Rolling Stone gives there 2 cents on who should be third and final judge selected to join Keith Urban and JLo for the next season of American Idol. I have to say that their picks aren’t half bad, but if I were a betting gurl, my money would be on Idol Adam Lambert.
I am just in love with Janelle Monae. One of the most creative artists out there! Her current song Dance Apocalyptic with its short-film video proves just that.
If you haven’t already checked out the song and video, click onto the YouTube link below. I’ve also got the video treatment attached so you can follow along and see if you can find any script changes. Hehehe.
A Short Film Written By Chuck Lightning
(with some additional funky sunshine by director Wendy Morgan)
Dance Apocalyptic Emotion Picture Treatment
We open on a polished luxury automobile pulling into the driveway of a prim and proper suburban home. We see on the back of the vehicle an insignia reading: HEART-HAT HEAVEN. Out the car emerges Ms. Clark, dressed somewhat like an Avon lady—she is middle aged, prim and proper. Ms. Clark very carefully pulls a large covered birdcage out of the back of the car and hurries up to the door.
The door slowly opens and our eyes settle on a very striking image. Smiling squarely at Ms. Clark is JANELLE MONÁE, dressed as LISA CAGE. (Throughout this dream-like video, JANELLE MONÁE plays several characters, including herself as a nationwide performing sensation.)
Lisa Cage’s hair is pressed straight, and her makeup and fashionable middle-class wardrobe is impeccable. But there is one thing strikingly different about her otherwise stately appearance: in place of a nice colorful summer hat she wears a HEART-HAT, a large wicker birdcage on her head, complete with small birds that chirp, coo and flick back and forth in front of her big brown eyes. Lisa does not seem to notice the birds, or the surreal presence of the cage perched over her head and shoulders (see the title page photo). If anything, it seems that the birds and the cage are making her summer day more pleasant.
We cut from Ms. Clark’s frontal view of Lisa Cage to a POV shot of Ms. Clark as seen by Lisa. The birds twitter and flap so close to Lisa’s eyes, the image we see is unnerving and disorienting. But when we cut back to a non POV shot of Lisa we find that she is the picture of poise, as if she’s used to living her entire life with flapping wings and chirping birds inches away from her face.
With a sweet smile, Lisa invites Ms. Clark to come sit in the living room.
Ms. Clark bustles in, saying, “Mrs. Cage, the model you’ve been looking for has finally arrived! Can you believe it? Just got in! And I thought it’d bring it right over because it’s the hottest thing in town!”
Lisa answers, “Oh how exciting, please have a seat? Would you like some coffee?”
The birds in Lisa’s heart-hat and the still covered cage chirp and chatter pleasantly, filling the house with the sounds of the aviary. Lisa Cage rushes into the kitchen to prepare the coffee as Ms. Clark impatiently sits waiting to show her wares.
Lisa Cage returns with the coffee and the second she sits down, Ms. Clark quickly and dramatically unveils the birdcage.
“Here you have it Mrs. Cage, the store’s new crown jewel—the Golden Heart-Hat, the grandest Heart-Hat ever made, just like you ordered.”
Lisa Cage gasps at the heart-hat’s beauty, saying, “This is it? The one I wanted?” Ms. Clark nods and says,”Yep, isn’t it gorgeous? All the way from Paris. The only one
we’ve gotten all season. I wish I could afford it myself.” Lisa Cage looks back over at Ms. Clark, who is elegantly dressed but without a heart-hat, and titters, “I don’t know…I’d have to take out a huge loan just to afford it…” Ms. Clark shrugs and says, “Well, a lot of people are doing that nowadays.”
