As befits a popstar who forgot to wear pants in her last video (for the Beyonce-esque banger Do It Like That) Ricki-Lee was bottomless when the Star Observer caught up with her.

Thankfully, we were speaking over the phone while the singer was in bed, lest she break any public decency laws.

We last spoke to Ricki-Lee almost a year ago (on her 26th birthday to be exact), when she was on the promo trail for her make-or-break comeback single, Raining Diamonds.

That song and its pants-free follow-up both went platinum, and next week the Australian Idol alumnus will try for the one thing that’s eluded her thus far: a hit album.

Luckily, her third long player Fear & Freedom is a corker – a short, sharp burst of energy, made up of 10 world-class dance-pop tracks.

“I feel like I’ve been talking about this album for so long – I just want to get it out there now. As an Australian artist, I feel proud that I’m pushing the limits and stepping outside of safe pop. It’s a bit different, it’s a bit progressive … I know I’m gushing a bit,” she, well, gushed.

‘Progressive’ is debatable – the prevailing dance-pop sound of the album fits snugly into radio playlists dominated by the euphoric dancefloor breakdowns of David Guetta, Calvin Harris and RedOne.

What does set Fear & Freedom apart is the lyrical depth and introspection of many of the songs – the singer has wedded her straightforward pop to lyrics that clearly deal with the ups and downs of the past few years of her life.

“The album does have a lot of uplifting and inspiring messages on it, which can sometimes come across quite cheesy, but it’s not – it’s real, it’s honest and it’s my life. A lot of the album is about rising above everything that’s holding you back in your life, finding freedom and overcoming fear,” she said.

Which leads us to the album’s title. Ricki-Lee’s physical and emotional makeover of recent times has been well documented: first, a moderately successful ex-Idol contestant; then a singer without a label, biding her time in commercial radio; and now, a svelte star about to release her first major label album.

It’s been a trying journey from fear to freedom.

“Some of the earliest emails I had with my label [EMI], they were telling me they wanted me to be free and fearless; to let go and challenge myself. ‘Be different, be controversial, be fearless.’

Good advice for a popstar – after all, you don’t see Lady Gaga or Madonna second guessing themselves.

And seven years after her debut, Ricki-Lee’s finally got the material to contend with pop’s global heavy hitters.

“So many people write three or four good songs, and the rest are shit. I can admit that in the past I released albums with only a few good songs or possible hits on them.

This time around, I wanted to make the sort of album where it sounds like every song could be a hit,” she said.

INFO: Fear & Freedom (EMI) out August 17. For Ricki-Lee instore and tour dates visit www.ricki-lee.com

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