The Windsor Star - March 7, 1987

Metal Queen sheds her studs.

TORONTO (CP) - After a glorious reign in black leather and fishnet stockings, the Metal Queen has decided to abdicate. Even so, Lee Aaron realizes the title will be hard to shake.

"When I die, there'll be a little tag around my toe, saying 'the Metal Queen'," said Aaron, laughing hoarsely.

"Because of that label, it's been a struggle for me to get recognized," added the 24-year-old native of Belleville, Ont., referring to radio programmers. "Some people weren't interested in my last record because they just assumed it was hard, hard metal."

In an effort to make a new start, she called her new album simply Lee Aaron. It's her fourth LP but also her most accessible and likely the commercial breakthrough that will boost her into the big leagues in Canada and, perhaps, the United States.

THE THREATENING growls and go-for-the-jugular belting that have made her Europe's favorite female metal singer have been tempered with a more natural singing style. Her lyrics have risen above the rock-till-we-drop hysteria that approached self-parody. She even wrote a ballad with shlockmeister Dan Hill.

John Albani's guitar roars a little less often, but the Metal Queen has not become the Pop Princess; now she rocks with more melody and effectiveness.

She's also traded in the studs and chains for "stuff that's more refined, with a little more class."

Sitting cross-legged on a couch at the office of Attic Records, Aaron looks smart in a big-shouldered pink leather jacket, pink boots and a blue denim shirt and matching skirt. Her husky voice is the only thing big about the 157-cm (five-foot-two) powerhouse, who swings her arms around when she gets excited - which is often.

Aarn said the changes to her image and music aren't part of a contrived strategy, but reflect changes in her experience.

"I'M JUST changing as a person compared to what I was thinking three years ago. I'm not trying to write airplay songs per se, I'm just trying to become a better songwriter.

"The music still has an edge to it, but there's other stuff that you might be surprised to hear Lee Aaron do."

Surprised is right. To the list of oddball collaborations - like Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias - add the team of Aaron and Dan (The Honesty's Too Much) Hill.

When it was suggested that her fans consider Hill a Class-A wimp, she laughed and exclaimed:

"You said it! My manager (Steve Propas) suggested it and my first reaction was 'What?' And then I thought 'Why not?' Because the fact is, the guy is a good songwriter. We were really, really happy with the results" on Dream With Me.

Aaron said many metal fans will think she "copped out on this record," but she's confident she will gain more mainstream fans. Certainly, radio programmers have been more receptive. In the first week of its release in the last week of February, the record was added to more radio playlists than any other record in Canada.

ON MORE pop-oriented songs such as Only Human, she sings with previously hidden drama and restraint. The material has finally allowed her to display her most obvious asset - her powerful singing voice.

"I didn't do as much screaming . . . on this record," she said. "I wanted to show people Lee Aaron can sing without a growl in her voice at all because a lot of people don't know I can do that. I don't think I have to be singing at the top of my range to be dynamic."

And like another rock siren, Pat Benatar, Aaron is known as much for her knockout looks as for her punchy songs.

She realizes the visuals have helped, but it's often been difficult for people to remember that audio is the first priority.

"We're just a rock 'n' roll band with a female front person," she said. "Some people just try to blow it out of proportion. But there is a lot of sexual energy in rock 'n' roll and you can't take that away."

© The Windsor Star