Lisa frowns and says, “But it looks so different than that picture. That’s real gold?” Ms. Clark is clearly insulted and snips, “You know it is. As real as King Tut’s tomb.” Lisa shakes her head. “I don’t know. Well, I’ll have to ask Henry. He’s been wanting a new car. And the kids need new heart-hats of their own.” Ms. Clark leans forward and looks deep into her eyes, saying. “This is how you move up in the world. Just remember when you talk to Henry or your friends or your banker or anybody else, just tell them that in this day and age, this isn’t a purchase…it’s an investment…”
(During this opening sequence, we hear another instrumental song from The Electric Lady playing in the house, possibly an instrumental version of “Look Into My Eyes.”)
Here we take a pause and perhaps CUT TO daydream, a Hitchcockian title sequence of Lisa Cage driving a luxury automobile wearing the GOLDEN EAGLE Heart Hat with the birds in the Heart-hat flitting back and forth absurdly in front of her eyes. Lisa Cage smiles sweetly, as if she doesn’t notice the birds at all…The Heart-Hat feels just like heaven…
We CUT TO a television performance, where an all-girl rock band is standing with their guitars at the ready.
We see Janelle Monáe stepping onto the stage and waving as “And now the award- winning sensation…The Electric Lady… Janelle Monáe!!” rings through the air. The voice booms: “Here to sing the song burning up the charts ‘Dance Apocalyptic!’”
THE SONG DANCE APOCALYPTIC BEGINS…
Janelle smiles and shimmies across the stage like James Brown having a heart attack and sings the first frantic lines of the song, “Going crazy, the hitmen always find you/Do that dance, smoking in the girls room/Kiss in France, it’s over like a comic book exploding in a bathroom stall…”
The spinning girls in the band are all dressed in white, Clockwork Orange style…
While on risers on either side of the stage are the W.O.W. Girls (the Women of Wondaland) acting like pin-up funkateers, a funky army of blues women in leather rockabilly jackets and striped swimsuits, acting a fool, singing background vocals, stomping and carrying on…
And at the center of it all is Janelle Monáe, their general, the Queen of madness with her eyes bulging out of her head…
We CUT TO a shot of Janelle Monáe’s performance being broadcast on a television set. We pan over from the television to see that we are back in the Cage family room, and in this room, on the couch across from the TV, are two young children with heart-hat’s on their heads: Dexter Cage (age 10) and Becky Cage (age 7).
When Janelle sings, “But if life just comes to break you…Keep dancing to the end— you gotta fight and breakout,” Dexter changes the channel, to a weather channel, frowning. On the channel is Janelle Monáe dressed as WEATHER JANE, a concerned weather woman with apocalyptic storms and fires flickering on the satellite map behind her. As she continues to sing the lines, we see a Flashing news ticker on the bottom of the screen: STORMS!! RAGING ZOMBIES!! STORMS!!
We cut back to Dexter, who laughs. Becky glares at him. She was clearly enjoying watching Janelle Monáe’s live performance. She grabs the remote control and turns back to the performance just as we reach the chorus: “Dance! Dance! Bang! Bang! Don’t stop! Chalang-alang-alang”… …” Dexter lunges at Becky and they begin bickering and fighting over the remote control. We pan over to see the front door of the house open: it is Lisa Cage, with groceries in each arm. She glares at her son Dexter and says, “It’s her day today, Dexter, you know that. Now you can watch something after dinner if you eat all your peas.”
We pan over and see William Cage, the patriarch of the family, engrossed in the newspaper at the kitchen table. We ZOOM IN on the newspaper in his hand, which reads: ANDROIDS WANT YOUR JOB! Mr. Cage’s heart-hat is ornate—the hat of a professional, with several colorful chattering birds. He pounds his fist and says, “If these damn droids think they can come in here and take my job without a lawsuit, they got another thing coming. I’ve been working all my life for this…” He waves his arm to indicate the house, the furniture, the TV, their entire lives. Lisa sets the groceries on the counter and sighs, saying, “I know, baby, I know.”
She looks across the street at the new car in the driveway of their neighborly rivals, The Trammp family—a white, All-American family that lives next door. Lisa frowns, “Did the Trammps get a new car?” William looks around, then frowns, saying, “Probably. Bastard. He owns Heart-Hat Heaven, the finest place in town, what do you expect?”
