Malaysian superstar Datuk Siti Nurhaliza dips her toe in unchartered waters with her first full English album, All Your Love.
There is no denying the phenomenal star power of Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, who has remained a staunch presence in the local music industry throughout her 16-year career.
Indeed, the singer who is known for her girlish charm and saccharine persona had only to flash a smile to whip onlookers into a maniacal frenzy as she descended from a bubble lift at Shook restaurant in Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, on a recent Monday evening.
Clearly, Siti is no stranger to the attention. Filling the room with her robust vocals, she took in the crowd’s fervour with the poise and grace possessed only by the most experienced of entertainers.
If anything, the blithe singer with the candy-laced charisma marks the true measure of Malaysian celebrity. Plus, in an age of dispensable pop singers who typically look better than they sound, Siti is a rare gem.
To date, she is still the nation’s best-selling artiste and is the proud owner of over 200 local and international awards. The pop star is also said to be worth over RM50mil.
Not bad for someone who used to help her family sell kuih in her hometown of Kuala Lipis, Pahang.
Her aptitude for music was evident even at the tender age of 12. It probably helped that she was born into a musically-inclined family – her mother was a famous traditional singer while her grandfather was a renowned violinist. Her brother, Bahri Tarudin, and her sisters Siti Norsaida and Siti Saerah are also singers. Together, the family band would perform at gatherings such as weddings in her hometown.
The would-be superstar went on to participate in numerous singing contests before hitting the jackpot when she won the 1995 RTM Bintang HMI competition at age 16. The following year, the up-and-coming singer tore up the charts with her self-titled debut album.
Everything she touched turned gold from then on. In 1996, her single, Jerat Percintaan (Love’s Trap) from her debut album, clinched a win at the 11th Anugerah Juara Lagu. That same year, she also took home the Most Popular Television Entertainer, Most Popular Female Singer, Most Popular Teen Artiste and Most Popular Star awards at the Anugerah Bintang Popular.
There was no stopping the young singer from her heady career rise. She would later become the only artiste in the country to have won 34 Anugerah Industri Muzik awards, 22 Anugerah Bintang Popular awards, 21 Anugerah Planet Muzik awards and 18 Anugerah Juara Lagu awards and four MTV Asia awards.
Tough cookie: Siti (front row, centre) taking part in the first day of training of the Askar Wataniah celebrity platoon at Kem Rejimen 515 Askar Wataniahin Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.
In 2005, she was listed by MTV Asia as Asia’s Best Musical Artiste and also as Channel V’s Biggest Asian Artiste. In 2008, the Asia News Network listed the star as one of Asia’s Idols.
In between making music and attending countless award shows, Siti even found time for romance and tied the knot with businessman Datuk Khalid Mohamad Jiwa, popularly known as Datuk K, in 2006.
Last year, she launched her cosmetic range, SimplySiti, which has been named the Best Halal Product by the Halal Journal Magazine and the Most Promising Brand in 2010 by the Brand Laureate.
She is also a tough cookie – last June, the pop queen took on the role of celebrity reservist in the Territorial Army as part of a volunteer programme launched by the Defence Ministry.
The star, who is required to complete 39 hours of training within a year before being commissioned as a junior officer, says she looks forward to the experience.
“It will certainly toughen me up, both physically and mentally.”
Siti addressing fans on air at Suria FM recently.
At 32 and in spite of her mammoth successes, the fresh-faced beauty still sparkles with childlike effervescence. Though in place of her quintessential kebaya-clad image, the singer rocked a more modern look with a fitted red blouse and black fedora during her brief performance that Monday evening.
For a moment, I even thought she was channelling the sassier (and sexier) Mizz Nina as she burst into a highly-charged rendition of her latest English single, Falling In Love.
Yes, you read right. After 13 super-successful albums in Malay, Siti is finally ready to venture into brand new territory with her first full English album, All Your Love.
Produced by What’s Up Entertainment, which is fronted by her 21-year-old stepson, Adib Khalid, the album features 10 tracks that aim to propel the artiste into international stardom.
While it seems like a daunting task for the singer with a rock-solid Malay fan base, she says recording an album in English has always been her dream.
“I’ve always wanted to produce an English album but I just never had the time. So when Adib suggested that we do an English album together, I immediately agreed. He’d arranged everything and he had so many ideas. It was a great experience working with him,” Siti tells the media in an interview afterwards.
“The title of the album is dedicated to all my fans, my family and friends who have been so supportive of me over the years. I want to make them proud by producing an album that could potentially break into the international market.”
Her most ambitious effort yet, All Your Love was written and produced almost entirely by Australians R&B singer Christian Alexanda and composer-producer Bryan Bouro. The tracks were mixed and mastered in various studios, including mixHaus studios and Oasis Mastering in the United States, and WhyteHype Studios in Perth, Australia.
She calls the record a hip, current affair with poppy dance tracks.
On the uptempo single, Remember You, she collaborated with Jamaican-American singer Sean Kingston (of Beautiful Girls fame). The record also features the sounds of seasoned sound-mixing engineer Richard Furch, who has worked with the likes of Prince, Usher and Whitney Houston, and mastering engineer Eddie Schreyer, who is known for his work with Lady Gaga and Kanye West, among others.
But you would be sorely mistaken if you think that the singer is ready to abandon her conservative roots in pursuit of international fame. The singer, who famously (or infamously) refuses to wear revealing clothes or even pose with male artistes for magazine covers, insists on retaining that Malaysian flavour that has pervaded her music.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to change my sound or my ways. Just look at Shakira (from Colombia) and Celine Dion (from Canada). They took the unique sounds of their homeland to a global platform.”
“Take Shakira for instance – she sounds different from most American singers and so do I, in terms of my accent. But I don’t think I have to change that as I want to introduce Malaysia to the world,” Siti tells us with a smile.
That said, the singer isn’t too proud to admit to the challenges that entailed in the making of her English album. “Singing in Bahasa Malaysia is second nature for me, but singing in English is something entirely different. I had to get out of my comfort zone.”
The record also marked her first collaboration with a non-Malaysian producer. “There was a lot to get used to. Most local producers are familiar with my style but, of course, that’s not the case with Bryan,” Siti reveals.
Bouro had monitored her English pronunciation throughout the recording process while maintaining her “Voice of Asia” identity.
“I’ve had no problems understanding what to do with the melodies, but I did need help with my pronunciation on a few occasions and that was where Bryan stepped in,” she explains.
The congenial singer adds: “I don’t want to think too much about how to sing or pronounce the English lyrics because I’m Asian. What is most important is that my pronunciation is clear and the messages of my songs get through.”
Falling In Love, the first single off the record, has been met with encouraging response since its July release, Siti shares. “I have gained new fans and I’ve been receiving lots of positive comments from my Chinese and Indian listeners on Twitter. They’ve been telling me they really like my new single.”
All Your Love, distributed by Warner Music Malaysia, is now available in stores. For digital downloads, log onto www.sitidigital.com.