Alexandra Stan: I needed to experiment, widen my horizon and work with different influencers
A decade since she released the chartbuster Mr Saxobeat, Alexandra Stan discusses egging herself on to explore genres that she is unfamiliar with to stay relevant in the music industry
Alexandra Stan's journey to becoming among the most successful indie artistes seems like a story lifted straight out of a fairytale. Having been spotted at a karaoke bar in 2009, and subsequently signed on with a music label, she went on to deliver the much-acclaimed 2010 track, Mr Saxobeat, which bagged titles like the Best Song at the Romanian Music Awards, and Best International Song at the Los Premios 40 Principales.
"[A few years after its release] all I wanted to do was understand why it became such a [big] hit. I wanted to recreate the track's sound, and attempted to do so in [my 2014 album] Unlocked, but, eventually gave up," confesses Stan, who would have been relegated to being a one-hit wonder had it not been for the modest yet noteworthy achievements of her subsequent offerings like Lemonade and Get back.
Stan soon realised that negotiating risk by sticking to a genre she was familiar with was instead turning out to be detrimental. "I [realised] I needed to experiment, widen my horizon and work with different influencers. I [attempted] Latin music and explored reggaeton, which was a big step for me. The genre is currently among the most prominent ones in mainstream music, so, to be courageous enough to try it, even though I am not from Colombia or Brazil, [was an achievement]."
Her latest offering Tikari has precisely the kind of sound quality that she hoped to acquire when dabbling in different genres. "This is the beauty of being an artiste; one gets to try different things. Mr Saxobeat had an [infectious] energy, and is a song with a good vibe. Whenever I feel lost, and can't comprehend what to do as an artiste, I look back at that song and think about how I felt then, as a 19-year old, who had nothing to lose, and made music simply because I loved it."
Now at 31, Stan believes she has been taking measures to recreate that magic by doing things that appease her heart. She has been collaborating with "good people", and approaching music in a manner she wouldn't have in the past. Case in point being her February release, Obsesii (in English, Obsession), which sees her deviate from her conventional image of being a "happy girl" belting out peppy songs, as she pours her heart out chronicling the pain of a broken relationship. It was a leaf out of her life's book; a first for Stan. "It is a slow pop song that enabled me to [dig] deep into my heart. I didn't think I was ready to do so. The song emerged to be a hit, and that happened because I did as I desired."
While she won't disregard the perks that come with being affiliated to a prominent music label, Stan, like several independent artistes on Indian and international shores, has also received the short end of the stick in certain deals. When it came to backing her last album, the monetary benefits of being attached with a music company couldn't lure her as much as the creative freedom that was being afforded to her by cutting ties with them.
"In the initial years, it is simpler to let others make decisions for you. You [end up] making more money, and gain [exposure]. It is the simpler way to achieve success. Several artistes, like me, who are now in their 30s, have never had the freedom to express themselves. Many never craved it; it was easier to let others take decisions. And it is tough to change that [attitude]. They have big homes, cars and kids to look after. It is not easy to give it all up and simply pursue [the kind of music that they wish to]. But, I never wanted that freedom taken away from me. I wanted to be responsible for my decisions. If I failed, it would be due to my decisions," says Stan, who plans to release her next album in 2021. "It will have Latin vibes and some regge influences."
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