Lisa spins and sees a zombie couple—a man and his wife, standing in a pose eerily reminiscent of the painting American Gothic—on the front yard. Lisa just shakes her head and begins chopping an onion. Tentatively, she looks over her shoulder again to see that the zombie couple is gone.
Lisa shrugs, then sings, “You gotta laugh at the zombie in the front yard” and then looks back over to the family room where Dexter and Becky are now jumping up and down and dancing wildly to the second verse of the song: “Take a bath but nothing gets the funk off/ You’re on TV rocking and a-rolling cause the dead just love the rock n’ roll…”
We jump back into the frantic footage on the TV set where Janelle is the crazed pied piper, kicking the jam higher and higher.
After the second chorus, we CUT TO a slightly tense family dinner scene. William and Dexter have the doors to their heart-hats open, so they are shoveling in food and enjoying their meals. Meanwhile, Lisa and her daughter Becky are struggling to eat because their heart-hats are closed. Lisa is turning her fork sideways and eating her food one green bean at a time. But Becky is turning her fork different angles, but clearly unable to eat at all.
Becky throws her fork down, in frustration. Becky looks over at her brother to see that he is grinning at her and shoving food into his mouth, with his heart-hat door open. Becky says, “Mom, can I open my door?” Lisa smiles back at her, and shakes her head in disbelief, saying, “Now Becky, you know good girls don’t open their doors while they eat. It isn’t civilized. We’re Bird-people, remember? And you’re a proper young lady. Sit up. Turn your fork sideways. The food tastes better, mommy promises, okay?”
Becky stands and says, “Then I’m not hungry!” and then runs upstairs. Her brother Dexter laughs. Lisa frowns and snaps at him: “Dexter, one more word from you and you’ll eat nothing but spinach and butter for three weeks!” Dexter looks down, scowling. Lisa looks back at the stairs where her daughter has disappeared, clearly concerned.
As we move into the psychedelic call and response section of the song, we see the sun going down, the world and the neighborhood getting dark. We CUT TO the inside of the Cage home where Lisa Cage is standing in her bathrobe, still wearing her heart-hat. A breaking news report is on the screen and in it a bunch of young rockabilly kids are ripping off their heart-hats and throwing them in a bonfire. We see a flash of WEATHER JANE holding a microphone, now acting as a brave field reporter. She shakes her head and says, “These kids say it’s the end of the world, and they have nothing to lose. Young bird-people everywhere are literally ripping off their heart-hats and dancing in the street.” Behind her two teenyboppers are dancing on the hood of a police car.
Disgusted, Lisa changes the channel only to find Janelle Monáe performing again, a madwoman whispering the third verse into a microphone, like a frantic preacher on her knees.
After watching the third verse and the chorus, Lisa gets disgusted and changes the channel to GIRL TALK, a nighttime talk show. GLORIA GIRL, the host, is asking Janelle questions about her decision to stop wearing a heart-hat. Janelle is dressed in her tuxedo, with her hair in a Monáe. Gloria Girl says, “So you’re from South Sweet Falls, but about three years ago you stopped wearing a heart-hat. Could you talk about that?”
Janelle says, “Yes, Yes, Well, I’m a bird-person. In fact, some folks call me Little Wing. But I don’t know…I believe it’s important to live every day like your last…and one day I realized that if you take the dash from between the words heart-hat, it clearly becomes two new words: HEAR THAT. So I like to say I began to hear a different frequency and live my life a different way.”
The crowd applauds.
