Born on August 8, 1981, in Melbourne, Australia. Addresses: Record company--Transistor Music, Box 578, Crows Nest NSW 2065 Australia. Management--MarJac Productions, P.O. Box 51 Caulfield South, Victoria 3162, Australia. Website--Vanessa Amorosi Official Website: http://www.vanessaamorosi.com.
Vanessa Amorosi made one of the most sensational debuts in Australian music history while still a teenager. Not only did her first album hit number one in her native country, but its second single, "Absolutely Everybody," set a record for the longest-charting track on the top 40 chart. The single then went on to hit the top ten around the world and established Amorosi in the front ranks of young female pop stars. Maintaining a down-to-earth image, however, she shrugged off comparisons to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera: "I'm not quite sure what sets me apart," she modestly told MTV Asia. "I mean, the only reason why we're compared is 'cause we're all in the pop line of music, and we're young. But hopefully if things go well, and once you hear the album, then people will get to know me, and that will separate me from them, 'cause no one can be the same person."
Born on August 8, 1981, in Melbourne, Australia, Amorosi grew up in a show business family. Her parents, Joy and Peter Amorosi, performed regularly as a cabaret act. Even though Amorosi had no formal musical training, she was instinctively drawn to music through her parents' work. "I picked up the music side by watching my dad rehearse for floor shows," she recalled to MTV Asia. "And I'd sort of go in there and learn the floor shows with him. Yeah, so it was sort of in the blood from the word 'go,' there was no question about it." Amorosi also trained as a dancer, along with her two younger sisters, in a dance school run by her uncle.
Amorosi's first public appearances as an entertainer took place in some of the local shopping malls and community centers around her home. From the ages of about 12 to 14, she performed as an unpaid act, yet she was still ambivalent about pursuing a show business career. As she later admitted in an online discussion on the Australian Record Industry Association's House of Hits, "I never decided I wanted to be a singer. I really wanted to go into the army. Then I was discovered, and my singing career took off." Indeed, Amorosi had started training for a possible career in the military when she was 15 years old. Yet she also continued to perform, this time as a singer in a local Russian restaurant.
During her restaurant engagement in 1997, Jack Strom, a television producer who also ran a management company, stopped by to see the young singer perform. He was immediately taken with her strong voice and visual appeal and brought his business partner back to see and hear her. Having been disappointed with fledgling management contracts in the past, Amorosi cautiously signed with the pair. Her faith in them was justified almost immediately, however, when she secured a deal in 1998 with a production company and the independent label Transistor Music. The 16-year-old then recorded her debut album in London. Looking back on the entire experience, Amorosi later joked in the House of Hits chat that would-be singers should "Sing in places where you might get noticed--odd places, preferably."
Amorosi had fortunately enlisted the services of producer Steve Mac for her first album, The Power. Mac had just come off a string of successes with some of the most popular youth-oriented acts in the world, including Westlife, Five, and BoyZone. Unlike the typical teenage performer, however, Amorosi took an active role in shaping her music as a songwriter and vocal arranger. The tunes on The Power focused mainly on up-tempo, dance-oriented numbers, with some ballads included as well. The first single release, "Have a Look," hit the top 20 in Australia in July of 1999 and eventually earned a gold record, an impressive debut for a young, unknown singer. The follow-up, "Absolutely Everybody," however, made Amorosi into a pop phenomenon in her home country.
Released in November of 1999, "Absolutely Everybody" immediately went into the top five in Australia; eventually, it logged 27 weeks in the top 40, setting a record for the longest stay in the pop charts. It also earned double-platinum status and turned Amorosi into one of the country's biggest pop stars. On the basis of her first two singles alone, Amorosi was already being talked about as the biggest star to emerge in Australia since Kylie Minogue and Tina Arena. At the end of the year, she capped off her incredible run by appearing at the millennium celebration at Darling Harbour in Australia. When The Power was released in April of 2000, it entered the charts at number one. Amorosi enjoyed even more success with the release of the ballad "Shine," which became the most-played song on Australian radio for that year.
