Sunday, January 1, 2012

THE FIRST TIME: PART FOURTEEN

"SONGS IN A MINOR" - ALICIA KEYS (2001)


She was born Alicia Cook in New York City in 1981. She was an only child raised by her mother after her father left the family when she was two. At the age of seven, Alicia began playing the piano and first learned to play classical music. She was enrolled in The Professional Performing Arts School at the age of twelve.

After she graduated at sixteen, she met Jeff Robinson who would become her manager. He introduced Alicia to Peter Edge, who worked in A&R and together they worked in developing a showcase for her as well as demo tracks. This lead to her getting signed to Columbia Records in 1997. She managed to get a song she wrote on the soundtrack for the film, "Men In Black", however, Alicia was not happy at the label due to their indecision on what musical direction she should take.

Clive Davis, who was the head of Arista Records, was very impressed by Alicia and signed her to the label but it was disbanded shortly after. He started his own label, J Records and she followed him there. Jeff Robinson came up with the stage name, "Keys" from a dream he had and Alicia felt it was a perfect fit.

In 2001, Alicia Keys released her first album, "Songs In A Minor" and it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart due to the hot lead single, "Fallin'" which spent six weeks at number one on the U.S. pop chart. The next single, "A Woman's Worth" also reached the top ten and the album would go on to sell over twelve million copies around the globe and win Ms Keys five Grammy Awards including Best New Artist and Song Of The Year.

She released her next album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys" in 2003 and it also debuted at number one on the album chart. There were four smash singles, "You Don't Know My Name", "If I Ain't Got You", "Diary" and "Karma" and the album would sell over eight million copies worldwide and win her three additional Grammy Awards. She also teamed up with Usher for the song, "My Boo"" off his album, "Confessions". It topped both the pop and r&b charts in 2004.

"As I Am" was her third release to debut at the top of the album charts in 2007 and the first single, "No One" went to number one on the pop and r&b charts. Three other hit singles followed as well as two more Grammy Awards and ultimately selling six million albums.

Although her fourth album, "The Element Of Freedom"  in 2009 only entered the album chart at number two in the U.S. but it did debut at number one in Britain, her first there. The album received mixed reviews but the four singles did relatively well and sold four million albums worldwide. A song from the album, "Empire State Of Mind (Part Two) Broken Down" was an answer song to the Jay-Z number one hit, "Empire State Of Mind" which she contributed her vocals.

To date, Alicia Keys has sold over thirty million albums and twenty-five million singles across the globe. She released a tenth anniversary edition this year of her debut album that featured outtakes as well as alternative and live versions of many tracks. Alicia has made several appearances as an actress in television ("The Cosby Show", "Charmed") and film ("Smokin' Aces", "The Secret Life Of Bees"). She has an new album due sometime in 2012.

Alicia married hip-hop artist, Swizz Beatz in 2010 and she gave birth to their son, Egypt later that year.

This is Alicia Keys's first hit single:

"Fallin'" - Alicia Keys (2001)

This is a music video made from her live performance of "Unbreakable", one of my favorite songs from her 2005 MTV "Unplugged" album:



"BANANARAMA" - BANANARAMA (1984)


Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin were childhood friends in London and met Siobhan Fahey in 1979 while attending college. They dressed alike in a punk-rock look that was popular at the time and performed together doing backing vocals for many punk bands in clubs. The girls were living in a rehearsal hall that was used by former Sex Pistols members, Steve Jones and Paul Look, who helped them record their first demo. It was a cover of The Black Blood song, "Aie a Mwana" and Demon Records heard the track, signed them to the label and they became Bananarama. The song was only a minor hit but the popular British fashion magazine, The Face did an article on the rising band.