Jane continues: “I truly believe the word heart-hat is the problem. It’s so pretty and nice, and it makes it seem okay. I couldn’t wait when I was a little girl to grow up and wear one. Then I realized it’s really just a cage. A cage with birds in it. That’s all it is. Heart-Hats have been around for hundreds of years, but I have so many questions: For one, why does the government only require some people to wear them? I don’t get it. It used to be just black people– we were the original bird people– whether rich or poor. Now it’s everybody born in certain districts, who have been taught to believe that the heart-hat is the ultimate luxury item, the thing that makes life worth living. It’s been proven that heart-hats cause study problems, occupational hazards, traffic accidents, chronic pain of all kinds, injuries– even lost eyes— from these crazy hungry birds and yet people keep talking about beauty, tradition and what’s proper and I just don’t get it. I know bird-women who have never kissed their husbands, and yet they have three kids. They wouldn’t dare take their hats off, even when they go to bed.”
Lisa Cage frowns at the television, turns it off. As Lisa heads upstairs, we head into a quiet gospel rockabilly section of the song, and an acoustic guitar strums while Janelle ad-libs soulfully.
Lisa looks into the master bedroom to see that her husband William is softly snoring in his pajamas, lying on his back—and still wearing his heart-hat. She goes into the bathroom, takes off her robe to reveal the sleek, sexy black nightgown underneath. She smiles at her sexy figure, spins and smiles, saying, “Uh, uh, uh, still got it, girl, still got it.”
We CUT TO Becky, who is crying, and looking at herself in the bathroom mirror down the hall. The door to her heart-hat is open, and the birds are gone. As we watch, she begins to flail her arms and struggle with the hat, bash at it, pull and yank and break it violently, doing everything she can to free her head and shoulders…
We cut back down the hall where Lisa is standing in front of their Bird Altar, a place where their birds rest at night. She takes the birds from her hat and gently places them inside the bird altar. “Bye Zora, Bye Octavia, Bye Billie.” Then she stands, and sighs, as if a big weight has been lifted from her shoulders. Her heart-hat is finally empty.
Suddenly, she hears a crash: something violent down the hall. She puts on her bathrobe and slowly moves down the hall to the bathroom to find: the bathroom
torn apart, and in the midst of everything: Becky’s broken heart-hat. But the room is empty. Lisa touches her chest, in shock. She heads down the hall to Becky’s room and opens the door.
Becky is standing there, next to the open window, like a young bird about to take flight. The moonlight lights her face, and she looks over and smiles. We don’t see Lisa’s response: we pan back out of the room over Lisa’s shoulder, slowly, and the last thing we see is the closing bedroom door.
EXCERPT from my FAME column interview with Barbara Streisand’s sister ROSLYN KIND:
Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times once wrote, “Forget that Roslyn Kind is Barbra Streisand’s kid sister. She’s too good…. too special…. to have to worry about comparisons.”
And Roslyn Kind is that good. For years Roslyn has received critical acclaim for her sold-out performances on Broadway and top venues around the world – places such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Greek Theater. With musical, stage and television credits to her name, Kind is a multi-talented entertainer who has, in her own right, forged a successful career in all areas of entertainment.
For more on the amazing Roslyn Kind click on EDGE MEDIA NETWORK link below:
Even a star in the sky doesn’t shine at its brightest over night. Its brilliance takes years to reach its most luminous state. The brilliance of dancer, choreographer, actor, singer, director and model Kevin Stea may be like that of a star. Having
worked in the entertainment industry with fervor all through the 90s highlighted by assisting choreography with choreographer Vincent Paterson (Michael Jackson, Cirque Du Soliel’s Elvis, The Birdcage) for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour,Stea has spent most of his career creating for others with little recognition for his work. Dancing and choreographing for high-profile music acts like Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Cher, the Pussycat Dolls and more can dull the brilliance of any star in the making. Then the birth of That Rogue Romeo 3 years ago gave Kevin his star spot in the sky.
