One of Des'ree's lesser known records is one of her most telling. It's the record she's held at Sony S2 since 1992 for the least amount of time ever between a demo tape arriving on a desk and hitting the shops as a début single. The record stands at twelve weeks. All it took was twelve weeks to become a major recording artist.
"Feel So High", taken from the album "Mind Adventures" the track that kicked the notoriously unhurried wheels of a major label into accelerated motion was a hit all over the world. The electrifying rate of its success created a new musical phenomenon from a woman only 23 years old. It showed a promise she has consistently fulfilled even surpassed and the single "Life", from the new album "Supernatural", is no exception.
It's been six extraordinary years since Des'ree made her début and she's used that time to take stock. She recalls, "Everything happened so fast, I'd gone from being a camera shy young woman, singing to myself in the mirror, to travelling around the world, touring with a band and doing interviews in every kind of medium, and I'm still recovering", she laughs. "I don't have it in me to ride a rollercoaster. I need to know where I'm going. I need to be the pilot." Two album releases and a string of hit singles later, the same quality of restraint can be heard in the music she has created. Slowly and gently, through "Mind Adventures" in 1992 to "I Ain't Movin'" in 1994 and its record-breaking single "You Gotta Be", Des'ree has been developing the kind of deep, lyrical sensuality that defies existing musical categories and breaks through to create new ones.
Growing up in South London, Des'ree's introduction to music came from her parents who, coming to Britain from the Caribbean, brought with them their island sounds, enabling their daughter to experience reggae, calypso and jazz along with British pop music. "In my living room we used to listen to the likes of Duke Ellington, Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder while I imagined I was Gladys Knight singing on stage. I was always entertaining friends and family. I was a little exhibitionist.".
It was on returning from a 3 year spell in Barbados with her family, at the age of 14, that Des'ree knew she wanted her life to revolve around music. An avid reader from an early age, she soon found herself moving from studying poetry to writing it, condensing everything she learned from her culture, history and life experiences and setting it to music. It's a of composition that hasn't changed over the years.
Finding her own voice out of that initial decision has been an interesting adventure that Des'ree has undertaken sometimes alone, sometimes in partnership. "Working with great musicians has enabled me to regard my voice as an instrument - to explore textures, tones, moods and velocities. I really enjoy experimenting. I never try to be cool, I just go with my instinct." Des'ree's writing and co-writing strength has never been more evident than on "Supernatural", it marks a stage in her life when she is at her most vocally confident and most emotionally composed.
In 1994 the hit single "You Gotta Be" allowed Des'ree to break into America. The impact of the single was extraordinary, rapidly becoming a nationwide anthem. "You Gotta Be" broke US records, becoming the most played video on VH1 and after 80 weeks was still on the Billboard recurrent air-play chart. As a result Des'ree's second album, "I Ain't Movin'", has sold in excess of 1.6 million worldwide. In fact the impact of the song around the world has been so great that "You Gotta Be" was selected to go on the tribute album for Diana, Princess Of Wales.
The success of her new material created another whirlwind of activity for Des'ree. She travelled the world on a sell out tour and in partnership with Seal, took America by storm on the most popular US tour of 1995. Another landmark experience in that year was her performance at the first ever secular concert at the Vatican and subsequently having a personal audience with the Pope to receive a blessing.
Between the release of "I Ain't Movin'" and her forthcoming album "Supernatural", Des'ree has been busy in the film world, providing soundtrack material for Spike Lee's 'Clockers', 'Set It Off' and more recently 'Romeo And Juliet', a film which marked her personal big screen début. Director Baz Lurhmann approached her to contribute a song to his Hollywood interpretation of 'Romeo And Juliet' and to critical acclaim Des'ree sang "Kissing You (Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet)" at 'The Capulet's Ball', where the young 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' (Leonardo De Caprio and Claire Danes), played their first scene together. The scene launched them to superstardom and Des'ree's music is intimately associated with that moment.
Now, with her third album "Supernatural", Des'ree returns to an arena which has seen the rise of many imitators in recent years, each emphasising a particular aspect of her genre defying So deep an impression has she made that a few recent songs by other artists, including Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone", have been so heavily influenced by Des'ree's "Feel So High" that settlements between the artists are expected to be reached this year.
Des'ree continues to develop, her evolving and maturing all the time. It's a testing process - as she says, "It's not just that people expect a lot from me, I demand a lot from myself." The making of "Supernatural" has been her biggest challenge to date. The album is a testament to Des'ree's greatest and most famous attribute - her ability to mould melody with her mellifluous voice. The tracks soar on those trademark strong, uplifting hooks, whether the backbeat is driven by folk guitar ("Indigo Daisies", "Down By The River") or grooves along to sunny reggae rhythms ("Proud To Be A Dread"). Des'ree's vocal buoyancy turns her first single "Life", into an ice-melting fusion of pop and soul and makes the sweeping ballad "I'm Kissing You" into more of a symphony than a song. "Supernatural" takes you on a cruise past some unexpected musical scenery - funk, reggae, folk and ballad with a final twist in the tale. It's music for dancing around your living room on a wet Sunday morning or for driving down a warm coastline in a c convertable with the stereo turned right up. The music possesses Des'ree's trademark chameleon vibe, making it sound right anywhere you like, but remain unmistakable.
There's no summing up Des'ree's story - it's so obviously ongoing and developing all the time. She has already broken records - no doubt she will break more. People who love her music associate her with the words of her biggest hit - "You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser". She's proved she can be all this and now she's got her eyes on the future.
Facts In Brief:
"I Ain't Movin'" album:
Platinum album in USA (1.3 million sold)
Over 1.6 million sold worldwide
Gold album and single in Australia
Gold album in Canada
Gold album in Brazil
Gold album in UK
"You Gotta Be" video: Most played video on VH1 (USA) ever (at that time)
"You Gotta Be" video: nominated for 2 MTV (USA) awards, IAAAM award.
BMI award "You Gotta Be"
Ivor Novello song writing award ("You Gotta Be")
Romeo & Juliet soundtrack has now sold in excess of 6 million worldwide.
Diana Tribute album has now sold in excess of 8 million worldwide.
* all of the above is taken from the Official Des'ree Website.