Former Metal Queen Lee Aaron says you can’t build a career on a pretty face

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 24, 1991

By Steve Newton

Although Toronto’s Lee Aaron has been a fixture on the Canadian music scene since the early ’80s, her first taste of substantial commercial success didn’t come until her 1990 album, Bodyrock. It’s been a long road, but the 29-year-old singer—who plays 86 Street on Friday and Saturday (October 25 and 26)—has no complaints.

“If I’d had the same kind of success on my first album when I was 19 years old, there’s no way I would have been able to deal with it,” she says. “Number one, my head would have probably been blown out of proportion. But I’ve worked very, very long and very hard for everything I have, and each album has been a progression. I think I’m learning and becoming a better songwriter and a better entertainer. And I’ve built a solid foundation, which makes me very happy, because a hit song doesn’t make a career.”

Progressive career-building aside, Aaron was still a little surprised at the success of Bodyrock, which went double platinum (200,000 copies) in Canada and was nominated for five Junos.

“That was a bit of a scary experience for me,” says Aaron, “because in the past, when former albums have not quite met sales expectations, I had a place to cast blame. But Bodyrock was one of the first records that I had a great deal of creative control over, and so when I was finished I felt, ‘Gee, we did it our way, and we’re real happy with it, and the only one I have to blame if this is a failure is myself.’ Thank God it wasn’t.”

Both Bodyrock and Aaron’s new album, Some Girls Do, were produced by Brian Allen, who she credits for not having “this stereotypical ideal in his head of what a ‘chick rock’ album should sound like”. He also came up with the idea of Aaron covering Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good” on the latest disc.

“I had it in my head that if we were gonna do a cover on the new album, rather than do an old rock song, we find something funky. All of a sudden Brian Allen phoned me up one day and said, ‘Guess what I just heard on the radio.’ He sang me a few bars, and I recalled the song quite well, because I’ve always liked Chaka Khan [who recorded the tune with Rufus].”

Aaron’s version includes a couple of her own lines, delivered Mae West style, that are more in keeping with her frisky style: “You know you can’t fool me, I turn ya on/And that’s not a gun in your pocket after all.” Aaron’s sex appeal has been vividly portrayed in videos like “Watcha Do to My Body”, “Hands On”, and the recent “Sex With Love”, but she makes no apologies for her lusty image.

“I don’t even like the word ‘image’, because to me it suggests something that is contrived,” she says. “Every woman on the face of the earth has a certain magnetism or sensual aura about them—because they are female—and I think as long as you feel comfortable with yourself and are natural about it, then it’s okay. But as far as that being the sole reason for selling records, absolutely not. You can’t build a career on a pretty face; you have to have the musical goods to back it up.”

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