The wooden floors inside Estela Rodriguez' apartment are cracking. Just two years ago nobody would have cared at all. But nowadays, Rodriguez, known to the world as Lady Crooner, can't get out of her small Long Beach studio to buy some Home Depot accessories without getting recognized.
"It's funny how this fame thing is not phasing me at all," says the 30-year-old electronica R&B singer as she gets on her knees to inspect the cracked wood on the floor. "Then again, I've been doing this for half of my life so I've sort of been preparing myself for it."
Though Lady Crooner's clothes seem to have come out of a Mexican version of Disneyland's Alice in Wonderland and may look silly to the heteronormal eye, she has been doing professional music since the age of 15.
"I really have tried all genres of music," she says as she finally stops fidgeting with the cracked wood and moves on to the shipped walls. "I've sat in front of label heads who've tried to launch my career as the Mexican-American Britney Spears."
I don't want to ask, but Crooner is obviously tweaked the fuck out. Her attention is not entirely focused on my questions, but on something else. The damned shipped walls. She's almost reading into them. But I guess one can say that this state of mind-alteration is a mirror for Crooner's own career. She has gone from pop to hip-hop to electronica and back to pop. Never settling for an specific genre of music.
"It would be too boring for me," Crooner says. "As you can see, I cannot stay still. It's the same thing with my music. I just need to change. I need to evolve. I can't do the same thing over and over again because that would just be too easy."
Though she didn't come from the Madonna school of musical evolution, Crooner's real reason for the changes were due to pressures from music labels.
"She will probably give you that my-music-must-change bullshit story," former producer and ex-boyfriend Tony Tony says. "But the girl was getting all this pressure from label heads to change into something that was 'it' at the moment. If it was Britney Spears, they wanted to get a 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' out of her. If it was Shakira, they wanted to bleach her hair as well"
But Lady Crooner never gave in. Well, not entirely.
"If I did what I did it was probably because I so wanted to do this for a living," Crooner says admitting to the fact that label heads did have some influence on her musical ADD. "When you're a damn teenage runaway girl in this industry, people will influence you in ways you had no idea would go against your art."
Lady Crooner's 2005 underground hit "Lip Service" pushed the sales of her Crazy Sex Story album. Like many artists of the Myspace generation, Crooner's popularity grew in part to the buzz generated by the networking site.
"Fuck that," Crooner tells me when I mention Myspace. "I've been fucking working since I was 15 years old. Myspace was only a small vehicle to drive my already blooming talent. I don't need no Myspace to make me. You know what, fuck Myspace. Yeah, you can quote me on that."
Fifteen minutes into our conversation, Crooner asks me to leave.