Although she was a newcomer on the entertainment scene, Amorosi scored a number of unforgettable performing opportunities in the year that followed her debut. At the opening of the Sydney Olympic Games in September of 2000, Amorosi was asked to perform the event's theme song, "Heroes Live Forever," along with Olivia Newton-John and Tina Arena. At the Games' closing ceremonies, Amorosi returned to perform "Absolutely Everybody," thereby earning the distinction of being the only performer to appear at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics.
In addition to her commercial success, Amorosi collected numerous awards during her debut year. The Variety Club of Australia presented her with the Young Entertainer of the Year Award while the country's Governor General singled her out for her charitable work with children. In the music industry, Amorosi was named Best New Australian Artist by the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters. An award that eluded her, however, was one from the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA). Although she received a total of six nominations from the group, she left the ceremony in October of 2000 empty-handed.
The singer traveled extensively to promote the release of The Power and "Absolutely Everybody" in Europe and Asia. In Britain, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland, the single hit the top ten, while it reached the top five in Ireland, Belgium, Austria, and Germany. Despite a glowing review from Billboard magazine in July of 2001, however, which called the track "remarkably infectious ... a bubbly anthemic singalong, with stellar harmonies, a clean, exuberant vocal from Amorosi, and a melody that would make your meanest aunt smile and tap her toe," the single failed to make much impact in America. It would be one of the few countries that failed to make "Absolutely Everybody" a major hit.
Despite her international success, Amorosi maintained a public image that was resolutely down-to-earth. She continued to work with a number of charities to aid children with cancer and to publicize animal-rights issues. A longtime vegetarian who lived with a number of animals at her parents' home--including horses, cats, rabbits, geese, guinea pigs, goats, and pet rats--Amorosi spoke out against animal testing, cruel farming methods, and rodeo practices. In an interview with the Animal Liberation Organization of New South Wales, Australia, Amorosi said she looked forward to one day owning her own farm to continue her work against animal cruelty. "When I settle into my own place, I intend to bring children in to educate them about the care and respect of all animals. That's my dream for the future."
In 2001 the double-sided release "The Power/Every Time I Close My Eyes" became another hit for Amorosi on the Australian charts. In the meantime, she prepared for the release of her follow-up album, Turn to Me, released in Australia in October of 2001. Strictly speaking, Turn to Me was not an original album but a compilation of tracks that were unreleased in Australia along with remixes of popular songs from The Power. Turn to Me nevertheless climbed to number 21 on the Australian charts after its release and demonstrated a continuing public interest in Amorosi's future projects.
by Timothy Borden
Vanessa Amorosi's Career
Recorded first album, age 17; single "Absolutely Everybody" became longest-charting single in Australian history, 1999-2000; performed at opening and closing ceremonies of Sydney Olympic Games, 2000; released second album, Turn to Me, 2001.
Vanessa Amorosi's Awards
Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters, Best New Australian Artist on Commercial Radio, 2000; Young Entertainer of the Year, Variety Club of Australia, 2000.
- Australian, October 25, 2000.
- Billboard, March 11, 2000, p. 49; July 7, 2001, p. 24.
- "Divas Battle It Out," Music and Media Business News, The Music, http://www.themusic.com.au/im_m/archive/011113-283/eliezer.html (February 12, 2002).
- "Interviews-Vanessa Amorosi," MTV Asia, http://www.mtvasia.com/Music/Interviews/Old/20000822001/page2.html (February 11, 2002).
- "Vanessa Amorosi," Animal Liberation, http://www.animal-lib.org.au/interviews/vanessa (February 11, 2002).
- "Vanessa Amorosi," Australian Record Industry Association, http://www.aria.com.au/chat/amorosi.htm (February 11, 2002).
- Vanessa Amorosi Official Website, http://www.vanessaamorosi.com/p_bio.htm (February 11, 2002).