Alex Young to release Amazing
It’s hard for vocalist Alex Young to remember a time when music wasn’t a central part of her life. At home in New Jersey, Young’s mom and dad, a dancer/musican and actor, respectively, nurtured her early fascination with different sounds. “There was always music playing in my house, so I’ve had a lot of access to a wide array of genres like jazz standards, classical and bossa nova,” recalls the singer. As a child on trips to New York, you could frequently find Young wandering around Carnegie Hall in a wondrous, dreamlike state, enthralled by the cacophony of myriad instruments all warming up at once. “I knew what I always wanted to do,” says Young. “I remember telling my parents when I was little, ‘I’m gonna be a singer.’” This diversity had a profound effect on the singer, who channeled her musical passion into Amazing, her debut album on Anaka Records and distributed by Walmart and on iTunes.
Artist: Alex Young
Release date: Unknown
Single: Government Name
Buy at: Amazon
While most 13-year olds have no plan for their later years, Young was already starting a bourgeoning career in music. On 9/11, Young’s dad barely escaped his World Trade Center office before the destruction of the Twin Towers. The event was an emotional one for Young, who promptly recorded “Heart of America” as a tribute to the police and firefighters who sacrificed their lives that day. The song was Young’s first time in a professional studio (though as a 6-year-old cast member of Sesame Street, she’d had previous experience on a stage), but proved so popular, it was picked up by New York radio station WHTZ (Z100) and played for several years after.
Now 21, Young’s passion for music has only increased since her auspicious debut. The result is Amazing, an amalgam of pop, R&B, funk and dance that is poised to make Young a breakout star for 2010. With the help of Philip “Taj” Jackson (Rihanna, Janet Jackson), a two-time Grammy nominee and winner of the 2008 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award and Michelle “Bizzy” Bell, whose credits include Miley Cyrus, Nelly Furtado, Mary J. Blige, and Britney Spears, Young’s vocal talents and prolific nature were brought to the forefront. “Over the course of recording these past 12 to 18 months, we must have laid down about 30 songs,” admits the singer. “I have a whole library’s worth. I feel like I was creating Amazing 24/7 whether I knew it or not.” What made the final cut is a diverse mix of sounds that range from ethereal and haunting new wave-inspired pop (“Broken Heart”) to romantic balladry (“Amazing”) to synth-driven club banger (“Heavy Breathing”).
The team of producers that have worked with Young reads like a who’s who of industry heavyweights. While Jackson produced most of the album, Amazing also features the contributions of Cuttfather (Ace of Base, Santana), Deantoni Parks (Me’Shell Ndegeocello), Jonas Jeberg (Pussycat Dolls, Kylie Minogue), and Mysto & Pizzi (R. Kelly, Justin Timberlake).
While the music shares its roots with Young’s female pop contemporaries, the singer herself is a far cry from the starlets known as much for their extracurricular activities as their music. “One of my goals is to spread inspiration through my music and do it with class and sophistication,” says Young. “I’m trying to change up the model that if you’re a female singer, you have to be raunchy and offensive.”
To that end, the singer has signed on to be the official spokesperson for White Diamonds International, a diamond company specializing in mining and delivering fair trade and conflict-free diamonds. For the precocious singer, joining up with the company was a no-brainer. “It’s such a noble cause and I’m honored to be part of it,” says Young. “They’re raising the bar in creating an environment that promotes humanity and doesn’t destroy it to make profit. To create the model for conflict free diamonds is a huge undertaking, but one that is definitely worth pursuing. A lot of people may not know that there are other options.”
Her work with White Diamonds, though, is just the latest in a long history of tireless devotion to her interests. As a student at Sarah Lawrence College, Young balanced the intense pressure of her studies with the time-consuming recording of her debut album. More recently, the singer has been working more than six hours a day with choreographers Nu-Stylz (“So You Think You Can Dance”) for the videos to the Amazing tracks “Music” and “Heart Stop” (“I have black and blue bruises on my knees!,” says Young in a tone more playful than painful.)
Through it all, Young’s message and hope for her music are identical to her bigger role as an inspiration for other people. “I really want to make a mark in a positive light and not just be some superficial image,” says the singer. “It really only takes one person who’s inspiring to create something wonderful.”
Or, in some cases, Amazing.