It happens every year. Journalists pour over the recordings that they've received as they create their Top 10 albums of the year. Award show voters tick off boxes that represent their favorites and fans scrutinize these selections and spend time talking about their favorites with friends. And sometimes, on that rare occasion, there is that one album that transcends explanation. The music is riveting, infectious or even groundbreaking of course, but the heartfelt and moving sentiments that possess a window to an artist's soul is what sets it apart. It is clear that journalists, award-show voters and fans alike can feel the sweat, the determination and the passion that must have been exhausted and one wonders if this is the recording. If this is that seminal piece of work that defines an artist and his or her legacy.
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In 2000, Anastacia released her debut recording, which exploded throughout Europe and placed her in the industry's elite. Her 2002 release only served to add to this growing phenomenon and over the course of the past 4 years she has amassed in excess of 10 million in worldwide sales and has won countless international awards. She connected to her audience and quickly earned a reputation as the little one with the big voice. She was loud, tough, brash and in your face, but she was in fact grounded, passionate and true.
In January of 2003, Anastacia confirmed to the world that she had breast cancer and for a brief moment it all stopped. But true to herself and to those around her, she showed that she would not be deterred from doing what she loved. Prior to her surgery, in February 2003, Anastacia appeared on a closed set in New York, for the filming of "Love Is A Crime" for the Chicago Soundtrack and plowed through the 2-day taping even though the strains of illness were showing themselves to all around her. For the months following, Anastacia cried, she laughed, she fought, she sang and&she wrote. She remained true to her words to her fans that "her resolve to fight was strong" and most of all Anastacia lived.
In September 2003, Anastacia entered the studio with Grammy-award winners Glen Ballard, Dallas Austin, and Dave Stewart began what the singer has referred to as a "difficult creative journey." But out of the music, "sprock music" as Anastacia has affectionately dubbed it (soul, pop, rock), has come her 3rd studio recording - a new chapter of sorts for the singer that has appropriately been titled, ANASTACIA.
While warned by her doctors that she would be physically drained from her treatment Anastacia stood prepared, as feisty as ever, to fight through whatever stood in her way. Reality check. "The experience was not pleasant," said Anastacia. "I usually look for the bright side of things, but so far nothing about making this record was positive for me. My doctor told me I'd be tired, not stupid," said Anastacia. "I could not focus on anything. I'd write a verse and then I couldn't write the chorus or I'd write the chorus but couldn't write the bridge. I couldn't talk, I couldn't think straight, I was totally out of it the doctor's said I'd be tired - but of course I had insomnia. It was tough."
Yet, what has come from this nearly 6-month recording process perhaps is far more then anyone could've hoped. ANASTACIA is the reality of her life's experiences and the raw emotion that has accompanied them. A compilation of 12 songs that feature a decidedly fresh sound, a greatly matured songwriter and lyricist and the unforgettable vocal performances that have become Anastacia's signature. "I wanted to move more towards a rock sound for this record and it really has added so much to this recording," said the singer. "The feel of the music, the beat, of many of the songs really has offset some of the subject matter of the lyrics."
It is clear, when listening to ANASTACIA, that each track possesses evidence of the singer's transition. From a straight-ahead rocker like "Time" to the vocal passion and inventiveness of tracks such as "Left Outside Alone" and "Sick-n-Tired" to the stirring and poignant sincerity of "Heavy On My Heart", Anastacia's muse remained throughout the recording of this album and captured a snapshot of her essence.
"I was aware of what I was writing, of what was flowing from my heart and I was aware that people listening might be reading into the subject matter of the songs," said Anastacia. "I challenged myself both lyrically and melodically to stay true to those feelings and at the same time to use them in a positive way. You see, I need to see life through rose colored glasses and while that view might have been clouded at times while writing some of these songs, I'm hoping that people will see that and feel that in this album."
But while the process of creating this album might have proven to be Anastacia's greatest challenge, she has made every attempt to embrace it and to come out the better for the experience. "Art is in fact really wonderful when suffering is involved. There is just no getting around the fact that some of the greatest writers, poets and musicians have done their finest work under stress. I guess that at some point I might feel different, but right now, for me, I'd prefer not to make this a habit. "
In the end ANASTACIA has bared her soul. It is readily apparent. But she will wait. She will listen. And she will ultimately be most interested in the feedback from her fans. "I made this record for them. To share with them," said the singer, "and I hope that they embrace it. It's kind of like letting someone close to you in on a dark secret and hoping that they understand and love you anyway. It lets you know that everything is okay."
Anastacia may not realize this now, but what has become apparent to this writer is that true artistry is not always easy. That in order to achieve greatness one needs to take some chances and Anastacia has done just that. One would suspect that given some time that Anastacia will come to see ANASTACIA, regardless of the feedback from her fans, as one of her greatest accomplishments. Albums like these are in fact rare. They transcend explanation. The music is riveting, infectious or even groundbreaking, but the consistently heartfelt and moving sentiments that possess a window to an artist's soul is what sets it apart from all the others.
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