Working with Madonna on the Blond Ambition Tour and appearing in the controversial documentary Truth or Darewith the tour as its centerpiece, taught Stea how to ‘stick up for myself’. That was evident a couple of years after the tour
in 1992 when Stea and fellow dancers Oliver Crumes and Gabriel Trupin filed a lawsuit against Madonna for fraud and invasion of privacy as a result of the documentary. Now Kevin is sticking up again for himself with the creation of That Rogue Romeo through which all his brilliance can shine. After performing original material before club audiences for a couple of years, That Rogue Romeo’s debut album Machine & Magic was
independently released in June 2012 receiving high praise in Europe. An artist with something to say, Machine & Magic is filled with substance in its message, but found it hard to produce any radio or club friendly songs. With a desire to put something on the dance floor with lyrical impact, That Rogue Romeo deconstructed the songs of Machine & Magic with the help of commissioned remixers and a little more than a year after his debut release, REBUILT is released in late-July 2013. “I wanted to see if my songs would hold up” says Stea. “I wanted to see if my music could be danceable.”
With That Rogue Romeo the brilliance of Kevin Stea is no longer hidden under the covers of great artists. That Rogue Romeo puts Kevin Stea in the sky to shine on his own for all to see.
BeBe: You have lead a life in that business called “show” that many people dream of. You’ve spent the past 20 years dancing, acting, choreographing, modeling and singing. There;s not much on the spectrum of entertainment that you have not done. I know it’s hard to stay fresh when you have done so much in so many different genres. Nothing is probably new for you at this point in your career. Has the last 3 years that you have spent with your That Rogue Romeo project been about rejuvenating yourself?
Kevin Stea: That’s kind of interesting because it kind of happened in reverse (of that). I was trying to figure out what my next step would be. I had been focusing on choreography, creative and tour directing. The last time I had written music was pretty traumatic for me because I got caught up in a traumatic memory of my producer’s father who died in my arms. Suddenly, I was producing a concert when my friends whom I was working with insisted that I sing in the show. So, I did, and the experience of performing that traumatic song on stage transformed the trauma into one of celebration and rejuvenation. That inspired me so much to pursue the singing thing more wholeheartedly because I knew there would be fulfillment and satisfaction on the other side of that. So, the exploration of that experience and idea became That Rogue Romeo.
BeBe: Is it correct to say that That Rogue romeo was thus a performance thing for you initially rather than a recording vehicle? I mean you were using this creation o perform again going from club to club, concert hall to concert hall doing shows.
Kevin Stea: Absolutely. As you said earlier, I had done a bit of everything. I had done everything that I anted to do in the dance world. What else could I possibly do? Where does it end? It was all sort of the same thing with different people. Insert new artist here and go! When I started doing things of my own, I started feeling as if I had a new voice. It was like I gained speech. I was actually saying
something that was truly me, mine, rather than all these make believe characters I as creating in all these other (dance) jobs. I found it so fun and challenging at the same time.
BeBe: That’s part of the beauty of it all. You’ve worked with the cream of the crop…..Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga in the music world s a dancer/choreographer. You’ve also done stuff with photographers Herb Ritts and David LaChapelle, and designer Tom Hilfiger. The list goes on and on. With that said, no matter how great your talents were in all of those interactions, you were really just contributing to someone else’s dream.
Kevin Stea: There is a lot of me and my unique contribution in a lot of famous work out there, but I never get any credit for it.
BeBe: Over the past 3 years with the That Rogue Romeo performances and songwriting, you were able to come up with a full-length album of songs. Machine & Magic. The album did ell over in Europe. For some reason the type of electronic music you do, the Europeans get it! How hard is it sometimes for you as an American artist to get greater appreciation for your work abroad than at home?
Kevin Stea: In the beginning, I did put some thought into who my end or target audience is. Then I let it go and realized the communication I need to give and hat’s true for me is going to come out regardless. If what I have to say is not received as disco club friendly, then maybe it’s not. I feel like here in America there’s a specific genre identification that you have to fit into in order to be successful. In Europe, they are more open to genre crossing and sounds that are a little more undefinable, a little more experimental. I don’t mind having notoriety or recognition in other countries. I sort of like the balance of having notoriety in one place, and having anonymity in another. There’s some value in not being a world phenomenon.
