Probably the most powerful number on Sheryl Crow's debut album is "What I Can Do for You," a song about sexual harassment. Crow sings her seductive spiel from the point of view of the harasser, a bold gender switch that has confused some listeners and produced nervous recognition in others.
"I've had a lot of women think it was a lesbian song, but most men have gotten it," she says, laughing.
Crow, 31, is no stranger to sexism: She's a woman in the music industry, after all.
"When I was here in town a lot doing sessions," the St. Louis native says, "there wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't come on to in some sort of sexual way. . . . Everywhere you look, there are people who are trying to make it at the mercy of somebody who's in a power position."
Victimizers might feel less inclined to mess with Crow after hearing the storytelling strength and street smarts in her A&M release "Tuesday Night Music Club," one of the finest singer-songwriter debuts of the year.
The album is surprisingly rich, rough around the edges and startlingly eccentric--at least given the expectations you might bring to a musician who previously backed up the likes of Michael Jackson, Don Henley and Sting and whose songs have been recorded by Wynonna Judd and Eric Clapton.
Crow is anything but eager to tout her resume (although she enjoys a good laugh recalling her two-year tour as Jackson's duet partner, which led to her being splashed across the cover of the National Enquirer as the alleged paid bearer of his love child).
"I think for the longest time it was very difficult for anybody to listen to my stuff and not think, 'Well, she sings backup with Michael, into the trash can,' or 'She's a backup singer, she's a chameleon.' It certainly has not helped me in the credibility area. I wouldn't trade my experiences, but there's something to be said for being the absolute unknown kid, like a PJ Harvey or somebody who just kind of appears on the face of the earth. I've been around, and I'm recognizable, but that doesn't make me exempt from having something to say."