Think only the Americans can make R&B/Pop records that matter?
Think you know what makes a successful Irish export? Think
that any under-21 who wants to make music never speaks her
mind and always thanks her mom?
again... and meet Samantha Mumba. A 21st century
teen who thinks Kylie was always a cool pop star
and that mobile phones are indispensable. A teen who loves
her mum but names Puff Daddy as eye candy. A teen
that sends a 30-something stylist home so she can buy her
own clothes! "I'm something totally different. There
are a lot of female artists my age around at the moment,
but they're all American and blonde and blue-eyed and smiley.
I'm totally the opposite of that. I want to show a bit more
attitude and I have an opinion..."
17-year-old Samantha Mumba left school last year, she knew
she had a record deal to look forward to. She'd been so
busy performing on stages and in studios for the previous
six months that she would get into school in the mornings
exhausted, and think to herself "I don't have a clue what's
going on!" Because she always had a good academic record,
and because she doesn't do things by halves, Samantha made
a decision: she would concentrate on making music while
she had the opportunity. Later, "if it all went quiet",
she would return to complete her education.
to Samantha Mumbas music and you realise things aren't going
to get quiet in a hurry. Her songs - which she co-writes
- are a supremely confident collection of pop-inflected
R&B nuggets that finally prove Europe can match the super-slick,
ultra-catchy efforts of TLC, Brandy and even Britney
Spears. In her native Dublin, Samantha Mumba has already
become something of a celebrity. Things really kicked off
when she landed a lead role in a September 1998 production
of 'The Hot Mikado', a jazzy, modern take on Gilbert
and Sullivan's celebrated opera. That raised her profile
and saw her invited to sing on various Irish TV shows (her
take on 'Killing Me Softly' went down particularly
well). When they asked her to mime, Samantha would always
ask to sing live instead. When there wasn't a choice, she
would, as she says "still end up belting the song out anyway."
Something else she got used to was the way that, after every
TV interview, the presenter would lean across and ask, "So
how old are you really?" She smiles. "I tell them they can
see my passport if they really want."
knows everybody in Dublin, Samantha explains. In a way it's
great, but in a way you have to be really careful because
everything's going to get back to everybody else somehow
or other." It certainly worked out for her when a friend
introduced her to Louis Walsh, manager of Boyzone
and Westlife, in a Dublin club one night. Samantha
managed to blag her way into the club pretending she was
an R&B singer from New York recording her debut album with
producers in the city. Impressed by Samantha's talent and
potential, he signed her up as a complement to his existing
roster of triple-A acts. After signing to Polydor,
Samantha spent several months of last year moving between
Denmark, Sweden, England and Ireland, co-writing and recording
her debut album, 'Gotta Tell You'. Her debut single,
also titled 'Gotta Tell You', takes off on the back of an
aggressive guitar hook, gets straight in your head, and
refuses to leave you alone. In the words of Samantha, it's
"deadly". Meanwhile, elsewhere on the album the late-nite
sexiness of 'Body To Body' features a sample from
David Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes' - all breathy vocals
over a sparsely funky track. And it even comes with the
approval of the thin white duke himself!
'Baby Come On Over' is a bass-heavy club anthem in
the making. Says Samantha: "It's about a girl making the
first move on a man. It's quite an aggressive track!" Live
favourite 'Isn't It Strange' on the other hand, shows
off a more lilting, relaxed side to her voice.
"I wrote the ballad 'Never Meant To Be' after I'd
come out of a situation in my life where I felt finding
someone was never meant to be." Although Samantha's other
songs are altogether more upbeat - pop-edged enough to be
have a broad appeal, yet sharp enough for even the pickiest
R&B fans - all Samantha's music belies her tender years.
"I've always had friends who were a couple of years older,"
she explains. "I'm not at that smiley schoolgirl stage..."
Between the ages of three and 15, though, Samantha was a
performing, smiling schoolgirl at Dublin's famous Billie
Barry Stage School. But don't hold it against: she hasn't
been ruthlessly plotting her assault on the charts since
she was in nappies.
home, stage school's totally different from the way it seems
in England. We just went down for a laugh. It wasn't about
competing against each other at all. It's funny because
I grew up with Brian from Westlife - he was at the
stage school when I was. We'd probably have been the least
expected to make it out of everybody. He was a joker, and
I was a dosser - always having a laugh, not taking it seriously
course, the final joke is now on everybody else. Samantha
Mumba is the all-singing, all-dancing and, most importantly,
all-real pop prospect you can't help but take very seriously