Tata Young releases 2nd English album

Tata Young is Asia's Britney Spears, with her catchy pop tunes, infectious lyrics, stiletto heels and a dash of scantily clad, gyrating naughtiness

india Updated: Nov 01, 2006 20:36 IST

Tata Young is Asia's Britney Spears, with her catchy pop tunes, infectious lyrics, stiletto heels and a dash of scantily clad, gyrating naughtiness.

As a teen, Tata took the Thai pop world by storm. Then in 2004, Tata _ the only daughter of an American father and a Thai mother, released her debut English-language album, "I Believe," expanding her fan base to Japan, India and other reaches of Asia to join a small circle of pan-Asian pop stars.

She hopes her second English album released in September, "Temperature Rising," will thrust her into the global spotlight, and her determination is backed by songwriters and producers with pedigree.

"People who represent me have made a lot of people famous... like, come on, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, you name them all," the 25-year-old Bangkok native says in a thick midwestern American accent.

Wearing blue jeans, heels and a crocheted top, revealing her midriff and diamond belly button ring, Tata is perfectly coifed for our one-on-one interview _ her last of a dozen that day.

An assistant arranges her curly locks as she sits on a sofa in front of a poster of herself in a fuzzy, hot pink and gray striped sweater. As a preteen, Tata sparked her career while watching the Thailand Junior Singing Contest on TV with her family. When her parents praised one performer, Tata chimed in, "I can do that!"

And after a year of lessons, she proved her word, winning the 1992 contest. Perfectly bilingual like many mixed-race Thais, Tata was at first managed by her father and started off as a cutesy pop girl, recording several albums in Thai and acting in local films.

She won singing and acting awards, and popularity, but was also faulted for being overly confident _ a quality considered less-than-desirable for woman in her native Thailand.

With the release of "I Believe," the Thai public tut-tutted the new, racy Tata and her songs, including the popular "Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy." The steamy music video for her latest single, "El Nin-Yo!" has spurred even more tsk-tsks, particularly from the conservative former senator and culture watchdog Rabiabrat Pongpanich.

"She's just showing off her breasts," Rabiabrat said of the new video on the Krungthep Turakij newspaper Web site. "Maybe she's saving the film of her body to show her kids what mom looked like when she was young, 'I used to look like this' _ so that her children can do the same.

"People who go to her concerts don't go to listen to her music but are wasting a lot of money to see breasts, hips, a belly and a butt that can dance," Rabiabrat said on the Thai-language Web site Daily News. The story drew nearly 300 responses on the site _ from both pro- and anti-Tata camps.

Nonetheless, Tata's tunes are regularly piped into malls and cafes and blasted onto nightclub dance floors, and "I Believe" sold millions across Asia.

After a promotional tour in India, Yash Raj Films invited Tata to record "Dhoom Dhoom" - the theme for the Bollywood blockbuster Dhoom which became an Asian dance hit.

Nothing about Tata's latest two albums are particularly Thai, and certainly no other Thai female pop star reveals as much skin, or grabs her breasts and nether regions as Tata did in a recent performance.

But perhaps it is her flashy, brazen American-ness that has made her the sole Thai pop artist to break local ranks and infiltrate markets abroad.

Tata's team, including people at Sony BMG, have now stepped up the quality of her songs, with well-known writers such as Paul McCartney, Diane Warren, Adam Anders and Nikki Hassman.

"I have good people backing me up who want me to be successful," Tata says. "This album is not going to sell only in Thailand. It's going to be a worldwide release." She aspires to be in a Bollywood film.

Her dream concert venue? "Madison Square Garden," she says with a big smile and stars in her eyes.

Sony BMG's top dogs flew in from around Asia to cheer on her latest album launch in Bangkok as she strutted around a stage, surrounded by eight slithering male dancers.

Her manager, Doug Banker, stepped away from the VIP section and praised her "impeccable English" as a major factor in her seemingly inevitable path to global stardom.

Banker, of Los Angeles-based McGhee Entertainment which has managed Bon Jovi, Liz Phair and Diana Ross, decided to take Tata under his wing nearly nine years ago.

"As soon as I met her, I knew she was a star," Banker said, nodding toward her on stage. "She has 'it.' You notice she has 'it' when she walks into a room. You see 'it' when she leaves the room." The inexplicable 'it' has turned Japan into Tata's biggest market perhaps because her sales are difficult to track in Thailand, where CD piracy is endemic. In Tokyo, her image shimmies on the large video screens in the bustling Shibuya shopping district.

"We've already expanded her backyard from Thailand to all of Asia," Banker said. "Next we want to expand from Asia to the Western markets, Europe and eventually the US".

First Published: Nov 01, 2006 21:00 IST