Terry Hall, a former member of the SKA group, The Specials saw the magazine and approached Bananarama to provide backing vocals on a song with his new band, Fun Boy Three. "T'aint What You Do (It's The Way You Do It)" hit the top five in the U.K. in 1982 and Fun Boy Three returned the favor by doing background on the Bananarama song, "Really Saying Something", a remake of the 1964 Motown song by The Velvelettes, later that year. The song was the first single off of their debut album, "Deep Sea Skiving" on a new label, London Records and became their first top five hit in Britain. Bananarama had two more top five UK hits off of the album, "Shy Boy" and "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" (another cover of a 1969 hit by the group, Steam) and they were now major act. Bananarama had some buzz in the U.S. but none of the songs made it in to the top forty.

Their next release in 1984 was the self-titled album which featured the song, "Robert DeNiro's Waiting" that made it to number two on the British pop charts however it only made it to number ninety-five in America.  The song, "Cruel Summer" (which had been a top-ten hit in Britain the year before) was used in the film, "The Karate Kid", released as the next single and became Bananarama's first U.S.hit, peaking at number nine on the pop chart.

"True Confessions" was released in 1986 which first teamed Bananarama with hot producers, Stock Aitken Waterman who slightly modified their music. Although the group still continued to sing only in unison but the producers introduced a more dance-oriented sound on two tracks, which is what they were well-known for. This lead to their biggest commercial hit, "Venus", a cover of the Shocking Blue 1970 hit, that went to number one in six countries, including the U.S. Another change for Bananarama was their image as they went from wearing boyish, baggy overalls to a sexy, glamorized style in the music video for "Venus".

The follow-up album, "Wow!" in 1987, which was completely produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, further explored a dancy, Europop sound. There were three hit singles including, "I Heard A Rumour" which went to number four in the U.S. By the release of the third single, Siobhan Fahey had married Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics and decided to leave Bananarama due to her growing unhappiness of the musical direction the group was taking. Bananarama managed to continue on by hiring Jacquie O'Sullivan as a replacement. The group released a fourth single from "Wow!", "I Want You Back" that was re-recorded with vocals by O'Sullivan and made it to the top-five in the U.K.

The new line-up recorded an album, "Pop Life" in 1991 but it was not very successful and O' Sullivan left Bananarama the following year. Woodward and Dallin decided to continue Bananarama as a duo and they have recorded five albums since 1993 with the biggest success being "Drama" in 2005. It was their first release in fourteen years and brought the group back to the top-twenty in the UK with, "Move In My Direction" as well as the U.S with a remix of the song. "Look On The Floor" that reached number two on the dance charts.

Bananarama have sold over forty million records worldwide and are in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the all-female musical group with the most chart entries. They still tour and are currently in the studio working on a new CD.

Keren Woodward has never married but is currently involved in a long-term partnership with Andrew Ridgely, formerly of an another 80's pop group, Wham and has a son, Thomas from a previous relationship. Sara Dallin has also never married but she has a daughter, Alice from her past relationship with Bassey Walker who was a back-up dancer for Bananarama.

After she left Bananarama, Siobhan Fahey formed the group, Shakespeare's Sister with American singer/songwriter, Marcella Detroit in 1988. The duo recorded three albums with the song, "Stay" being their biggest hit in 1992 but they disbanded in 1996. Fahey continues to make music as a solo artist.  Her marriage to Dave Stewart ended in 1996 and they had two sons, Sam and Django who are both musicians.

Here is Bananarama's first hit in America:

"Cruel Summer" - Bananarama (1984)

This is the music video for one of their biggest hits, "Venus":



"LISTEN LIKE THIEVES' - INXS (1985)


Brothers, Andrew (keyboards), Jon (drums) and Tim (lead guitar) Farriss formed a rock band in 1977 while in high school in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia called The Farriss Brothers. The band also consisted of Garry Beers on bass, Kirk Pengilly on guitar and sax and Michael Hutchence as the lead vocalist. They played around in various clubs but one night, after a performance, Tim was approached by Gary Morris. He was the manager of a successful Australian band, Midnight Oil and offered The Farriss Brothers the opportunity to open for the band. Morris came up with a new name for the group, INXS (pronounced in-excess) which was inspired by the names of other popular bands of the day like XTC and IXL.

