By Jason Lamphier
Little Boots might or might not be the 'future of pop,' as the website Popjustice recently declared, but she certainly embodies a refreshing, distinct breed in the genre: the self-possessed, versatile, everyman pop star.
The heavy hype preceding her debut album, Hands, has been a blessing and a burden for the singer. She nabbed the top spot on the BBC Sound of 2009 list in January, and music bloggers' tongues haven't stopped wagging since. She's been called the frontrunner of this year's female synth-pop invasion, the new Kylie, and just plain overrated'all before she even released her recent Illuminations EP. 'There are moments when I'm overwhelmed,' admits the 25-year-old East Londoner, whose real name is Victoria Hesketh. But if she's feeling at all beset by the whirlwind of media buzz surrounding her, she isn't showing it. 'To say I'm, like, the Obama of Britpop or something is ridiculous,' she says, laughing. 'I just love writing great melodies.'
Hesketh can partly thank herself for the near-comical buildup to her first record. Sure, she's had her pair of glossy, MTV-ready music videos, 'New in Town' and 'Remedy,' but she's drawn much of the attention from singing acoustic versions of her songs and remakes of Kate Bush, MGMT, and Cyndi Lauper on her YouTube channel. Her fashion choices'everything from iridescent, sequined baby-doll dresses to gigantic ruffled hoods to a hat with a unicorn horn protruding from it'prove she recognizes the value of a playful pop persona, but in one of her latest homemade clips, Hesketh sits in her bedroom in a crumpled T-shirt, her hair tousled, a cluttered bookshelf behind her as she plays a beautiful cover of Blur's 'To the End' on her keyboard. She didn't bother to re-film the number though she coughed midway through it, and sometimes she'll even perform these sessions slightly off pitch. She's a gifted indie musician who says she wants to be a star, but the Blackpool native also puts her goofs on full display for the masses (hundreds of thousands of viewers have visited her site).
'When people see me on YouTube, they have a different connection with me,' she explains. 'It's kind of like making an album completely in public.'
It's this accessibility that makes Hesketh so appealing -- that and her knack for crafting catchy dance tunes. A self-described 'synth geek' who learned piano at 5 and went on to dabble in prog-rock, punk, and jazz, she's as obsessed with the process as she is the finished product. She spends hours dissecting song structures with her cohorts (including the Bird and the Bee's Greg Kurstin, who produced Hands) and usually performs with her trademark Tenori-on, a Japanese sequencer that visually represents beats in LED lights. Often her songs are about music -- what Hasketh seems to know best. Combining a chewy Moroder bass line and the best damn use of sleigh bells in a dance track since, well, ever, her intoxicating 'Stuck on Repeat' (produced by Hot Chip's Joe Goddard) finds her victim 'to the beat.' She celebrates the curative power of dancing in 'Remedy' and coos about frequencies in the syrupy electro-fuzz of 'Tune In to My Heart.'
It remains to be seen which Little Boots Hesketh is more comfortable with: indie music nerd or big-time pop goddess. Though she envisions herself eventually descending to the stage on a unicorn during her live shows, she's currently opting for a DIY vibe and focusing more on her songwriting. 'I like to stand out, but I'm not in your face,' she says. 'I couldn't wear a dress where you could see my ass or set my boobs on fire. I'm just being myself, and the minute something feels forced or ungenuine, I won't do it.'
Hands is now available digitally and in stores.