Last updated: 04/14/2008 12:00:00 PM
Jamelia has had more false starts than an Olympic sprinter but now really is her time to burn bright. Her last single 'Bout' pointed the way but the new single 'Superstar' rams the message home - this girl is back to finish what she started.
It seems unbelievable now that her first single was released in 1999 when she was at the tender age of 18. Even more unbelievable is that she'd been discovered by Parlophone at the age of 15, when she stood up in an A & R man's office and sang her own songs accapella, with a confidence that women twice her age would be proud to display. Parlophone signed her on the spot, but let her develop in her own time, until she was ready to release a single, which, 3 years later, she was.
It's hard to imagine how out on a limb she was at that time. UK R&B was still looking for a female star and didn't expect to find it in an 18 year old from Birmingham who no one had previously heard of. They were to be surprised.
Within 18 months Jamelia was to go on to have 4 Top 40 hits, most notably the amazing 'Money', still her most recognised song and certainly her biggest success, peaking at No5. In 2000 she was nominated for 4 Mobo Awards and won one.
At the time, the 'Independent on Sunday' wrote that "a poised 19 year old, Jamelia has the homegrown talent to give Missy Elliot a return for her money". Her rise seemed inexorable.
Then Jamelia got pregnant and effectively put her career on hold, although she continued to write during her pregnancy. In fact, 'Bout' is the song she was working on at that time.
Her baby girl was born in March 2001 and Jamelia spent the next two years bringing her up. It would be two years of absolute joy, but coupled with the frustration of seeing R & B explode into the mainstream without her. It was especially galling in that she had spent the two years germinating ideas and songs, relishing being with her daughter but itching to get back and prove herself one more time.
June 2003 saw her return with the remarkable 'Bout', written by Jamelia and C Swing, a writing collaboration that had already spawned 'Money'. 'Bout' became Jamelia's fifth hit, in spite of problems with the video which delayed the release of the single. Another false start, albeit a minor one, the only casualty being Rah Digga who guested on the single but could not appear in the re-shot video.
On September 15 Jamelia releases the sure-fire smash hit single 'Superstar', followed by the album, as yet untitled, on Sep 29. Both are classics, the album totally redefining what this artist is all about. If 'Superstar' is instantly commercial, the album pushes the R & B envelope so far that it bursts open at the sides. Not that it sacrifices tunes for innovation; at the heart of every track is a killer song, it's just everything sounds so fresh and new in a genre filled to capacity with genuine artists and those adopting R & B lite tendencies to get a hit. This is the real thing, not the diffusion line.
Some of the tracks feature collaborations - 'Club Hoppin', for example, features Bubba Sparxxx, while 'Off Da Enz' features Asher D from So Solid Crew. But it is very much Jamelia's record and, as such, pisses all over her previous album 'Drama' from such a height you'd have trouble recognising it as the same girl. But it is, it's just she's lived more of a life and the songs reflect that. Lyrically, it's a staggering achievement from one so young - listen to 'Thank You' and 'Life' for examples of a remarkably incisive writer, one who can write about a subject like physical abuse in a way that belies her youth and, like the best writing, allows us an insight into a world whose dark spaces we might not always wish to confront. And great tunes too!
Prepare to be surprised by this album. It's undoubtedly the work of a major artist, one whose time has come at last at the ripe age of 22. 'I coulda been a contender' could easily have been Jamelia's lament, firstly when she was signed at 15 but didn't release her first single for 3 years, and secondly when she broke-off her career at it's height, to have her baby. A contender? No way, Jamelia, with this album you've already won the fight.