One of the most often overlooked and underrated artists in my personal list of favorites would be Esthero. I found myself listening to a few of her songs earlier today, which led me to her MySpace page where she recently mentioned she’s in the studio working on a new album, her first as an independent artist now free of her contract with Warner Bros. She’s posted some samples of her new material on her page – check them out. You can also download several of her tracks from her Snocap store.
Esthero’s seemed destined for a long and successful career ever since her 90’s debut, Breath from Another. Her voice drew comparisons to Billie Holiday and Bjork and the record was a daring and seemingly effortless blend of electronic drum and bass, jazz, hip-hop and R&B. Unfortunately, despite great reviews the album didn’t make waves commercially. Its full-length follow-up Wikked Lil Grrrls, released in 2005, suffered a similar fate despite several obvious radio hits and collaborations with Outkast’s (post-“Hey Ya”) Andre 3000 and Goodie Mob/Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo. In hindsight, the songs probably seemed so likely to skyrocket Esthero to fame since several other singers, most notably Nelly Furtado (Esthero collaborated with Furtado on a song that became a bonus track on Whoa Nelly), scored huge hits with an extremely similar style to much of her work. Esthero aggressively acknowledged this slight, releasing the feisty single “O.G. Bitch” with the chorus “you’re just waiting for me to drown so no one knows that you stole my whole sound” though she’s denied it’s directed at Furtado in particular. One of my favorite tracks was “If Tha Mood,” which could have easily been a hit on radio with proper promotion.
Below is a video of Esthero’s gorgeous performance “Gone” from the same album with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2005:
More recently, Esthero wrote tracks and sang background vocals on Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak including the lead single “Love Lockdown,” and the title track of Brandy’s Human. I’ll definitely be following Esthero’s MySpace blog for more updates about the album’s progress. Here’s hoping Esthero plays a Boston date at some point in the future too – I’ve still never been lucky enough to see her live.