18-year-old Maria Mena is quickly feeling the momentum of her rising stardom in the United States. Her career as an artist on the tough and competitive US market has been kick-started by her highly successful single “You are the only one” which hit the Billboard top100 list. Media attention is also mounting, and Mena is singled out by many as an artist to look out for.
This week Mena embarks on a 12-date US tour. As part of the “Teen People Rock N’ Shop Mall Tour”, Mena is set to play Orlando, Minneapolis, New York, Houston, Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco. She’ll also play live club gigs on her own in Atlanta, DC and NY. Mena is also scheduled to play a series of East Coast concerts with the highly successful Hanson in July.
A central spot on her promotion agenda is due on July 20 when the happening Oslo songstress is to sing live on the David Letterman show aired on CBS. The show is viewed by an audience of app. 4.5 million.
Recently, Maria Mena performed live in front of a live audience at the Pepsi Smash show alongside such mega-stars as Nelly & Murphy Lee, Puff Daddy and the Calling.
Says the Norwegian songstress on her approach to songwriting: “"I've always tried to be really honest and really direct and not hide anything," she says.” I just write songs that I would want to listen to. One song can create one emotion or several."
White Turns Blue serves as a good introduction to the music of Maria Mena. Taking its title from a poem written by a close friend of Maria's, White Turns Blue brings together 12 of her songs, from buoyant pop tunes to heartfelt ballads, each illuminating a different aspect of her psyche. "I've always looked at music as an emotional thing," she says, "something that has to do with feelings, whether it's happy or sad. I had never been able to explain to my friends or my family how I felt until I started writing songs. You know how there's that one song that you put on when you feel really bad, when you're having a bad day and it makes everything better?"
In a song like "You're The Only One," Maria captures the intoxicating exhilarating rush of young love in finely-wrought details, awkward moments boldly stated. The dazzling hook-dappled tune finds her prankishly teasing her boyfriend while admitting the fears and self-doubt underlying her affection. It's a post-modern update of classic teen pop songs and feels completely real and gloriously unaffected. Every girl has felt exactly this way about a guy and every guy wants a girl to feel exactly this way about him.
"After I wrote 'You're The Only One,'" Maria says, "I realized I wanted it to be the first single." Toward that end, she travelled to Iceland to lens a video for the song, which promises to be her breakout track.
Maria's father, a professional drummer, was instrumental in helping Maria get her start in the music business. When she was 11, Maria and her dad were riding a city bus and she started humming a tune. Her father asked her if it was a track she'd learned from MTV and was both surprised and delighted when she told him it was a song she'd made up on her own.
On a lark, they decided to cut a demo of that song, "My Lullaby," which Maria had written at age 11 to express her feelings of pain and loss surrounding her parent's divorce. "My Lullaby," with its haunted melody, plaintive lyrics, and unadorned vocals, touched a nerve and became a national hit in Norway. (Maria, since her mom and dad split up, lives with her father, a New Yorker. She also has family in Florida.) "'My Lullaby' became a big thing," she says. "They had never heard a teenager sing so openly about divorce before."
In 2002, she recorded her first Norwegian album, Another Phase (Columbia/Sony). "Everything was about when I went to junior high school," she says. "The whole album is about not fitting in. I don't fit in anywhere and I've come to embrace that. I like it because I'm odd, I'm weird, I'm hard-to-get. I think all artists are misfits. It takes something extra to be able to explore yourself like that, to give so much of yourself." Another Phase became a platinum album in Norway, leading to live shows in front of thousands of fans, national television appearances, and nominations for three Spellemannpriser Awards (the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys).
Wrote Billboard on the Norwegian pop-phenomenon: “Norwegian artist Maria Mena struck platinum in her homeland with her 2002 debut, "Another Phase." She also received three Spellemannpriser Award nominations (the Norwegian equivalent to the Grammys). With "You're the Only One," it is America's turn to discover this talented 18-year-old. As the lead track from her U.S. full-length debut ("White Turns Blue," due July 20), it is an immediate attention-getter. Situated somewhere between Michelle Branch and Alanis Morissette, Mena deftly delivers the goods. She comes armed with poetic lyrics—"Well I saw you with your hands above your head/Spinning around trying not to look down/ But you did and you fell/Hard/On the ground"—and vibrant pop/rock edges. This is a great modern-day love song. MP”
Maria Mena’s second album “White Turns Blue” is scheduled for US release on July 20 on Columbia.
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