Esthero… You had me at “That Girl”. That was seven years ago, around the time of Breath From Another, your debut album. I was in awe of that song; the way you personified isolation (bred by societal exclusion) and flaunted it as a spectacle. But then you left, abandoned me when I needed you the most. I missed you, but I went on.
I heard you hooked up with the (pre-Fergie) Black Eyed Peas and did “Weekend”, a joint that hit me hard when most music was busy throwing phantom punches. Will.i.am is both a fool and a genius for adding Fergie instead of you (with her they’ve been successful). But you never had to shake your ass-ets to distract people from the quality of your voice. Your curves came to life in the synapses of my imagination, had to be heard not ogled.
The next time I heard from you, yourself and Saul Williams hooked up for the philosophical “Tao of Now”. A lot has changed since then: I learned to live without you, fill the gap you once occupied by reaching back for Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lauryn Hill (to name another talented female artist whose return I yearn). Oh yeah, and a girlfriend too.
But you’re back now, encouraging infidelity with every raunchy temptation that saunters past your lips: “She won’t fuck you like I’ll do and you know that it’s true cause I have what she hasn’t got and I remember all your spots”, (“If Tha Mood”). That alone could corrupt a man with strong morals, but I adhere to situational ethics. If the situation should present itself, abandon your ethics. Besides, the way you huff and puff and grunt and groan on this disc’s naughtier tracks is like aural ecstasy cut with Viagra, a potentially lethal aphrodisiac.
I could do without the Men at Work flute on “Junglebook”, but when you mention animal lust it awakens, in me, a lower order reptilian instinct, of sex for survival’s sake. But please, I don’t need you to tell me that the shit they play on the radio is annoying (“We R In Need Of A Musical Revolution”). If that were true, it wouldn’t have taken you seven years to provide an alternative to Ashanti. Just reveal more of the “beautiful / terrible, wonderful / horrible” dialectic that love inspires. Write more songs where you meet a guy on Sunday and stumble into love by Tuesday afternoon (“Everyday Is A Holiday (With You)”. Court multiple genres in pursuit of some schizophrenic mishmash of jazz, hip-hop, and down-tempo trip hop; it proves how versatile you are, even if, at times, it all comes off sounding jumbled.
It’s the songs where your words leave me with bite marks and scratches the ones where you tease my earlobes with the texture of your vernacular, sending shivers scurrying up my spine… where you come on like a tender tiger purring seductively… that have me considering temptation ’cause I know a feral beast lies in wait, ready to pounce. And when you draw out songs like “My Torture”, falling silent while the tribal rhythm throbs incessantly, only to follow it up with “Fastlane”, where you promise to lick me with alliteration and moan that commitment makes you wet, I’d oblige your every wish, girlfriend or not.