BACK WHEN Diana King was selling hundreds of thousands of records singing about her ‘Shy Guy’, not everything was ‘peaches and cream’ even while her song and album of the same name topped charts around the world.
The slender King, who still sports her trademark close-cropped hairstyle, is in Kingston to chill out and record some songs she hopes will make it for a new album.
“I’m doing some stuff with Andru Donald and Sly and Robbie. When I’m finished doing that I’ll do some stuff for myself,” she told The Gleaner .
The Miami-based King recently returned from a 56-date tour of South Korea and Japan but for the first time since the mid-1990s she is not signed to a record company. She says that suits her just fine.
“I realise that if I want certain things like what the rock bands get or Britney Spears gets I’ll probably have do it myself because for some reason we (foreigners) deserve the same treatment in terms of money and respect,” she said.
King and her long-time band, City Heat, were in the Far East working Respect , her album that was released in 2002 by Maverick Records, the company formerly owned by pop superstar Madonna. Respect was also released in Europe which runs a close second in terms of fan base for the slender King.
Summer Breezing , a song King recorded with Bounty Killer, was the first song released from Respect . But it was shopped only to the Asian market and was never made available in the United States which frustrated King.
“The bottom-line in America is being played on radio. Anything can be a hit once it gets on the radio,” she said.
Shortly after Respect’s release Maverick was dissolved, leaving King without the backing of a major company for the first time in almost 10 years. Though four of her albums Shy Guy , Tougher Than Love , Think Like A Girl and Respect were marketed by American companies, King says record label politics prevented her from finding a following in that country.
“I never toured America even when Shy Guy was doing well… I did promotional dates and some club gigs but no tours,” she explained. “They (record companies) don’t know what to do with an artiste like me, they’re used to putting people in a category and I’ve never had one and maybe that’s been my biggest problem.”
Co-produced by American Andy Marvel and Jamaican Handel Tucker, Shy Guy was one of the surprise hits of 1995. It was released by Columbia Records subsidiary, Chaos Records, and took off after its title track was included on the hit movie Bad Boys starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
King says it was not until the song and album sold wild numbers in Japan and Europe that Columbia started paying attention. Yet, there was no follow-up single; King says it was not until her next album, Tougher Than Love , that fans heard another song from her.
That song, a cover of Aretha Franklin’s Say A Little Prayer , was a dance hit in the United States. It also performed strongly throughout Asia, and maintained the Spanish Town-born singer’s core market.
The link with Maverick came two years ago while King was doing a charity show in Los Angeles. She went to the company with a demo tape which executives liked and the singer started recording Respect within weeks of approaching the label.
After her indifferent relationships with American record companies, King says she is not keen to sign anytime soon with a major label. “I don’t want to go that route again where you depend on a record label to do everything,” she said. “Right now I’m free to do what I want and I like it that way.”