Born Marie-Claire Cremers c. 1970 in the Netherlands; raised in Germany; daughter of opera singer and piano teacher; divorced with one son. Addresses: Record company--Tommy Boy Records, 902 Broadway, New York, NY 10010, website: http://www.tommyboy.com. Booking--T-Best Talent Agency, 1122 B Street #308, Hayward, CA 94541. Website--Amber Official Website: http://www.amber-mcc.com.
When Dutch recording artist Amber first made a splash on the dance music scene in 1996, some critics dismissed her as just another anonymous studio singer. With an album produced by the Berman Brothers--the team responsible for the success of German dance music stars Real McCoy--it was easy to assume that Amber was only a singer hired to complete an album under the guidance of the producers. Yet her subsequent work revealed a lyrical depth and vivid personality that set Amber apart from other divas. Hit dance tracks such as "Sexual (Li Da Di)" and "The Need to Be Naked" were forthright explorations of sensuality written by the singer, while "Yes!" incorporated lines from James Joyce's classic novel Ulysses. "I don't want to be categorized," Amber reflected in a December of 1999 profile in Billboard. "I live and learn and want to make my own choices in music, going in all kinds of directions. I think that the public likes to see an artist grow. There's nothing more boring than an album that sounds the same from one song to another."
The singer known around the world as Amber was born Marie-Claire Cremers in the Netherlands around 1970. She spent a significant part of her childhood in neighboring Germany, where her father pursued a career as an opera singer and her mother worked as a piano teacher and pursued her own interests in classical composition and singing. The family tradition of performing extended back to the turn of the century and an earlier generation, as Amber joked in a Billboard article: "In 1901 my great-great-grandmother was dressed up to her neck, but she played piano and danced and sang. No one accepted her musicality, because they thought it was wrong. But there she was, the original Spice Girl." Although her parents encouraged her to listen to classical music, Amber became a pop music fan. Her favorite singers included Oleta Adams, Barbra Streisand, and Diana Ross; the Jackson 5 and the Beatles were other early influences.
By the time she was 16, Amber had decided to pursue a career in music. One of her first appearances on record was as a finger cymbal player on the album The Joy of Belly Dancing by George Abdo (a leading artist in that genre) in 1990. In 1992 she added vocals to the album Back on the Street by soul singer Roy C. She also sang with a number of bands and even secured a recording contract, although the deal quickly fell through. Amber's real breakthrough came in 1992 when she made a demo tape with the Berman Brothers, although it took a couple more years before the effort paid off. In 1994 the Berman Brothers scored a huge international hit with their work on the Real McCoy's debut album, Another Night. Once the production team was in demand, they contacted Amber with an offer to turn her demo tape into a full-length album. She signed with the Berman Brothers and quickly went back into the studio.
Although she enjoyed working with the Berman Brothers, Amber later had mixed feelings about signing with them. "I didn't feel I had the creative freedom I was supposed to have," she reflected in her Tommy Boy Records biography, "I was directed in terms of how to write my songs. I didn't feel comfortable in that skin." Despite her misgivings, one of the tracks initially on her 1992 demo tape, "This Is Your Night," proved immediately successful when it was reworked and released as a single in the United States in May of 1996. The young singer promoted the release with numerous club dates in North America and then returned to Europe, where the record was a hit dance single as well. She followed it up with the dance hits "Colour of Love" and "One More Night," all of which were included on her debut album, This Is Your Night.
Amber branched out a bit with an appearance as a singer in the movie Studio 54, which chronicled the history of the famous New York City disco. Heading back into the recording studio, she was determined to show a more diverse range of styles and content on her sophomore album, 1999's Amber. Looking back on her first efforts in a Billboard interview in August of 1999, she admitted, "I had no clue about anything back then, and everything was done in a rush. This time, we moved gradually through the writing and recording process. More thought went into each song, and I was present at all times." With characteristic frankness she added, "This album doesn't go the full distance in terms of revealing my creative vision, but it's a good start."
The first release from the album kicked off some controversy with its title alone, "Sexual (Li Da Di)," which hit the top 25 on the Billboard pop chart despite the refusal of some radio stations to play it. Amber laughed off the controversy, particularly during an appearance on the Donny and Marie talk show where Marie Osmond refused to say the song's title. "This is a woman who is pregnant every second week," she told Billboard in December of 1999. "What was that all about?" On a more serious note she added, "Hopefully sex can be a normal thing in a good and responsible way. It's also an answer to chauvinist songs out there; men don't always understand that women work best through communication."
In November of 2000 Amber released a remix album of her past hits. Although she was happy to please her fans by making available some of her hard-to-find club mixes, she was ambivalent about the process. "I have to honestly say that I do not care much about the remixes," she told Mauricio Saravia of the Artist Interviews website, adding, "I like to work with real musicians and writers that create the song in its essence, because without the song there would be no remix.... Most of the remixers only care about their beats and abuse the vocals." What did excite her was the chance to write some tunes with her mother, Anne-Mieke de Vroomen, and her sister, Anne-Fleur Cremers, for inclusion on her third album.
Released in August of 2002, Naked was Amber's third album of original material and the first to be released after she bought out her contract from the Berman Brothers. The content also reflected much more than the uptempo dance tunes that characterized her earlier releases. Having gone through a divorce and now raising her son as a single parent, the lyrics on Naked demonstrated Amber's focus on personal relationships. The song "Anyway (Men Are from Mars)" dealt with her divorce, while "The Smile of a Child," co-written with her mother, was dedicated to her son. "For too long, I was being pushed into a dance corner only," she told Billboard upon the album's release. "I'm much more than that. This album shows me in my space. It's an expression of my musical diversity."
The first single from Naked, "Yes!," was another dance-oriented track, but with a twist: it featured lyrics taken from James Joyce's classic work Ulysses. Ironically, the use of the material raised even more controversy from radio stations than her track "Sexual (Li Da Di)." In particular, radio programmers were hesitant to play the track for its inclusion of Joyce's lines, "I put my arms around him, yes/And drew him down to me so he could feel my breast/And his heart was going like mad/And yes, I said yes." The album's follow up single, "The Need to Be Naked," also drew attention for its frankly sexual subject matter. "I like to mess with people's minds in this way," Amber told Billboard in August of 2002. "But if you dig a little deeper and really listen to the lyrics, I'm dealing with sexuality on a more spiritual level."
by Timothy Borden
Performed as studio singer, early 1990s; released first album, This Is Your Night, 1996; released second album, Amber, which contained controversial single "Sexual (Li Da Di)," 2000; released third album, Naked, 2002.
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Rhythm and Soul Award, Dance Songs, "Sexual (Li Da Di)," 2000.
- Selected discography
- This Is Your Night , Tommy Boy, 1996.
- Amber , Tommy Boy, 1999.
- Remixed , Tommy Boy, 2000.
- Naked , Tommy Boy, 2002.
- Billboard, December 7, 1996, p. 8; August 21, 1999, p. 25; December 11, 1999, p. 98; October 14, 2000, p. 36; October 27, 2001, p. 30; July 20, 2002, p. 20; August 24, 2002, p. 21.
- "Amber," Artist Interviews, http://www.artistinterviews.com/music.amber.htm (September 2, 2002).
- "Amber," T-Best Talent Agency, http://www.t-besttalentagency.com/ (September 1, 2002).
- "Amber: Naked," Tommy Boy Records, http://tommyboy.materialinmotion.com/customer/home.php?mode=amberbio (August 31, 2002).