Meet Emeli Sande – The Scottish Aretha Franklin

On stage: Emeli Sande's Live At The Albert HallOne year ago this week, Emeli Sandé’s first album entered the charts at number one.  Twelve months on, Our Version Of Events is enjoying its 53rd consecutive week in the Top Ten – a record for a debut bettered only by The Beatles’ Please Please Me in 1963 – and the woman behind it is a household name.

The Scottish singer-songwriter crowned an exceptional year on Wednesday night by winning two Brits – best female and best album – while her debut was the only album to sell a million copies in Britain last year. She performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, while next month’s UK tour is a complete sell-out. Strangest of all, the 25-year-old managed to achieve all this without exploiting her sexuality or getting embroiled in a celebrity scandal.

An old-fashioned pop star, she has kept her private life to herself.

With Sandé, it is all about the songs, a virtue emphasized by this week’s release of her first live album. Recorded last November, Live At The Royal Albert Hall is a CD and DVD double-pack that reiterates the qualities that have made the singer pop royalty. It features hits such as Heaven and Next To Me, and wraps her soulful, heart-stopping voice in atmospheric strings and seductive rhythms.Monochrome: Sande arriving at the ceremony on the red carpetWith intimate, piano-led songs her forte, the centerpieces are the ballads Clown and River, back-to-back tracks that are simultaneously sad and uplifting. On Clown, she admits to being a novice pianist, but her performance is still mesmerizing.

Other highlights include a haunting take on the Cup Final hymn Abide With Me (as sung at the Olympics opening ceremony) and a note-faithful cover of Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.

‘From the age of eight, she’s been my inspiration,’ says Emeli.

As live albums go, it isn’t perfect. Emeli has the soulful voice and songwriting abilities of Simone, but she has yet to acquire the stagecraft that is a hallmark of her other great influence, Alicia Keys. While the New Yorker will fall back on her inner showgirl when she plays a big venue, the naturally reserved Sandé can seem overwhelmed by the occasion.

‘Wow, I’m playing the Royal Albert Hall,’ she says. ‘This is my wildest dream come true — and it’s all happened so quickly.’

Her fans, however, react warmly to her girl-next-door charm, especially when she touchingly dedicates songs to her watching mum, dad and sister Lucy. Trim figure: Emeli debuts her slimmer figure after slimming down before trying to crack the USIf the tender, reflective nature of Sandé’s material threatens to make this album slightly one-paced, the singer is inspired in her choices of collaborators, and guest appearances by rapper Professor Green (on Read All About It) and singer Labrinth (on Beneath Your Beautiful) ensure that the energy levels soar at the end of the evening.

Beyond her undoubted artistry, though, what has made Sandé such a star?

The thing that sticks out the most about the singer is how down to earth she still is. In an era of TV-created idols, she offers something different:

The daughter of a Zambian father, Joel, who moved to Britain on a scholarship and now teaches engineering, and an English mother, Diane, from Cumbria, she was raised in a small, conservative village in the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Dramatic weight loss: Singer Emeli Sandé cuts a slimmer figure on the red carpet at the pre-Grammy party on Saturday night, and seen right at the MOBO Awards last NovemberFrom there, she went not to stage school but the University of Glasgow, where she completed a medical degree, specialising in Clinical Neuroscience.
In the final year of her studies, she spent time in hospital wards meeting patients with spinal injuries and schizophrenia. Had she not taken up music, she would now be a qualified junior doctor.

‘My intention was always to become a doctor,’ she said ‘I specialized in neurology, and I found medicine a real challenge. ‘It was something that was going to stretch me, because I wasn’t just stuck in a research laboratory.’

‘I was in a hospital, and I got to see people at their most vulnerable. Ultimately, though, I wanted to try music.’

There is a touch of steel to Sandé, too, along with the strong work ethic that is a prerequisite for any modern pop star.  The singer concedes she was ‘headstrong’ as a child, and, in her teens, she declined a record deal after winning a Radio 1 talent contest, preferring to cut her musical teeth by writing hits for Cheryl Cole and Susan Boyle.

