“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.” This was the song from The Lion King that Toronto singer/songwriter Lexi Tellings was singing while getting a makeover in an Oakville shopping mall the day she was first “discovered.”
Like little Simba, tiny Tellings, then just nine years old, couldn’t wait for bigger and better things — for the pop-princess crown to be passed her way. With the release of her newest single, “Incredibly Sexi,” that tiara might be within her reach. But also like Simba, Tellings quickly learned that nothing in life is given or granted. She’d have to work for it.
And work she did: from six years of operatic voice training, to an ill-fated high-school garage band, to her emergence into the wild world of pop, with the guidance of Micah Barnes (of The Nylons).
These days, Tellings has become very recognizable on Toronto’s Church Street, where she is often mistaken for a drag queen. Polishing up her stage act the first Sunday of every month with two hot male dancers at gay bar Woody’s will do that for a girl.
“People still think, from time to time, that I am a drag queen,” she says with a laugh. “The last time I was [at Woody’s] someone came to the dressing room and was like, 'You’re Lexi Tellings! You’re the new queen.’”
Since that first performance, in chunky wedged shoes to help control her “nervous ankles,” Tellings, now 25, has grown more confident. As well as her monthly show at Woody’s, she also performs at MoJo Lounge and Fly nightclub and has just released her new single, and video for “Incredibly Sexi.” It’s been a unique learning experience, with many real drag queens, including Georgie Girl and Donnarama, taking her under their wigged wings.
“[Donnarama] was the first queen that I befriended,” she says. “She started teaching me little tricks. Like how to put my false eyelashes on without getting glue all over my face.”
Having mastered her style, she’s now set to remaster her sound. “Incredibly Sexi” is a much more dance-oriented song than her past endeavours: “Buy Me a Drink,” “Just in Case,” “Nirvana” and “Aphrodisia.” Featuring a bouncy backbeat from a Finnish beat maker discovered by her producer, Dmitri James, and vocals polished by Gavin Bradley, the entire production was remixed once again for its current release by Toronto producer Assaf. Some may recognize and appreciate the classic buildups and tech-tweaking dance breaks that underscore the piece.
“It’s about a girl whose boyfriend isn’t paying enough attention to her,” Tellings says. Written when she was in a doomed relationship, it’s something she knows all too well. “She’s sending him messages, but he’s just ignoring them. If you’ve got that inner confidence and you’re letting that shine through and somebody’s not appreciating you, you don’t need that person. Move on.”
Toronto DJ Craig Dominic, who spins regularly at Crews & Tangos and is known for his extensive pop-diva collection, likens Tellings’s new song and sound to The Saturdays, Havana Brown or Jessica Sanchez.
“I would play this song in the club,” he says. “It's very polished and well produced. It’s the same kind of backbeat you'd hear on most of the pop music of the last few years. I could see it on Britney's last album [Femme Fatale], which is a compliment.”
“Her vocals remind me of Victoria Duffield,” adds DJ Sumation, who spins regularly at College Night at Church and Sodom at Club120. “It’s great for radio play. If there was a remix with a faster tempo and heavier beats, it would be a good club track.”
These comparisons raise a question: is the pop scene already overrun with pretty blonde pop stars searching for the elusive crown?
“What? I’m the first, aren’t I?” Lexi says, laughing. “I try not to think about that aspect [of the business]. I stay in my little bubble and just keep doing everything I need to do to achieve pop-star status. It’s like a racehorse. You gotta keep your blinders on and keep going forward. I’ve got a hunger for it.”