“I just want you to feel something”: Vanessa Amorosi talks new music, creative control and Mardi Gras

Vanessa Amorosi performing at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday, 5 March, 2022. Since the performance, the singer has released a new album, "City of Angels". Photo: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras/supplied.

Vanessa Amorosi is back with a brand new sound and renewed passion on her new album City of Angels, writes Danny Waterson, who interviewed the Australian music star for The Sentinel.

Vanessa Amorosi is a mainstay of the Australian entertainment industry known for her powerhouse vocals and critically acclaimed music. The popular singer-songwriter, now 40-years-old, was already a household name by her 18th birthday. She has since forged a unique and mutually fond relationship with the Australian public.

Her career is littered with highlights. These include her debut album The Power (with its uplifting worldwide anthem ‘Absolutely Everybody’) attaining multi-platinum status in the year 2000, performing ‘Heroes Live Forever’ at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, scoring a #1 single in 2009 with ‘This Is Who I Am’ and performing ‘Lessons of Love’ live on the Eurovision Australia Decides stage in 2020.

In 2022, Amorosi, now based in Los Angeles, has created what she considers the “most Vanessa Amorosi album” with City of Angels. A sonically daring song cycle featuring lush production, exquisite musicianship and some of Amorosi’s most personal lyrics to date, it’s led by gospel-rock and features myriad musical styles, including Middle Eastern instrumentals.

The cover image from the City of Angels album, which has debuted at #7 on the ARIA Albums Chart. Photo: supplied.

The album, which was released on 18 March, has just debuted in the Top Ten of the ARIA Albums Chart, proving Amorosi has lost none of her appeal.

“This is going to make people understand who I am,” Amorosi tells The Sentinel of the album.

“I had my past history as a kid with the pop songs but even in those pop songs there were counter melodies, they were all gospel arrangements. ‘Have a Look’ with the whole “what you say now baby ba-ba-ba”, that’s a counter melody supporting the lead, that’s a harmony thing. You add four-piece harmony to that and it sounds like a gospel arrangement.

“‘Pray for Love’, ‘Absolutely Everybody’ is a four or five part harmony; ‘Shine’ as well, all counter melodies, it’s all there. Now, over the years working in that genre more, and being in the USA and living in that world, it’s just evolved,” she says.

The first teaser from the album was ‘Crash Now Burn’, a cinematic song with driving harmonies and a gospel feel. “That was one of the first ones we did, everything about it was where I wanted to step,” Amorosi says fondly of the track.

“This is going to make people understand who I am,” says Vanessa Amorosi, pictured, of her new album. Photo: supplied.

During the past two years, there have been two EPs (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), giving a taste of the new musical adventure to come on City of Angels. Always a prolific songwriter, City of Angels sees the performer add another string to her bow – it’s her first self-produced album.

“I think it’s all based on a feel, it should take you to another place,” she explains. “You want to be transported into that moment that happened or that experience. A lot of melodies and counter melodies I write, they are music parts, they are rhythmic, they are a movement.

“If you can’t feel it just through the music itself, you won’t understand the context of what the lyric is delivering,” Amorosi says of the songwriting and production process.

On listening to the album, one of the standout tracks is the ’80s rock-tinged synth anthem ‘Muhammad’. Amorosi agrees: “It just feels good, the track just has me so motivated on days where I’m not. And now looking at the all the live shows (the singer is currently in the midst of an Australian tour), that song live is kick-ass.”

‘Muhammad’ is a standout track on Vanessa Amorosi’s new album, City of Angels. Video: Vanessa Amorosi/YouTube.

Another highlight is the feel good sing-along song ‘Take it Easy’ – a duet with popular American gospel artist Lena Byrd Miles. “I literally remember hearing her sing and losing my mind!” Amorosi says, fangirling.

While the new album is a major focus for her, another key focal point is touring. The singer commenced a mammoth Australian tour in February and has dates scheduled through March and April.

Earlier this month, Amorosi also played a key role in this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, with a performance at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, 5 March. “What a night! Mardi Gras was incredible,” she enthused on social media afterwards.

Speaking to The Sentinel about Mardi Gras, she says: “For me, [it’s about] celebrating and rejoicing love … it actually means a lot.”

Vanessa Amorosi performs ‘Absolutely Everybody’ at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, Sydney Cricket Ground, Saturday, 5 March, 2022. Video: ABC TV & iview/YouTube.

The singer has had a long relationship with the LGBTQI community, something she says dates back to her childhood.

“Going through the whole pandemic at home, I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the excitement of that. When I was a kid, my uncle used to take me to drag shows. So I’ve always been totally obsessed with it,” she says.

After more than two decades in the entertainment industry, Amorosi has more control over her career than ever and is in a position she’s been striving to reach for years.

“I wanted to be taken seriously as a singer; I wanted to be known as a vocalist,” she says. “I remember when I did the Sydney Olympics with ‘Heroes Live Forever’, I had that moment where I went, ‘Good. Finally people will see I am a vocalist, I’m a musician.’ But now, 20 years later, I’m more settled. It’s not so much about saying to people, ‘I can sing,’ now I just want you to feel something,” Amorosi explains.

“I want to put my experiences into a song and have both of us, even though we don’t know each other, feeling, ‘Holy shit, we are exactly the same.’”

City of Angels by Vanessa Amorosi is out now out through Scream Louder Records. For details of her tour, visit https://www.vanessaamorosi.com/tour.

Danny Waterson is the music editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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