Her approach has won her the admiration of her peers. Jay-Z praised her ‘unique sound’, Rihanna asked her to write a song for her, and Dido, when I interviewed her recently, was quick to acknowledge a singer she sees as a kindred spirit, not least for the fact that Sandé, like Dido.

Even amidst the prying eyes of the paparazzi, she managed to get married to marine biologist Adam Gouraguine in a very private ceremony.

‘I think she’s brilliant,’ Dido told me. ‘It’s voices that resonate with me, and I love hers. She’s the most exciting female artist of the moment. She never gets boring, either, because I don’t know anything about her private life, which is great.’

Slim and healthy: A radiant looking Aretha Franklin attended the New York Knicks game last night at Madison Square GardensSandé herself is already looking ahead, with this live set previewing two songs from her forthcoming second album. The first, Enough, is a big, flowing piano ballad. The second, Pluto, looks more to the Massive Attack-style strings of her debut single Heaven. On the evidence of these, the stunning success of Our Version Of Events is no fluke.

‘You have a duty to be a positive role model, especially when some of your fans are young girls,’ she says. ‘You get 13- and 14-year-olds thinking they have to dress a certain way to get on.

But my inspirations were Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. With them, the music always came first.’

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14 Things You Didn’t Know About Alicia Keys

alicia keys interview 1Alicia Keys is jet lagged, picking at some mango, pineapple and cucumber, and drinking almond tea sweetened with agave. She has never drunk coffee. She doesn’t need the stimulation; Alicia is always switched on.

Her face is fresh but for Cleopatra eyeliner that makes her look like a silver-screen movie star. Her hair, recently shorn, is slicked back close to her head. Her nails are blood red ovals with the half moons painted creamy, very 1940s.

A string of mega-selling albums – Songs In A Minor (her debut, released when she was only 20, sold more than 12 million copies), The Diary of Alicia Keys, As I Am and The Element of Freedom – made her a worldwide superstar, yet she remained strangely ambiguous, never releasing any personal details about herself.

Alicia grew up an only child with her hard-working Italian, Scottish, and Irish mother, and her father is African American  Teresa Augello, who was an actress and legal secretary. Her African-American father Craig Cook, a former flight attendant turned masseur, left her mother when Alicia was two, and she spent many years having no relationship with him at all.

But upon the death in 2006 of her paternal grandmother, with whom she was very close, she gradually came to reconsider their relationship and recently decided to give it a fresh start.

When we meet, Alicia is listening to one of her new tracks, ‘Brand New Me’ from her album Girl on Fire. The track best sums up how her life has changed since finding love with Swizz Beatz (rapper and producer Kasseem Dean) and becoming a mother to son Egypt (named after the country, which she visited a few years ago).

It’s been a slow revolution that has seen Alicia transform from a feisty street kid from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen with her hair in braids, a girl who expressed everything through music yet was wary and uncomfortable in her own skin, to a new Alicia, not only more confident but more warm, open and trusting. With each album there has been an emotional shift, with Alicia becoming less afraid to express who she is.

14 things you didn’t know about Alicia Keys:

  1. alicia keys interview 2Alicia Keys is biracial of European Caucasian and African-American descent.
  2. Alicia Keys has sold over 12 million copies worldwide to date.
  3. She became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001.
  4. She has won five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “Fallin’“.  Her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, was released in 2003 and was also another success worldwide, selling eight million copies.  The album garnered her an additional four Grammy Awards in 2005. Later that year, she released her first live album, Unplugged, which debuted at number one in the United States.
  5. Alicia Keys is the the first female artist to have an MTV Unplugged album to debut at number one and the highest since Nirvana in 1994.
  6. She also produced 3 Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles top 3 hits,Fallin’“, “If I Ain’t Got You” and “No One“. Also, those singles were charted on 10 or more countries.
  7. Her favorite book is Isabel Allende’s book about Haiti.
  8. Her favorite musicians are Afro-Cuban music, Fela Kuti, Frank Ocean, Emeli Sandé and Alabama Shakes.
  9. Her favorite things to wear is Givenchy. She also loves wearing sweat pants and low-hanging tanks with heels.
  10. Her favorite makeup is eyeliner. She prefers the make-up line called Tarte.
  11. Her most recent purchase was a morgan car her husband bought. “It’s handmade and incredible. I’ll gladly drive that bad boy.”
  12. Her favorite cities are New York and Barcelona.
  13. Her unfulfilled ambition is to try new passions, do things she doesn’t even know yet and to learn new things.
  14. Her favorite style icon is Bianca Jagger.