BeBe: Over in Europe your music got so much exposure being played on so many mediums including railway systems and television. Music from Machine & Magic was everywhere. Then you decided to do something a little different with the project by creating something new by remixing each and every song from Machine & Magic to create your latest release REBUILT. When commissioning the remixes was here something in particular that you were looking for from your remixers to deliver to you? I mean these songs have been totally reconstructed.
Kevin Stea: Well first I wanted to see if the songs I wrote held up. You know sometimes if you take the original arrangement away the song loses its footing. What I realized in doing REBULT is that these songs are pretty solid. I told the various remixers (Djnb, Ap, F3tto, Cr3) to let go of structure. They did not have to stay attached to the original song structure. I enjoy creating something new from the the visions of many. I wanted to give these remixers room to play, but I did want this album to have a club feel, however, and make people dance. I wanted to see if my tracks could in fact play in clubs. Are they danceable? That was the bottom line.
BeBe: In other words, this project REBUILT in essence combining all of who you are as a creative person. You are a creator of ideas and communicator thus the message through lyrics are important, and you are a dancer/choreographer so making people move is also important.
Kevin Stea: In a general sense, the goal is to see if I can create dance music that has lyrical impact.
BeBe: Isn’t that what makes dance music radio friendly?
Kevin Stea: Yes, but I feel so much that is out there now is literally just NOTHING! I want to bring lyrical content to the club. You can dance and jump around and still something meaningful.
BeBe: You released a video to the REBUILT version of the song Dominoas the albums first video which was directed by a long time friend of yours, Vincent Paterson. Did your friendship begin while you were working with Madonna and Michael Jackson?
Kevin Stea: I actually met Vince when I auditioned for a Diana Ross tour when I was 18-19. Though he liked what I was doing, he thought I was far too young for the job, but later he hired me for a Pepsi commercial. I was already attached to Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour with Karole Armitage as the assistant choreographer before Vince came on board (Madonna fired Armitage). When Vince came in he kept me on as the assistant. We’ve been friends ever since. We have worked together constantly throughout my career.
BeBe: Yo grew up during the MTV era when video first became so important to music. MTV capitalized on the notion that music would be ever more enjoyable if we were stimulated visually while listening to the music. Music videos created a memory to go along with the music. You have to understand the importance behind the music video because you have seen the difference they have mad to making ones music memorable. Working with you on the creative process of a video must be amazing, I imagine.
Kevin Stea: I have concepts for every song I have (written). Once I’m done writing it, I instantly switch into visual mode which is the way I conceive the song to begin with. My songs come from a space of visualization already. I imagine entire scripts and themes for everything.
BeBe: The Domino video immediately became popular winning the FameTube.com contest.
Kevin Stea: That was cool seeing an entirely new audience kind of discovering the video and my music. I really enjoy when people discover my music first and know anything about my history or past as a performer. It’s nice to see people respond to my lyrics and music on visual level and get it!
BeBe: But it is good that you do have your past experiences as a performer to call upon, I would think. You have a wealth of people you can call upon so when you get to producing the songs, you have the best hands possible to work on it with you.
Kevin Stea: Yeah, I’ve pulled so many favors! BeBe, I may be out of favors.
BeBe: The same week you released REBUILT you released a video to the Machine & Magic single (July 30). How does this new video differ from the Domino video?
Kevin Stea: Interestingly enough, I released the Domino video first because I thought it a departure from what people would expect from me. (It’s) a little more rock and roll, a little rougher, a little darker. I waited on Machine & Magic because this particular video is a little more straight forward pop artist video with dancers and storyline. This video is definitely different than any other video I’ve done. Also, I look a little closer to Kevin than That Rogue Romeo in the video. I’m hardly in make-up. This is a dance video. It’s not super high concept.
BeBe: You worked with Chan Andre and Brian Friedman of Identity Unknown Entertainment who have worked with Frenchie Davis, Britney Spears and the X-Factor in past couple of years. Was this a new relationship for you, and how was it working with them?
