Titiyo’s first brush with fame 12 years ago didn’t work out quite like she had planned. This time around, she clearly has a better shot.
In 1991, the strikingly beautiful sibling of singers Neneh Cherry and Eagle Eye Cherry was signed to Arista Records. Her first single, “My Body Says Yes,” rose to No. 42 on Billboard’s pop chart, but the dream soon faded. She fell off Arista’s radar before she had a chance to make a name for herself.
The whole experience left a bitter taste in her mouth.
“I guess I just wasn’t up for it,” Titiyo (pronounced Teh-tee-yo) said recently. “(Arista) wanted me to change my name – they thought it sounded too much like ‘tits.’ They wanted to mold me into an image, and that just wasn’t me. Besides, Arista was more busy promoting Whitney Houston.”
Fast forward to 2002, and now Titiyo is poised for something big in the United States. Whether you know it or not, you’ve likely heard the title track off her debut Lava/Atlantic album, “Come Along” (released Oct. 15). It was used for NBC’s fall-TV promotional campaign and appeared on the “Providence” TV soundtrack album.
Part Chrissie Hynde and part Dido, Titiyo is a major star in her native Sweden, where her first three albums yielded four Swedish Grammys. She’s known primarily for her smooth R&B vocals, but for “Come Along,” she says she wanted to try something new.
“My previous albums were much more black, with more soul or R&B in them,” she said. “But then I started listening to a lot of rock/pop albums, especially Radiohead, Soundgarden and a popular group in Sweden called Paus.
“I knew I couldn’t do an entire rock album, because I’m basically a soul singer, but I wanted there to be elements of rock on my next album.”
Naturally, she turned to Paus, a side project for The Cardigans guitarist Peter Svensson and Kent vocalist Joakim Berg. She asked them if they would like to collaborate with her, and they gladly accepted.
“They were really interested in doing something more soulful than what they used to doing,” she said. “So we met and we clicked immediately. The whole recording was very satisfying. And now I’m on a label that seems to work, and getting ‘Come Along’ on TV seems to have gotten people curious about the album.”
Titiyo and Neneh Cherry share the same father, percussionist Ahmadu Jah. Eagle Eye Cherry is Titiyo’s stepbrother. From a very young age, Titiyo was surrounded by music.
“My father had a 15-piece band,” she said. “There were always musicians around our house, but I wasn’t very impressed by it. I wanted to listen to ABBA and be blond. Then when I got around 18 or 19, I decided, ‘Finally, I’m going to do some music.’
“I released my first album after Neneh’s first one came out. At the time, I was very influenced by the British soul scene – Soul II Soul, Bomb the Bass, the whole DJ scene. The key was to have credibility, to stay as an underground thing and not to be too commercial. We were all keen on doing our own thing, whatever we wanted.”
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ON THE WEB: www.titiyo.com.