Morris had wanted to market INXS as a Christian band but after passing on that idea, the group hired Chris Murphy as their manager. Murphy quickly got INXS a five record deal with an indie label, Deluxe Records which was run by a former manager of the heavy-metal Australian band, AC/DC.

The self-titled debut album was released in 1980 which featured a new wave/SKA sound with a single, "Just Keep Walking" making it into the Australian top-forty. INXS toured heavily around Australia before the release of their second album, "Underneath The Colours" in 1981.  This album was well-received in their country and made it to number fifteen on the charts. Murphy felt that their record label would not be able to help take the band to the next level and approached RCA Records, which distributed Deluxe, to take INXS worldwide.

The band worked with Mark Opitz on a few tracks with them getting positive response including the song "The One Thing".  However, INXS was not convinced that Opitz was the man to produce their entire next album and searched around for producers in the U.S. and Britain but the people they wanted were unavailable. They went with Opitz, who had produced AC/DC, and the album, "Shabooh Shoobah" was released in 1982. The album not only went top five in Australia but it finally got the band noticed across the world with it peaking at number forty-six in America with the single, "The One Thing" making it into the top forty. INXS toured the U.S. and opened for many of the hot acts of the time including Hall & Oates, The Stray Cats, Adam & The Ants and The Go-Go's.

Nile Rodgers, of the disco group, Chic, approached INXS to work together and he produced the song, "Original Sin". It would go on to be a huge hit in many countries in 1984 with the notable exception of the U.K. and the U.S. Their fourth album, "The Swing", which was also produced with Nick Launay, would go on to sell over two million copies. INXS would go out on a world tour to support the album but now they were the headliner.

INXS went with producer, Chris Thomas (Pink Floyd, Elton John, The Pretenders) for their follow-up album and he heavily pressured the band to push themselves in order for them to have a breakthrough record. In 1985, "Listen Like Thieves"  took the band to the next level as it was a critical and commercial hit as INXS moved from new wave to a classic rock sound. The first single, "What You Need", which was the last track they recorded, went to number five in the U.S. The band toured the world extensively and became well-known as a great live act.

After this taste of success, INXS returned to Thomas to produce the next album and knew that they wanted an album that was full of potential singles. After it was completed, however, their record label hated the album. They believed there was no way they could get it played on rock radio as it was too groove oriented and begged the band to go back in to the studio to try again. "Kick" was released anyway in 1987 and it would actually become their most popular and successful album. There were four top ten singles in the U.S. alone with "Need You Tonight" reaching number one. "Kick" would sell over six million copies and Thomas would produce the next album as well with "X" in 1990, producing two top-ten singles, "Suicide Blonde" and "Disappear".

INXS would go on to release three more moderately successful albums before on November 22, 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney hotel room. It was determined that he had committed suicide due to depression and drug addiction.

INXS did not perform for almost a year after Hutchence's death and then used a variety of guest vocalists. Jon Stevens, of the Australian band, Noiseworks, was offered the lead vocalist position in 2000 which he accepted but then decided to pursue a solo career and they never recorded an album together.

In 2005, INXS announced that they were involved in a reality show contest, "Rock Star: INXS" in which the winner would become the new lead singer of the band. J.D. Fortune, of Nova Scotia, Canada, won the competition. They recorded an album, "Switch", then went on a successful world tour. The band's latest release was "Original Sin" in 2010 that featured classic INXS songs that were re-imagined with assorted artists such as Rob Thomas, John Meyer, Tricky and Nikka Costa. In 2011, INXS officially replaced Fortune with Irish singer/songwriter Ciaran Gribbin who will tour with the band in the future.

INXS has sold more than thirty million records to date.

This is the first big hit for INXS in the U.S.:

"What You Need" - INXS (1985)

This is the video for "Need You Tonight" which won Video Of The Year at the 1988 MTV Music Video Awards:

NEW SOUNDS

CAMILA CABELLO After leaving one of the hottest girl-groups out right now, Fifth Harmony last December, Camila Cabello has wasted no t...