Pop Culture

Will America ever embrace Anastacia?

Anastacia has America to thank for her upbringing. But the pop singer has Europe to thank for her success. Born in Chicago and raised in New York, Anastacia has seen her self-titled third Sony album debut at No. 1 across much of Europe, where it was released March 29.

Time will tell if she receives a similar reaction in the United States, which has so far proven resistant to her infectious pop tunes. The album is due to arrive this summer via Epic.

Overseas, “Anastacia” entered the Billboard European Top 100 Albums chart at No. 1. By comparison, Janet Jackson’s “Damita Jo” debuted at No. 20. “Anastacia” — which finds the singer eschewing her dance/pop roots for more rock terrain — is currently in the European chart’s pole position for a second consecutive week.

“It is nice to start our fiscal year with a No. 1 album,” Sony Music International (SMI) president Rick Dobbis says.

According to the label, in its first three weeks of international release, “Anastacia” has shipped 1.5 million units.

The success of the album is a direct result of the high profile the singer/songwriter has enjoyed in Europe for the past five years.

“We made a strategic decision to release the album in two phases,” notes Julie Borchard, New York-based Sony Music U.S. senior VP of international marketing.

The first phase was the European and Australian release. The second phase is the U.S. release.

Indeed, Anastacia is considered a superstar everywhere except her native United States.

Her previous albums, “Not That Kind” (2001) and “Freak of Nature” (2002), have sold 124,000 and 279,000 units in the States, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Such figures confirm that Anastacia’s name is on the rise in her home territory, says David Massey, executive VP of A&R at Sony Music U.S. and SMI. “And the new one will be her biggest yet.”

Last year, Anastacia went public with her battle against breast cancer. In the months since, the artist — who also suffers from Crohn’s disease — has become better known in the States. This fact is not lost on Anastacia or her label.

The artist acknowledges that the media attention over her cancer helped open people’s eyes to her. “But I was never given this opportunity in the past — my success never happened here,” she explains.

“What most surprised the media was that I was openly talking about breast cancer,” she continues. “I was giving it a face and taking the shame out of it.”

Indeed, breast cancer is now an official part of Anastacia’s story. Still, New York-based Epic senior VP of worldwide marketing Piero Giramonti says, the label would never employ an exploitative agenda to promote Anastacia in the United States.

“People will pull what they want for a story, but we’ll be focusing on her music,” he notes.

Ready to ‘sprock’
With the enthralling, emotionally charged new album, Anastacia seamlessly merged soul, pop and rock. She has dubbed this musical marriage — equal parts Tina Turner and Gwen Stefani — “sprock.”

She explains, “I wanted the album to be full of passion, character and desire. So, I went after producers who have given such things to the artists they’ve worked with.”

Enter Glen Ballard, Dallas Austin, Dave Stewart, John Shanks, Ric Wake and Richie Jones.

“For the first time in my career, I felt like I was driving the car,” the artist says. “They all allowed themselves to be passengers so that they could help me find me.”

In the process, they helped Anastacia unlock her inner rock chick.

Songs like “Rearview,” “I Do” (featuring P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval), “Welcome to My Truth” and “Heavy on My Heart” are rugged, muscular and full of confidence.

“Left Outside Alone” was delivered to U.S. mainstream and adult top 40 formats the week of April 12.

Internationally, “Left Outside Alone” will be followed by “Sick and Tired” in summer and “Heavy on My Heart” in fall.

In September, Anastacia will begin a three-month headlining European tour. Until then, she will travel between the United States and Europe.

“I’ll go where my support is needed,” Anastacia says. “But I must have the support before I put myself out there. I’ve never been one to force-feed a country. But as Europe knows, if a country wants me, I am there.”

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