tremble clef

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shara Nelson, "Uptight (Uno Perfecto Mix)" (1994)

Oh, to be a singer with a big voice but supposedly not much else deemed ready for prime time. You toil for years doing backing vocals for talents lesser than yourself. You get a credit on the inner sleeve, the standard pittance, and, hey, crafts services on the day of the recording. If you're lucky, you might eventually get a credit on the front of the record itself, even if it was only after many hours of exhausting debate (partly with yourself) about whether a "featuring" is better than a "presents" which might trump an "and." In the midst of that debate, you kinda forgot to ensure that the group itself didn't have a name which wasn't anonymous and banal. Ah, well.

But one day, you get really lucky: your vocals are such a feature of the song that you more or less become considered part of the group. On top of it all, your vocals are on two tracks that -- unbeknownst to you at the time, but you had your suspicions -- are so mindbendingly great that phrases like "epochal" get tossed around.

This is your time, then. Seize the opportunity and go solo. Although you hope it does, your star may never get brighter. People are falling over themselves to write for you -- P. M. Dawn, those guys out of Saint Etienne -- so it's almost easy to come up with a solo album that people receive warmly. They murmur "new Aretha Franklin," give you award nominations. (M People -- M People! -- win.) The record company throws its weight behind you, getting your already-good, neo-Motown singles further snazzed up by the likes of Steve Osborne. He's almost Paul Oakenfold, you know.

But then the second record doesn't do much, despite -- or maybe because -- it hews quite closely to the formula of the first. The speed at which the album unfairly hits the bargain bins is a little alarming. The record deal runs out. So you go back to doing session work. Every now and then another song hits enough for your name to resurface, but it's back to being a "featured voice." Perhaps the merry-go-round will start up again, or perhaps, even better, this time it will be less of a go-round than a go-up. You still have your voice, so you wait.


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