By Sarah Rodman
The Boston Herald, May 21, 2004
Male acts such as Five for Fighting and Maroon5 may outnumber the female performers in the lineup for tomorrow’s 25th annual Kiss Concert hosted by WXKS-FM (Kiss-108) at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield. But Cyndi Lauper, Avril Lavigne, Jessica Simpson, Liz Phair and other ladies will likely get top billing at the country’s oldest radio station concert.
We interviewed three very different women appearing at the festival — 19-year-old Canadian rocker Lavigne, 23-year-old Texas-born reality TV-pop star Simpson and 37-year-old envelope-pushing Chicago native Phair — to see what (if anything, in Simpson’s case) is on their minds.
When you’re an erstwhile “indie rock queen” famous for songs about oral sex, among many other mature topics, devising a set list for a tween-heavy Top 40 radio concert is a delicate matter.
Even with her recent forays into the pop consciousness, Liz Phair is an interesting choice for tomorrow’s annual Kiss Concert at the Tweeter Center.
The Chicagoan successfully dipped her toes into the mainstream with her 2003 self-titled major-label debut and its deliciously candy-coated, Matrix-shellacked hits “Why Can’t I” and “Extraordinary.” But she’s still got a whole racy back catalog that you can bet the people at Kiss are hoping she doesn’t bust out tomorrow in front of the braces-and-Clearasil set.
“It’s going to be interesting, right?” she asks with a laugh on the phone from her L.A. home. “It’s going to be a lot of kids, which makes me lean heavily on the Matrix tracks because they all love that stuff, but I definitely always take my opportunities to do something a little countercultural and stick something in there I think they should listen to. You know me, I like to push the boundaries.”
Of her Kiss Concert peers, she’s looking forward to checking out ’80s icon Cyndi Lauper and feels affection for Avril Lavigne. “I’ve always liked her little pouty image,” says Phair, 36. “I just like watching what she has to say because she’s the one who wouldn’t smile like Hilary Duff and says she’s really sick of interviews. So I like the fact that you can sort of get a line in on what’s really going on because she’s permeable that way.”
Of course, Phair’s work with Lavigne’s production team, the aforementioned Matrix, has been the cause of both celebration and aggravation for her in the past year. While the trio sweetened only four tracks on the otherwise characteristic record, Phair’s bid for high-profile success turned off some indie cred-obsessed fans and critics.
The divorced mom of a 7-year-old son says she no longer concerns herself with the disapproval but will admit that she hopes she can still gain entrance into the ears of the more open-minded fans of all kinds of music.
All she can do is be herself. And that self, she says, is just a normal girl. Therefore Phair subscribes to the theory of “girl-next-door power.”
“Everyone wants me to be this indie rock queen or whatever, but if you look at it from my point of view I’m lifting the normal girl up to goddess status.”
Which should be music to the ears of the organizers of the Kiss Concert, even if some of her songs tomorrow aren’t.