, just more of the same.
Second track “Dragonfly’s Intro,” which isn’t even by Esthero, instead is a spoken word piece by Jemeni that is equally as confusing. Mimicking Ani DiFranco’s poetry pieces that used to be ever present on her early albums, the track has more attempts at shocking the audience with language while dropping names like Jeff Buckley. I don’t get it. “Everyday Is a Holiday (With You),” which features guest star Sean Lennon, is a Burt Bacharach pastiche and is one of the few songs that work, mostly thanks to Lennon’s instrumentation and songwriting. “Thank Heaven 4 You” is also a worthy track with slight jazz touches which bring to mind acts like Frou Frou.
Further tracks tend to veer more towards current radio mainstays like the Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani, which seems to go against the idea that we’re supposed to be hearing a `musical revolution.’ Again referring to the opening track, Esthero sings, “I want something more.” So do I. One glaring clue to her mish-mash of influences comes in the liner notes when she thanks a veritable festival of artists as varied as Macy Gray and the Blue Man Group. The title track warns the listener that it `may cause ass to shake.’ Instead, I found myself bored by the simple jazzline and beats which again resembled BEP.
Esthero can easily be called a talented singer and performer, but I found it difficult to find anything interesting, new or challenging about Wikked Lil’ Grrrls. The album is disjointed and, at times, quite annoying. One’s time and money is probably better spent purchasing the albums listed below rather than experimenting with this supposed mix of its influences.
Buy Me Instead:
Ani DiFranco- Out of Range