Esthero

Wikked Lil' Grrrls

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Esthero ended her post-Breath From Another hiatus in 2004 with the "O.G. Bitch" single and an EP called We R in Need of a Musical Revolution that skewered radio and MTV for overexposure and homogeny, not to mention misogyny and the promotion of R. Kelly. She doesn't slow down on Wikked Lil' Grrrls, her first full-length in seven years. But Esthero also spends a little too much time in a drifty place between modernized trip-hop, mild R&B, and frilly, dizzily in love lyrics. The percussive, Björk-like "Musical Revolution" kicks things off, followed by an interlude from spoken word poet Jemeni. "Blanket Me in You (Never Is So Soon)" is a little too gauzy, as is "Thank Heaven 4 You," but anyone who heard the EP will recognize the irresistibly brassy chamber pop of "Everyday Is a Holiday (With You)" (a collaboration with Sean Lennon), and "Wikked Lil' Grrrls" itself lives up to its disclaimer -- "Warning: may cause ass to shake!" -- it's a soul sister to Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B.. There are personal messages sprinkled throughout the record, in answering machine recordings and parenthetical shout-outs. And Esthero's rich, honeyed vocals give weight to her love proclamations and assertions of self-confidence. So you know Wikked is a personal statement, if not a labor of love considering how long it took to come out. But it still has some trouble finding its legs. "My Torture" is a sketch of faraway muted trumpet and skittering electronic percussion, modern and moody and glimmering like rain drops in the big city. And yet that very mood seems like a representation of something; it doesn't feel real. "Fastlane" too is lost in chattering drum'n'bass-lite spoken word and an eager but too busy Jelleestone rap. Fortunately "Bad Boy Clyde" is better with its touches of brass, and "If tha Mood" condenses the album's intimacies and "sex speak" into one track that's both sultry and audacious. Wikked Lil' Grrrls occasionally gets lost between songwriting, thematics, and stylistic flow. Nevertheless it's good to have Esthero back. She's furiously honest about what she wants, likes, hates, and loves, and that's something that can be quite a rarity in the 21st century.

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