Young At Heart
Naughty? Sexy? Bitchy? Not completely. Naughty, no, but funny, yes. Sexy, for sure. Bitchy, not in the slightest. This is all part of the façade that has been slowly built up to ensure that Tata Young remains at the top of the music charts and in the headlines locally and overseas. It is sometimes hard to peal back the public image and take a real look at the genuine people who are today’s modern pop stars as they have been trained and coached from an early age to outwardly project another entity. But from time to time you do get celebrities who come over as just an ordinary person who happens to have an exceptional talent when they do what they do, but once the lights have been turned off, it’s as if they turn off the superstar and become themselves.
Imagine for a moment how you would feel if as a teenager you recorded an album and it sold one million copies. It would knock you over, right? A million people thought you were good enough as a teenager to spend hard earned money to buy your music. So it is only natural that with time good things mature and the same can be said about Tata Young and her music. Today, especially in the music she sings in English, there is the feel of development of a person who knows that she possesses a skill people are willing to pay to hear and see.
But how did it all come about? You can find hundreds of web sites attributing certain facts about Tata, you can hear senators and politicians taking shots at her dress code and on-stage antics, too. Then, of course, there is the so-called Ministry of Culture, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Without getting too involved in the political quagmire, the ministry upholds Thailand’s image of a family-based tourist attraction and firmly denies there is prostitution of any kind in the country. Then, when attractive Thai women get up on stage and perform music in a costume meant to be worn on stage, they scream from the rooftops how un-Thai she is.
“I was 14 when I released my first Thai album and to be honest it was a lot of fun for a 14-year-old. With all the success and everything, I have to say that singing has always been my thing. I would have done anything to be a singer, you know appear on a talent show, whatever. But thankfully my wish was granted when I was fourteen. It was a dream come true. I’ve had many highlights over the years, but performing at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in front of the entire Thai royal family tops the lot. I’ve also played at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. There is a huge Thai population in LA and to play in the same place as Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey and other superstars who have performed there was a dream come true.
“There really is no difference playing in front of an audience whether they are Thai or foreigners. When I perform overseas, I get asked to play some of my Thai songs which is amazing. At the time of my second album, I was chosen by the Chinese Government to represent Thailand at the official hand-over of Hong Kong from Britain to China. It was fun, there were a lot of great artists there. We didn’t get to have a big party of anything like that as they were doing their stuff and I was doing mine. But it was a huge honour.
“The biggest influence on my career has been my family. My parents supported me all the time. About a year before winning my singing contest with Yamaha, I recall sitting in front of the television one Sunday with my family just chilling out and this little girl comes on and starts singing and my parents turn to each other and say ‘wow, she’s good’. And I’m like ‘I can do that, too’. Before that I would do ballet and other dancing, and that’s when it all started and my father encouraged me to take singing classes and my mother would drive me to them.
“The person who really got me singing was Michael Jackson with Man In The Mirror. That is an awesome song and the guy was a genius you know. My aunt who lived in Vancouver would record tapes of MTV and send them to Thailand as we did not have the channel here at that time and my older sister and me would get a lot of Western musical influence. But Michael Jackson drove me tremendously. When I first saw the video to Man In The Mirror I said to myself ‘I’m going to do that’. I think I was about seven or eight at the time.
“I’m very, very ordinary, but to all the media in Thailand I am a superstar. I don’t much like the word superstar because when you are good they’ll call you that, but once you fall off that pedestal they don’t call you that anymore. No, I would rather be known as Tata Young, an ordinary girl. I prefer that. The album Ready For Love was something I really wanted to do and it was perfect timing because I Believe, my first English album was promoted for over two years before it became a big success. With the release of Temperature Rising, we tried something new and it was more of an American-vibe album and it takes me about two to three years before I’m ready to start another English album and this is the perfect time.
“We wanted to launch the album earlier but there was a lot of studio work, time and devotion that went into making sure we got the best hits possible for this new release. This was a tough album to make as it is multi-genre. The first single off the album Ready For Love is really R&B, Blues type of music, very soulful and it is the only track of its type on the album, the rest is pretty pop, dance and Euro pop. I think it is kind of outdated to stick to doing a certain type of album such as Hip-Hop or R&B. I want people to pick up different kinds of vibes from this album. Right now with all the J-Pop, K-Pop and Thai pop, 70 per cent is the looks and 30 per cent is the talent, which I find really horrible. In my book, good music and lyrics comes before good looks and that is what my new album is all about. If I was just a regular person who was a member of Tata Young’s fan club and I was listening to her new album, I would say ‘this is the best music she has ever recorded in her life.
“For this album I had to top form for my vocals, I had really good producers backing me up, I had great songs to perform with great lyrics and it is the best work I’ve ever done. When Max Martin produced Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, Sweden was the place to go to record music. Berlin happens to be the place right now and this is where my team is from. Better than that was the staff we put together for this album that came up with so many great ideas. In a similar vein, perhaps the United Kingdom was the place to record pop music in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a trio of producers called Stock, Aitken and Waterman had great success scoring more than 100 UK top 40 hits and selling 40 million records.
People should not read too much into songs on the album as Tata says that she did not write any of the songs nor were they written especially for her. So trying to equate songs such as Ready For Love or Bloody Valentine have nothing at all to do with her personal life and her split with her former fiancé.
“I had to go through roughly 600 songs for this album and so I selected 12 songs that I thought I could work on by changing and tweaking the rhythm a little here and there. I am not a superstar like Beyonce who has people writing songs for her. In fact, I had to ask the writers of my songs if I could sing them in the first place.”
When people she a performer on stage they have to realise that the person they are watching are performing and after the show is over they are not going to wear the same clothes on the street. People need to be able to balance that and understand it is a performing outfit. I don’t wear sexy, revealing clothing everyday, I wear normal clothes, sometimes I even wear flip-flops,” she confesses.
“My rule of life is that I don’t expect anything. I don’t expect anything from a relationship – and this is probably what has made me more mature as it is hard to do. The most difficult thing to do is not to expect anything at all, but when great things come then you are happy and surprised. So I don’t want to speculate and expect anything from this album but I hope it works because a lot of team and personal effort went into making this recording.”