It’s been twenty years since Australian legend Vanessa Amorosi released her now signature song Absolutely Everybody - a joyous, uplifting track featuring her unmistakable powerhouse vocals and a feel good sing along chorus that has became a staple at pride festivals, summer playlists and let’s face it - any club night that’s worth going to. This month the classic hit was featured on Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under in a lip sync for your life showdown which felt like a fitting celebration of Amorosi’s anniversary. It feels correct then that she has chosen to drop two EP’s this year, the second of which, Vol.2 has just been released. It features some of her most personal work yet and marks a major turning point for the singer.
Summer 2020 was a very dark, strange and confusing time for everyone. The pandemic had the world by its grasp, cities were in full lockdown and the Black Lives Matter movement rightfully had everyones attention. With venues across the globe shut down for the foreseeable future, queer spaces were lost, prides were cancelled and performers were left thinking about what to do next. A sea of digital shows and events followed and although virtually, people finally had a way of connecting with each other. With Pride in Ireland approaching, the realisation that a physical one wasn’t happening anytime soon sadly sunk in for all of us and as a way of marking the month I decided to set up a podcast to chat with important international LGBTQIA figures, allies and icons about what Pride meant to them. The podcast became Friends Of Dorothy and when it came to choosing who we should get for an Australian special there was only ever one answer, Vanessa Amorosi.
Back in 2000, Absolutely Everybody had hit the Irish and UK airwaves, becoming an undeniable smash and one of the songs of the summer. While my cassette single had begun to wear thin from repeat plays, my aunt who had just travelled across Australia brought home a very welcome gift, The Power - Vanessa’s hit debut album. From the first play it was jam packed full of timeless anthems that became the soundtrack to so many of our summers. It was a sign of great things to come and over the years Amorosi has released several critically acclaimed albums and singles including her No.1 single This Is Who I Am and 2019’s fan favourite Lessons Of Love. While the pandemic brought the world to a halt and brought the entertainment industry to it’s knees, it did provide a time for artists to reflect, change gears and pursue projects we may not of had time for in previous years. When I first spoke to Amorosi back in August 2020, she was beginning a journey of her own. After two decades, her passion projects were finally coming to fruition and now a year later, there’s no stopping her.
''For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m being accepted for the artist that I am''
Now based in Los Angeles, Amorosi has set up her own label which has finally allowed her to produce tracks outside of her trademark pop releases ,’’I’ve been meaning to do it for a while because it’s really hard to convince people that an artist can do five or six different styles. There’s always that issue of how do you market that or will you confuse people, but I think in this day an age people aren’t stupid and it’s not hard to believe that artists play instruments, write different styles of music and still have their signature flavour. So I thought you know what, I’m going to go set up my own label so I can finally release these songs and albums I’ve been recording over the last ten years. With a bit of luck hopefully people enjoy that and understand me more as a musician. Hopefully it works and if not, then I know that I gave it my best shot and I didn’t just stay in my lane.’’
The first of those releases, The Blacklisted Collection, was full of tracks that over the years, were turned down by Amorosi’s teams as they were deemed too far of a departure from what the public knew and loved her for. ‘’These were tracks I had wanted to get for years but just always hit this road block. The beginning was really daunting because I really expected people to just shit on them. I thought people were just going to tell me go back to pop music, what are you doing this stuff for? But every Monday we released a new track and it became so beautiful and liberating and kept us going. I’m just so incredibly happy with the response and for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m being accepted for the artist that I am. I’m kooky and weird and my songs reflect that.’’ Fans quickly embraced the record with the album hitting the top ten on Australia’s independent chart proving that no matter the sound, listeners connected with Amorosi’s powerful lyrics. ‘’My lyrics and songs come from a very dark place, even in the early days of The Power I was singing about depression and suicide, the songs that people thought were anthems came from a very dark place. With these records I haven’t re written lyrics or changed them and it’s been a great experience’’.
Anthems like This Is Who I Am, Shine and Absloutley Everybody have also been hugely embraced by the LGBTQ+ community across the globe, something that Amorosi holds dear to her,’’It makes me so damn happy that these songs are part of such a massive celebration and in saying that, it brings me back to my childhood. When I was super young my uncle would bring me to drag shows. People don’t understand the work that goes into drag, the makeup, the heels, the performances. I remember being in the drag clubs and they would be playing Black Box's Ride On Time and I remember thinking oh my god this is what I want to do when I get older, I want to do drag! It was so inspiring and to think that years later, my tracks are being played and celebrated and people are getting the same experience I had when I heard Ride On Time, makes me so happy. It’s just a massive reward for a musician and I love it.’’
That celebration continues this summer with Vol.1 and Vol.2 - the latest releases from Amorosi featuring an array of influences from Motown to Gospel. ‘’Living and recording in LA you are exposed to many different sounds and cultures and when you are in different studios you get to hear pop, rock, gospel, r’n’b and it’s hard not to be inspired’’. Those sounds and influences are apparent on this week’s Vol.2 release. The first single lifted off the EP, Muhammed, is an incredible uptempo track that feels like a throwback to the days of Motown complete with a signature sing a long chorus, piano riffs and an exuberant sound that just gets better with repeat listens. It is a perfect summer single that feels like it’s meant to be seen live and it’s one of her back tracks to date. Opener track Human is beautifully dark, atmospheric and continues to build to a haunting crescendo while one of the records standout tracks Do You Mean What You Say offers enthralling melodies, a blend of folk and country tones and an acoustic vibe that will certainly go down a treat at her upcoming Australian tour. Like its predecessor, Vol.2 showcases Amorosi at her best. The production is slick, the vocals are effortless, the lyrics are dark, raw and relatable and more importantly, knowing that she is doing what she loves makes the records even more endearing.
In a time when the world was forced to sit back, reflect and learn from past mistakes and damaging behaviours, a new age of art and thinking is finally on the horizon. Gone are the days of marching to the same beat, joining the rat race and being constrained to the binary. If we have learned anything from the last year it is to seize the moment, explore our creativity and pursue our passions because as we have seen, it could all stop tomorrow. From setting up her own label, to releasing three very personal records in the last twelve moments to now heading on tour, Amorosi has been a perfect example of following your own path. If Vanessa Amorosi feels like we are finally learning who she is then we are looking forward to getting to know her better.
Vanessa Amorosi Vol.1 and Vol.2 are now on all platforms. You can keep up with Vanessa via Instagram