by Kandie Delley
Seated near the entrance of the Westin Hotel ballroom, off of Coit Rd and I-75 in Dallas, I began preparing notes for the next performance. While soaking in the surroundings and ambiance of the scene, I watched guests interact at the buffet. Some were seated at round tables draped in white linen, decorated with tea candles placed on circular mirrors.
Slowly the atmosphere changed from lively conversations to a soft buzz and then silence as the lights dimmed. The EPA commenced. On the media screen, Ms. Headley appeared and we watched her journey to stardom, including the recording process and interviews for her debut CD. In one clip, she’d indicated that thirteen years ago while strolling along the shores of Trinidad, thinking she’d be a teacher or a doctor, she didn’t think she’d be where she was now.
Growing up as the daughter of pastors at the Barataria Church of God in Trinidad, Heather competed in performing arts contests from the age of two. At four, she began playing concert piano. Her musical style influences derive from calypso, soka, and reggae. After her move to the states, she graduated from Chicago’s Northwestern University.
In 1997 she portrayed the role of Nala in “The Lion King” and then asked by Disney to audition for a new musical, Aida, the classic story of a Nubian princess, written by Elton John and Tim Rice. A year later she won a Tony.
Surely, Ms. Headley was poised for success in her transition to pursue a solo music career with RCA Records, the home for such artists as Christina Aguilera, The Calling, Dave Matthews Band and David Gray.
Normally, I’m a skeptic; dubbed a music critic in my own right, especially when it comes to today’s R&B/Pop styles. I’ve heard a lot of decent talent but success and longevity in a music career derive from so much more. An artist should exude stage presence, experienced performance, and TALENT. All of which seem to ooze from Heather Headley.
Not only were my expectations met, they were exceeded. With introductions made by Ron Geslin, Head of Promotions, for RCA Records, charm, light humor, grace and sophistication preceded her as she stepped into view. The spotlight seemed to caress her in familiarity.
Her wisdom and experience from the stage assisted in the delivery of her songs while engaging the audience with every movement, word and note keyed. She began her performance with ‘Sistagirl’ a song she co-wrote; which speaks on teenage girls and the pressure of womanhood via pre-marital intimacies. A song that is conclusive in its message of abstinence. In a brief intermission during the set, Ms. Headley spoke out on her disbelief and feelings towards the truth about teenage pregnancies. A round of applause in agreement met her halfway.
The next song entitled, “I Wish I Wasn’t” was produced by the highly acclaimed Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, whose list of clients include Janet Jackson, Karyn White, and Whitney Houston. Ms. Headley lifted the mood by interacting with the audience and informing the men that her album wasn’t all about heartbreak and men bashing. Just as she got the support of her male audience she quickly held up two fingers to indicate how many good men she’d met in humorous gesture, which captured laughs and merriment.
Immediately after, we were drawn into another song of relationships, “Why” in which Ms. Headley’s vocal range became more prevalent. The life and energy of this acapella performance enhanced by the incandescent artistry of pianist Herman Jackson, released any emotional dams a person would have. Ms. Headley’s CD is reminiscent of classical R&B laced with Caribbean undertones. Her depiction of love and relationships rival the obscenities and lewd disbursement of some of today’s R&B.
Other producers on her CD include Dallas Austin (TLC, Toni Braxton), Shep Crawford (Deborah Cox,). Not many new artists can say they have worked with these top producers even after their sophomore attempt, however, the eclectic mix of Ms. Headley’s CD “This Is Who I Am’ encompasses such talent and ingenuity.
“Heather is an exceptional artist with a beautiful voice… working with her was truly an enlightening experience,” countered with Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam’s statement indicating Heather’s amazing voice.
A standing ovation lifted in waves, which brought the onset for the song “4 Words from Heartbreak”. Her humility had her thanking the audience when silently I was thankful for a true, defining musical performance. In closing, Ms. Headley commented on how she liked the studio but she preferred live performances and feeling the energy from the crowd. She also indicated that she couldn’t wait to begin touring.
While fans lined against a wall waiting patiently to take their photo with this new (but familiar) breed of talent a rough cut for her video “He Is”, celebrating the relationship of a good man, blazed onscreen. If I sound “Sold Out” for Heather Headley, that would be considered an understatement. If you’re looking for quality lyrics and music from an amazing source of talent then you need to head out to your local music stores 10/08/02 and pick up “This Is Who I Am”.
Article by Kandie Delley
Additional information and quotes received by Heather Headley’s publicity department at RCA Records.