Kevin Stea: Well not so new. I’ve known Brian since he was 12. We worked together in a live performance by Michael Jackson of Black or White. And, Chan used to assist photographer/music video director Peggy Sirota who I worked with a lot on commercials and music videos.
BeBe: What’ next with this project? Are you putting together some sort of tour?
Kevin Stea: I’m trying to wait for the response to this and then see what area to take this all into next. I’m just about at that point to start looking for a record label for support. I do want to tour. I love touring. But, I want to do a tour with distribution and tour backing in place. At where I’m at right now as an independent artist, distribution is absolutely key! I’m branding myself and creating the buzz now so when I approach a record label, it ill be about distribution and not about artist development.
BeBe: I can’t let you go without asking one Madonna question. But avoiding the obvious ones, I’ve always wondered about an incident that occurred while you were on the Blond Ambition Tour stop in Toronto, Canada when the police there threatened to arrest Madonna if she went through with her simulated masturbation act while performing Like A Virgin during the concert. This was all documented in the Truth or Dare documentary which shows you standing right next to Madonna as she made the announcement about the potential arrest to you all backstage, and her decision to go forward with the performance as choreographed. Your expression showed such true shock that this arrest was about to happen to Madonna for expressing her creative freedom. What was the real feeling about the situation amongst the cast?
Kevin Stea: I was a scared mischievous delight! I really was shocked that people would respond to the performance like that. (An arrest) was not even on my radar. I couldn’t believe that someone would see it and think that the performance was an arrestable offense. I was there with Vince (Paterson) creating these steps. The arrest was a real and true possibility, so it took a minute to process. Once I did, I said ‘I’m willing to be arrested for that. Fucking come and arrest me. Just try it!’ We would have fucking vogued and masturbated in the fucking jail!
BeBe: I always wondered if anyone had refused to perform because of the potential of arrest?
Kevin Stea: No, at that point, we were a team. Being with Madonna, I did learn to stand up for myself. Seeing her and how strong-minded she was about her views and what was important to her, and standing behind her creative vision with such courage and strength, that always stayed with me. I learned how to stand up for artistic integrity.
From Russia with love may not be the current sentiment felt by the LGBT communities across the globe, but one Russian that is definitely screaming love to all her gay fans and the rest is pop star on the rise Natali Yura. Dividing her time between New York, London and Moscow, Yura’s debut single Scream For Love is gaining international appeal with the help of remixes by Ralph Rosario, Guy Scheiman, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and The Kue, and is currently #21 on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play chart (August 31). “I knew when the record was done, we had a club smash. It’s exciting to see her blossom and be apart of her growth. We’re all very amped up about this record”, says Sony Music A&R guy Kirk Lightman.
At 22, Natali has a fresh and exciting outlook in recording music which definitely comes out in her singing. “Recording in London was a fantastic creative process. I wouldn’t call it work, I had so much fun”, Yura comments about working with vocal producer Alan Nglish (Cee Lo Green, Taio Cruz, McFly). Yura’s delicate yet powerful vocals fit well with her current dance recording, but it is evident that she has so much more to give vocally. Having spent time studying at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute can only be a help in Natali’s efforts to give more to her music. “ I’m trying to be more confident with myself and with what I want to say. There is so much more in me.”
While training in dance in Paris before moving on to London in search of new material to sing, Natali spent some time chatting with me about her early sacrifice for her art, how her singing voice speaks differently to us, her meaning of “Scream For Love”, and how the gay ban in Russia affects her music.
BeBe: I’ve been swaying my hips to your new single Scream For Love. It’s a great track.
Natali Yura: Well, thank you.
BeBe: Interesting that as a teen you studied at Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute. Does that mean you were originally interested in pursuing a career in acting?