Hear Alicia Keys like you’ve never heard before:

alicia keys interview 3The album Girl on Fire is fierce. ‘Brand New Me’ didn’t happen straight away, it was an evolution. It was a whole journey to get there. Some of the songs on Girl on Fire are very vulnerable. Some are me talking to myself in a subconscious way. Some have a sense of abandonment, of letting go.

Egypt is awesome, he’s two and just so silly. We feel so right together, we definitely fit.

A lot of people, when they have babies, take them home and think, who are you? What are you doing here? Then eventually they fall for them. Not me. It was love at first sight and it got progressively obsessional. I want to be there every second. I would like to have more. At least one. Every woman thinks she wants a girl and so did I, but I’m so glad he’s a boy. The mother-son bond is really powerful.

Women are more complex by nature. Daughters are often closer to their fathers. I grew up with only my mother. Recently I feel both me and my father have grown up. I think something happens when you become a grandparent. You have a different mind-set. There’s less pressure on the relationship, so maybe it’s closer. He was with Egypt last week and he loved it.

Since Egypt I’m more peaceful. I’m a more comfortable-in-my-own-skin person. But it happened before that too. I was becoming more open. I started to understand things better.

My father and I are fine now. I would say in the process of growing up you realise you’ve been holding on to anger. I was angry then and am sure I had the right to be angry, but if you hold on to all this anger the only person you’re hurting is you.

The process started when my [paternal] grandmother became ill. You realise what’s important when you see a person you love dearly and you’re not going to have them for long. It was important to her. And I saw [my father’s] love for her. I realised he wasn’t an evil person so I said, ‘Can we start from this point on? Can we be friends? I can start to understand you and you can start to understand me.’ 

I feel at peace when I cook, though these days I don’t cook a lot because there’s often the question of do I sleep or cook? Definitely sleep.

When I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to study. I went for the experience and to find out what pulled me. Now if I went back I would study business and marketing. I’d like to understand the fundamentals behind the things I put in action every day.

My husband and I knew each other for years. We were both in the same industry. We first met when we were something like 16 – a high-school friend of his ended up being managed by the same people as me. He and I used to hang out and say things like, ‘Maybe we’ll work together one day.’ It’s cute that we knew each other when we were 16 but it was not an instant connection. It was a very slow burn, but it does still burn and it’s beautiful.

I’ve always had to be part of myself with people, but with him I can be my whole self and he loves me when I am. And I love when he is his whole self.

Sometimes we walk into a room together and everyone gravitates towards him, and there are times when we walk into a room and everyone gravitates towards me. I love it when people love him. And he loves it when people love me. It’s a really balanced thing, and I’m glad I don’t have to pull back this part of myself.  It’s pretty special and now with our beautiful Egypt we just thank each other every day.

My collaboration with Emeli Sandé came about randomly and I love how things happen like that. I was celebrating the tenth anniversary of Songs In A Minor with four shows. One of them was at the Royal Albert Hall and I was looking for a support act. Emeli has a song called ‘Breaking The Law’ which I had played endlessly, so I said, ‘Let’s have her open the show’.

[Although] we didn’t meet each other that night, she was coming to New York and we ended up getting together and decided to do some writing. It was instant chemistry. Rarely does it happen like that. She is a unique and important artist who will be around for a long time. We worked on three songs on this album which are all awesome.

Source: DailyMail

100th Royal Variety Performance

All that glistens: Heather Headley went for red as she took her turn to sing

There was royalty in the audience so Girls Aloud of course ensured they were dressed in their glamorous best at the Royal Variety Performance on Monday evening.

Cheryl Cole led the girls on stage and unlike their usual skimpy get-ups they dressed appropriately for the high caliber crowd as they all covered up in floor-length gowns.

