MICA PARIS / “Mica Paris Mixtape”
She’s stayed on the scene for over two decades. Moving from concerts and recordings, to radio, to stage, to television, to print—constantly moving but always being herself. But even with all of that, you may not have heard or heard of Mica Paris.
Her scene has been Great Britain even though she has spent time in the USA. Michelle Wallen was born April 27, 1969 in South London.
My grandfather was a minister, and we were the first family of the church. When I was a little girl, I used to study all of my auntie's albums. All of her albums were the Hawkins Family and Andre Crouch, so when I was 7, I used to listen to the albums and then turn them over and read every single instrument that was being played. I could tell you who was playing what. The person that I used to emulate more than anyone was the sister of Walter, Lynette Hawkins. Lynette was my hero, and she was the one I would be singing with in the house. I was just obsessed with the Hawkinses. I knew every song that they did. By the time I was 10, everyone in the family was going on and on about me having this voice. My grandmother told me that they had some visitors coming down to church, and she would really like for me to sing. I sang a song called 'God Will Open Doors.' It was my first time ever singing in front of people. I went up on the stage and sang, and I remember being so frightened walking up there. I remember thinking, "How can I get my knees to stop shaking? This is really not good!" The minute I started to sing the words, which started out: 'When you can't see your way, and you feel that you are lost astray, God will open doors for you.' I did that, and the whole place just went nuts. At that point, I said, "Well, I'm gonna hold that note longer." I did that note that just goes on and on where people don't think you're ever gonna stop. The whole place went crazy, and I was like, "I like this singing thing. It's kinda cool." At that point, I didn't really know that I was a great singer at 10. I just knew that it was my first ever appearance.
The story would be typical except it took place in London and not in Detroit, Chicago, Philly or New York, and not in Memphis, New Orleans or Atlanta. With that background things happened fast for Mica Paris.
She created a stage name for herself and slowly began to blow up and as in demand back up vocalist. She appeared on too many major recordings to even start naming. During a London concert, Prince called her on stage to sing a feature. Some years later he wrote a song for her and produced a track one on her albums. By the time Mica was seventeen she had a recording contract. By eighteen she had a hit record. There seemed to be no stopping her.
I was a session singer. I left church at fifteen and then I started doing backup vocals for Hollywood Beyond, Shakatak and other bands. At seventeen I signed my deal with Island Records. It took a year to make the
album and we released it in '88. I left school and went straight into the record business. I've never had a job. This is all I know.
A funny thing happened on the way to becoming famous. Three albums (1988 – So Good, 1990 – Contribution, 1993 – Whisper A Prayer) later she was miserable. The record company sent her through changes as company ownership changed hands. It took five years for the fourth album (1998 – Black Angel) to hit the airwaves. The title cut was written by Boy George. And the album had zero push from the company.
What had happened was she got caught in the old catch-22: because the company didn’t market her records, her records didn’t sell and because she wasn’t selling hit records, the company wouldn’t put out another record. From the company perspective they had spent a ton of money to produce the record and it didn’t sell, so rather than promote the record, they basically sat on it. The record busy-ness can drive you crazy. Fortunately, when one door closed, other doors flew open and Mica Paris was able to develop career opportunities other than as a singer and recording artist.
What basically happened was that I just couldn’t get ARRESTED when I left EMI after the (1998-released) ‘Black Angel’ album. But, while I couldn’t get a record deal, at the same time I was starting to get a lot of love from TV and radio. You know, people kept putting me forward for things like the Radio 2 show I had called ‘Soul Solutions’, which I ended up doing for five years. Then ‘What Not To Wear’ came about for BBC1… But over all that time I still wasn’t getting any love from the music industry. So I basically just went where the LOVE was.
Ten years later, Mica Paris has had major success as a radio and television personality. Her radio program Soul Solutions was the most successful BBC soul music program ever. It ran from 2002 to 2007 and directly led to a one-off recording project, 2005’s Soul Classics.
In 2007 she published Beautiful Within: Finding Happiness And Confidence In Your Own Skin, a combination self-help book for women and Mica’s own autobiography. She is candid about her own ups and downs, and in fact focuses more on how she survived the lows than on how she’s enjoyed the highs.
As a teenager in the eighties she was earning two thousand dollars a week and then by the time she was thirty she went bankrupt. She has two children and two marriages that didn’t work out not for the usual reason but rather because Ms. Paris was determined to pursue a profession rather than be a trophy wife supported on a restrictive pedestal by a rich husband. Beyond romantic entanglements, she has struggled with dieting and self-image to meet industry standards of beauty. What matters most is that she was able to struggle through and rise above.
What you hear in Mica’s new album, Born Again (2009), is a survivor celebrating the beauty of being alive, healthy and self-directed. Mica’s major success is how well she has survived both the up and the down sides of fame and fortune. Mica Paris has become a self-confident and accomplished woman who is both a mother and a professional. She has even created a brand with Simply Be, a fashion line for the average woman who is far from a pencil-thin model in physical size.
When you get older, you’ve got to make your style evolve with you. A lot of people stick to a time they looked good, which is normally when they’re in their twenties. It doesn’t work, though. You have to change the way you look. Your body changes and you need to dress age-appropriate or you look like a bloody idiot.
This write up barely scratches the surface of the Mica Paris story. Hopefully, the Mixtape will encourage you to delve deeper into the life of Mica Paris. The Mica Paris Mixtape is not a greatest hits, instead I’ve just grabbed some of the tracks I enjoyed and want to share those with our BoL audience.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Mica Paris Mixtape Playlist
01 “Black Angel” - Black Angel
02 “Don't Say Goodnight” - Black Angel
03 “Stay” - Black Angel
04 “I Wanna Hold On To You [Absolute Radio Mix]" - I Wanna Hold On To You (SINGLE)
05 “You Put A Move On My Heart” - Whisper a Prayer
06 “Tracks Of My Tears” - Soul Classics
07 “Hate To Love” - Black Angel
08 “I Wish I'd Never Met You” w/Bobby Womack - If I Love U 2 Nite 12"
09 “I Should've Known Better” - South Of The River single
10 “Deep Afrika” - Contribution
11 “South of the River [Brixton Bass Mix]” - Contribution - B-sides & Remixes Mica Paris
12 “One World” - Contribution
13 “Contribution” - Contribution
14 “Baby Angel” - Black Angel
15 “Where Are The Children” - South Of The River single
16 “Stand Up” - Contribution - B-sides & Remixes
17 “Im Gonna Make You Love Me” - Soul Classics
18 “Hold On” - Born Again
19 “I Remember” - Born Again
20 “Tonight” - Born Again
21 “My One Temptation” - Born Again
22 “Nothing But The Truth” - Born Again
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 3:47 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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