Natali Yura: Actually, I’ve been acting and singing all of my life. I met up with Martin Bregman (personal manager for Al Pacino, Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bette Midler; film producer of Scarface, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Carlito’s Way) in New York which happened by accident through friends. And, during a conversation with him, he said I should meet with Anna Strasberg (widow of Lee Strasberg) who was the head of the Lee Strasberg school. I met up with her and we had a conversation for 2 hours. I was very relaxed. It wasn’t formal at all. And then she said ‘I’ll give you a scholarship to my school. You should act.’ I was like okay, that’s wonderful!
BeBe: Sounds like a Marilyn Monroe story of discovery (Strasberg is the administrator of Monroe’s estate). No matter how much talent you have, it seems to always be that you are in the right place at the right time to seize the moment. Sounds like that (meeting with Strasberg) was your moment.
Natali Yura: Right? That’s so true.
BeBe: How much time went by between your moment and your current release?
Natali Yura: I was 18 years old at that time, and already singing at that time. But, it was like 2 years before working on this song and really taking singing seriously.
BeBe: Most of the media about you is calling you “The next big breakthrough in pop music”. Do you buy into the press, and if so, does it put pressure on you to go out and wow us?
Natali Yura: Not really. I’m just trying to work hard. I really do want it (success), but I don’t feel any pressure. It’s really fun now. All the people that I work with are really creative and fun. I don’t feel like I’m at work so much.
BeBe: You’ve been singing since you were 4 right?
Natali Yura: I’ve been singing since I was 1! (laughs) A true story, when I was 4 I was standing on a table trying to sing in English. I didn’t even know English at that time. I was holding a can of hairspray in my hand as a microphone dancing and performing. And the, I fell off the table. I broke my arm real bad. It was my first sacrifice for my art, I swear!
BeBe: Now, that’s dedication! You put a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘break-a-leg’, right?
Natali Yura: Totally!
BeBe: You’ve spent at least 18 of 22 years on this earth listening to a variety of music and singing. Who have been major influences on your music?
Natali Yura: I’m just obsessed with music. It’s so emotional. It goes right in your heart. Depending on my mood, I listen to all kinds of music. It doesn’t have to be dance music. It can be rock, hip-hop, electro or whatever. I was listening to Depeche Mode since I was 4. They are one of my favorites. Also, Queen with Freddie Mercury. Oh my God, he makes me shiver when I hear is voice. I look to Beyonce for how she moves and performs. The work she puts behind it is so inspiring. She is so good.
BeBe: When I listen to you sing, I’m reminded of Ellie Goulding (Lights, Anything Could Happen). You both have such pretty voices, strong, but pretty. (Your voice) fits well with dance music as indicated on your first single Scream For Love, but you can do so much more with your voice, I can tell. Are you planning to do different styles of music?
Natali Yura: I think so. What I’m doing right ow is looking for new music to work with. I’m looking for something to put more of myself into. I’m trying to be more confident with myself and with what I want to say. There is so much more in me. I’m still learning and trying to understand. I’m taking baby steps right now.
BeBe: You have said that “when I sing my voice is different (than speaking). It comes from a deeper place”. So how does your songScream For Love connect with you internally?
Natali Yura: Well, there is so many people around me. I like to perform and be the center of attention. I have a lot of friends. But sometimes, I do feel lonely. This song is about wanting someone emotionally. I was trying to talk about that in the song.
BeBe: Are you planning to release a video for Scream For Love? And if so, will it have the storyline of searching for that emotional connection in it?
Natali Yura: We are working toward that now. And, definitely it will have that story idea throughout the whole video.
BeBe: I know your national origin is Russia, and I have to ask you about the current controversy surrounding the Russian government’s new laws criminalizing homosexuality. The type of music you are currently recording resonates with the LGBT community. Do you feel that you being from Russia draws any negative attention to your music and may deter you from forward progress at this time with the controversy very hot now?
Natali Yura: No, I don’t feel that. I have a lot of gay friends. My best friend is gay. Though they, of course, know what’s going on in Russia with the the gay people there, they don’t let that have any influence how they think of me as a person, nor do other people that I talk to. The situation in Russia is terrible and would be no matter where this would happen.