PRINCESS SUPERSTAR, ONRY OSBOURNE
I-Spy, 374-9492, $10 9 p.m. Fri., April 5
"THE THING people really don't know about Princess Superstar," the princess tells me, "is that she really has an unsexy side to her." She's talking on her cell phone just after spilling lunch on her lap at Park Avalon. Park Avalon, if you don't know, is a New York City restaurant that she never could have afforded before, she says, "but now that I'm famous in Europe, I can."
Today, lunch is a hamburger. "A fancy hamburger," she says, "and that makes all the difference." See, Princess Superstar (who may not be a superstar here; it's another story altogether in the U.K.) isn't ladylike at all. She's still a supersize-the-fries kind of girl.
"Here's the thing, man," she says. "I never used to be really hot. The funny thing is that I always felt pretty ugly and fat growing up, and, like, what happens is that you get a really good team of gay people around you and they make you really hot." She laughs. "I'm not kidding. That's what it is. Everyone says that, like from Madonna to anybody. The gay people in fashion turn you out, make you gorgeous."
The fashionistas may be turning out her look, but the missus herself—songwriter, lyricist, producer, and performer—is the one making the music. Princess Superstar Is, her new album, is by far her best work to date. And it contains the song "Bad Babysitter," which will go down as her highness' career breakthrough. (The song has yet to be successful stateside, but it's made her the talk of the tabloids in the land where that other famous princess lived.)
"I totally turned into a U.K. pop star overnight," she says reflectively. "It was very strange. I had like 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys singing 'Bad Babysitter.' I played it on Top of the Pops, which is like American Bandstand. It was no fucking joke."
It's nearly impossible to imagine kids here rapping along, what with lyrics like "All right, kid, you gotta go to bed . . . my boy just came over and he wants me to give him head" and "Sit his bare ass on the couch . . . the spot'll be sticky cuz I sucked his dicky and used your mom's cucumber."
Not exactly material for the American Top 20.
"They're just more open [in England] as to, like, what they play," she explains. "Like, the radio format is so genius because they'll play a hip-hop song and then they'll play a rock song, and they don't even care. And I made it there being on an independent label. It's not like here, where you literally have to pay like $500,000 to be on the radio. Maybe a million." Not to mention what you have to pay in terms of artistic freedom.
"Here you have to be dumb, basically," she says, and she's not willing to do that. "It's hard to think outside of pop, because it's all the time in our faces. But when I'm writing I think of everything. I'll think of fucking, literature, and The Simpsons, and—you know, my brain is just sort of, like, open to everything."
She names Oscar Wilde as her top literary influence: "I think he was pretty punk rock in his time." Interesting (isn't it?) that an I'm-so-ghetto, who's-a-ho, hip-hop artist would choose an author so, well, gay. "I'm not gay at all myself, but I have a pretty big lesbian following, which is fabulous, I think, because I'm a pretty strong woman, and they totally feed into that."
"I'm totally political," she says, "but I use humor as my political statement. Like in that song 'I Love You (Or at Least I Like You)' when I say, 'I make you my male ho and my housewife,' I think that's really political and feminist, but it's also funny."
If she's going to make it here, it'll be on her terms, the product of almost a decade of hard work. In a new song called "Who Writes Your Lyrics," she says she writes "all night with a bare swinging light." But I'm not sure if I believe that.
"OK, you're right," she admits, "I don't. But for the most part, like, I have no friends. I sit in my apartment with my parakeet and my cockatiel. You're right, though. There's no swinging lightbulb."
She realizes that having two birds isn't exactly an entourage worthy of a superstar. Then again, she's quick to make enemies. On Princess Superstar Is, she exploits every pop reference at her disposal and disposes of some of the more persistent pop personalities—everyone from Britney and Christina (exactly who you'd expect) to the widely revered Macy Gray.
Truth is, Princess Superstar may just be a bit jealous, which I suspect only because all I have to do to win her over is tell her she reminds me of No Doubt's Gwen Stefani in some of her press shots. She's flattered, to say the least. "It's funny that you think I look like her," she says, "because my stomach is probably 10 times as fat."
Well, all those hamburgers.