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Picks and Pans Review: Esthero

updated 07/18/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Wikked Lil' Grrrls
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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"I'm so sick and tired of the s—- on the radio," announces Esthero as she opens this disc with the thumping "We R in Need of a Musical ReVoLuTion." And with her wikkedly eclectic sounds on this protracted follow-up to her 1998 debut Breath from Another, the Canadian chanteuse is a fresh alternative to such radio-ruling divas as Mariah Carey, Ciara and Kelly Clarkson. Any singer who alternately evokes Nelly Furtado, Pink and Sade—with a little Peggy Lee thrown in—is clearly spitting in the face of formulaic genre conventions. Esthero splices pop, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, electronica, Latin and spoken-word styles, among others, into a quirky-cool whole. The alluring "Blanket Me in You (Never Is So Soon)" interweaves classical piano and samba rhythms, while the horn-infused "Everyday Is a Holiday (With You)," cowritten by Sean Lennon, is whimsical Beatles-esque pop. Big band meets rap on the lusty come-on "If Tha Mood," and Esthero, with her natural jazz lilt, plays torchy seductress on "My Torture" and the lovely, Sade-like "Thank Heaven 4 You." Best, though, is the saucy title track, on which, against a swinging, clarinet-driven groove, she warns, "You better keep an eye on your boys and lock'em up tight!"

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