They stepped on stage at the lavish Royal Albert Hall to give it their all in one of their first live performances since reuniting again. And now wonder they saved themselves for the best as they helped the Queen celebrate the 100th variety show.

Belting it out: Alicia Keys wore all black

Cheryl, Nadine, Nicole, Kimberley and Sarah wore matching black frocks with a tulip cut and lashings of gold embellishment down their fronts.

The Biology hitmakers stunned in the strapless numbers as they stood in perfect unison in a straight line singing into their microphones.

Showing off their perfect physiques, glamorous hair and singing skills, the girls ensured they were a hit as the Queen, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, sat in their seats to be entertained by the star-studded variety acts for the lavish evening.

But it wasn’t only Girls Aloud who graced the stage to make it a night to remember. Among the glamorous ladies leading the pack was Katherine Jenkins and Amanda Holden. The Britain’s Got Talent judge shimmered in a silver gown as she took the mic onstage during the evening. Visit DailyMail to continue reading…

Fit for the Queen: Cheryl Cole displays her curves and vocals as she takes to the stage at the Royal Variety Performance to entertain Queen Elizabeth II

Fit for the Queen: Cheryl Cole displays her curves and vocals as she takes to the stage at the Royal Variety Performance to entertain Queen Elizabeth IIStunning the crowd: The girls performed one of their first reunion gigs in their stunning matching gowns with gold embellishment detailingStunning the crowd: The girls performed one of their first reunion gigs in their stunning matching gowns with gold embellishment detailingGiving it her all: Cheryl stood in the middle as they gave their best efforts on the nightGiving it her all: Cheryl stood in the middle as they gave their best efforts on the nightLavish set: The girls performed an impressive set in the spectacular venueLavish set: The girls performed an impressive set in the spectacular venuePerfect formation: Cheryl took centre stage as the girls performed their mirror-image movesPerfect formation: Cheryl took centre stage as the girls performed their mirror-image movesHaving a chin wag: The Queen greeted the girls after the show to thank them for their effortsHaving a chin wag: The Queen greeted the girls after the show to thank them for their effortsMaking their entrance: One Direction were also among the headliners and appeared through the audienceMaking their entrance: One Direction were also among the headliners and appeared through the audienceTaking their places: Liam, Louis, Zayn, Niall and Harry sat on lit up stools as they sang their hearts outTaking their places: Liam, Louis, Zayn, Niall and Harry sat on lit up stools as they sang their hearts outConcentrating: Harry Styles showed the Queen what all the fuss was about as he joined his One Direction bandmates at the Royal Albert HallConcentrating: Harry Styles showed the Queen what all the fuss was about as he joined his One Direction bandmates at the Royal Albert HallSomething funny? The boys broke down in giggles as they were joined on stage by funnyman David Walliams, who was host for the eveningSomething funny? The boys broke down in giggles as they were joined on stage by funnyman David Walliams, who was host for the eveningGathering together: The boys looked dapper as they happily completed their setGathering together: The boys looked dapper as they happily completed their setAll eyes on them: Despite it being a slightly older clientele at the show, the boys did themselves proud as they showed off their talentsAll eyes on them: Despite it being a slightly older clientele at the show, the boys did themselves proud as they showed off their talentsStand out: Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins wowed in a pink satin strapless gown as she took to the micStand out: Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins wowed in a pink satin strapless gown as she took to the micCostume change: She transformed into a similar purple number as she showed off her vocal skills alongside Placido DomingoCostume change: She transformed into a similar purple number as she showed off her vocal skills alongside Placido DomingoCelebrations: Amanda was just one of the stars taking part in the 100th Royal Variety ShowCelebrations: Amanda was just one of the stars taking part in the 100th Royal Variety ShowGolden girl: Kylie Minogue was also a favourite as she glistened in her side split gold dressGolden girl: Kylie Minogue was also a favourite as she glistened in her side split gold dressFlashing the flesh: She wore her hair in an up ‘do while emphasising her petite figure in the sequin gownFlashing the flesh: She wore her hair in an up 'do while emphasising her petite figure in the sequin gownSpecial guest: Even Alicia keys was over from America to perform at the show among the other acts of the nightSpecial guest: Even Alicia keys was over from America to perform at the show among the other acts of the nightTribute: Heather Headley made a memorable performance with her tribute to late singer Whitney HoustonTribute: Heather Headley made a memorable performance with her tribute to late singer Whitney HoustonTaking her seat: The Queen took her place next to the Duke of Edinburgh as they watched the show unfoldTaking her seat: The Queen took her place next to the Duke of Edinburgh as they watched the show unfoldRoyal seal of approval: The British monarch dressed in her finest as she glittered her way into the venue on the red carpetRoyal seal of approval: The British monarch dressed in her finest as she glittered her way into the venue on the red carpetVariety is the spice of life: Rod Stewart returned to singing duties as he performed his classicsVariety is the spice of life: Rod Stewart returned to singing duties as he performed his classics…And even crooner Neil Diamond was among the stars providing the range of entertainment...And even crooner Neil Diamond was among the stars providing the range of entertainmentWhat a night: Soldiers set the scene as they graced the stage in full dress up gearWhat a night: Soldiers set the scene as they graced the stage in full dress up gear

Meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II…

Following Monday night’s Royal Variety Performance, performers found themselves face-to-face with the Queen. After taking to the stage at London’s Royal Albert hall for a flawless live showcase, the ‘Girls Aloud’, the girlband, were introduced to Her Majesty among other performers, beaming from ear-to-ear as they took it in turns to politely shake her hand.

And Cheryl Cole proved to be a particular fan of the 86-year-old monarch, somewhat bizarrely comparing her hair to ‘candy floss’ and praising her ‘tiny little dancing shoes’.

Writing on her Twitter page, Cheryl wrote: ‘The Queen is so delicate. She has hair like candy floss and tiny little dancing style shoes .. Awww #theroyalvariety2012.’

It would seem Her Majesty was equally enamoured with the Geordie beauty, smiling widely as she chatted briefly to the 29-year-old singer.

The rest of Girls Aloud seemed to be just as overcome with pride as Cheryl, expressing their excitement at meeting the monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh on their various Twitter pages.

Nadine Coyle wrote: ‘I met the Queen of England tonight & the Duke. The royal Albert hall was jumping with faces. A celeb spotters dream! Xxx hahaah great day!’

Kimberley Walsh added: ‘Cannot believe I just met the Queen! What an amazing night! #royalvariety2012.’

And Nicola Roberts praised the group’s ‘amazing weekend’, which has seen them not only perform at the Royal Variety Show, but also appear on Children In Need and Strictly Come Dancing with their upcoming single, Something New.

She said: ‘I’m so excited I’ve just met the Queen. I’ve always wanted too meet her. She was sparkling from head to toe #royalvariety2012. Weve had an amazing weekend #ChildrenInNeed #SCD #royalvariety2012.’

And while the rest of the girls seemed thrilled to be in the presence of royalty, Sarah Harding appeared to be a little distracted by comedian David Walliams, and was seen giggling away at him as the Queen made her approach.

Although Girls Aloud toned down their usually skimpy stage costumes in favour of elegant and demure fishtail dresses to cater to their high-calibre crowd, not every performer was so mindful of their audience.

Comedian Alan Carr greeted the Queen in a leopard-print cave-woman costume, while Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler had to meet Her Majesty wearing a bright pink bodysuit.

The Queen was also introduced to boyband One Direction, opera singer Katherine Jenkins, and the likes of Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams and Alicia Keys.

Keys said: ‘To be part of something that’s been happening for 100 years is amazing. I’ve got instructions about meeting the Queen. I’ve got to bow to the audience and the royal box.’

In addition to praising her meeting with the monarch, Cheryl Cole also tweeted her love for both Kylie and Alicia following their respective performances. She said: ‘Gotta love a bit of Kylie #looksamazing.’ Before adding: ‘Another highlight of my night was @aliciakeys such an incredibly talented and down to earth woman.’

Of course, Cheryl is no stranger to royalty, after working alongside Prince Charles with her charity, The Cheryl Cole Foundation.

The show will be broadcast on ITV1 on December 3 at 7.30pm.

From one member of royalty to another: Queen Elizabeth II met pop royalty in the form of Cheryl Cole and Girls Aloud following the Royal Variety Performance on Monday nightFrom one member of royalty to another: Queen Elizabeth II met pop royalty in the form of Cheryl Cole and Girls Aloud following the Royal Variety Performance on Monday nightRoyal fan: Cheryl somewhat bizarrely compared the Queen’s hair to ‘candy floss’ and praised her ‘tiny little dancing shoes’Royal fan: Cheryl somewhat bizarrely compared the Queen's hair to 'candy floss' and praised her 'tiny little dancing shoes'Honored: Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh and Sarah Harding took it in turns to meet the QueenHonoured: Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh and Sarah Harding took it in turns to meet the Queen New pals: Her Majesty seemed to be enjoying a particularly long chat with CherylNew pals: Her Majesty seemed to be enjoying a particularly long chat with Cheryl Proud: The girls beamed from ear-to-ear as the monarch passed by, before taking to their Twitter pages to express their excitement at being in the presence of royaltyProud: The girls beamed from ear-to-ear as the monarch passed by, before taking to their Twitter pages to express their excitement at being in the presence of royalty Funnyman: After meeting Girls Aloud, the Queen moved on to comedian David WalliamsFunnyman: After meeting Girls Aloud, the Queen moved on to comedian David Walliams Eclectic mix: Queen Elizabeth met with all the acts who took to the stage at the 2012 Royal Variety PerformanceEclectic mix: Queen Elizabeth met with all the acts who took to the stage at the 2012 Royal Variety PerformanceA new Directioner: The One Direction boys looked a little nervous as they shook hands with the monarchA new Directioner: The One Direction boys looked a little nervous as they shook hands with the monarch Is that appropriate attire: Alan Carr was dressed in a leopardprint cave-woman costume as he received his royal introduction, while Ashleigh Butler was wearing a hot pink bodysuitIs that appropriate attire: Alan Carr was dressed in a leopardprint cave-woman costume as he received his royal introduction, while Ashleigh Butler was wearing a hot pink bodysuitPop princess: Kylie Minogue, wearing a gold Julien Macdonald dress, looked positively thrilled as she shook the hand of the 86-year-old monarchPop princess: Kylie Minogue looked positively thrilled as she shook the hand of the 86-year-old monarch Music icons: Robbie Williams looked on as the Queen met US singer Alicia KeysMusic icons: Robbie Williams looked on as the Queen met US singer Alicia KeysCharmer: Alicia Keys smiled as she watched Placido Domingo kiss the Queen’s white glove on her right handCharmer: Alicia Keys smiled as she watched Placido Domingo kiss the Queen's white glove on her right handWelsh wonder: Opera singer Katherine Jenkins was dressed demurely in a dark pink satin strapless gownWelsh wonder: Opera singer Katherine Jenkins was dressed demurely in a dark pink satin strapless gown Pleased to meet you: Rod Stewart bowed as he shook hands with Her MajestyPleased to meet you: Rod Stewart bowed as he shook hands with Her Majesty Charmed: Amanda Holden performed a segment from Thoroughly Modern Millie on the showCharmed: Amanda Holden performed a segment from Thoroughly Modern Millie on the show Hello, Yiour Majesty: The Queen greeted performers from the musical adaptation of MatildaHello, Yiour Majesty: The Queen greeted performers from the musical adaptation of MatildaNew chums? The Duke of Edinburgh seemed to be enjoying chatting to Girls Aloud’s Nadine CoyleNew chums? The Duke of Edinburgh seemed to be enjoying chatting to Girls Aloud's Nadine Coyle Furry friend: Prince Philip seemed particularly enamoured by the talented Pudsey the DogFurry friend: Prince Philip seemed particularly enamoured by the talented Pudsey the DogJokes all round: Prince Philip and Kylie Minogue seemed to be somewhat tickled as they chatted awayJokes all round: Prince Philip and Kylie Minogue seemed to be somewhat tickled as they chatted awayLong night: The Queen wrapped up with a blue blanket as she made her way home from the Royal Albert HallLong night: The Queen wrapped up with a blue blanket as she made her way home from the Royal Albert Hall