Guided by legendary Mr. Frank DiLeo (whose clientele also included Michael Jackson and Taylor Dayne) and with song production by Kizzo and Evan "Kidd" Bogart amongst others, Manika's bubbly persona and sugar-sweet single "Just Can't Let You Go" bounced onto my radar in mid 2011. However, things came to a sad stop not long after due to DiLeo's tragic passing.
Team Manika continued on with DiLeo's vision despite the tragedy, which included an opening slot on One Direction's 2012 tour and two transition singles in "Good Girl" and the current "My Way" -- my personal favorite from her initial 2011 live showcase. Two years after I first encountered Manika, after amassing a large fan following (affectionately referred to as 'Manikans') which includes three million+ on Facebook alone, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is in sight.
Unlike so many manufactured popstars that clutter the musical landscape, Manika is more than happy to unveil her creative process -- showcasing her growth as an artist via her debut Double Album -- scheduled for release TOMORROW, July 11th. In addition to prior singles like "Just Can't Let You Go", "Good Girl" and the current record "My Way", Manika's album reads like the ever-relatable diary of a young woman. To label her as a pre-fab teen pop artist is a total misnomer upon full listen to Double Album -- homegirl has grown into so much more.
In addition to taking an early listen to her jam-packed double record (28 tracks in length, and includes five music videos), I was able to ask her a few questions about it as well as have her fans ask her some as well. Before we get into the interview itself, here are some thoughts on my favorite cuts.
Many of the songs featured on Double Album resonate well with me because they remind me of the pop music that saturated my eardrums (and basically lived in my DiscMan, remember those?) in my early teenage years -- long before dancefloor-club pop became the norm no matter how young of a popstar you are. Manika's pop rock influences are fully fleshed out here, like in the rollicking "Light Up The Sky" or handclappy "Flash Bang". "I Like Shy Guys" has a slight electronic bite to the darker guitar strums a la vintage Avril Lavigne.
Pop-punky "Boyz R Dumb" is a capstone to relationship drama that quite literally every girl can relate to (Even my mother says that Boyz R Dumb!/Even smart one can become little slow when you want them know just how you feel). Summer Breezy "Woo Hoo" is utter catchy pop. These two coupled with prior singles "Just Can't Let You Go" and "Good Girl" mark the teenage chapters of Double Album and Manika's cute and sincere beginnings.
Guitar-driven ballads like "17 Hours" or "Could It Be Love" show the depth behind Manika. "Valentine" begins as a gorgeous piece of acoustic guitar pop that naturally builds and crescendos into a big ballad sparkler. "Through The Eyes of the Young", written by Manika as an ode to terminally ill children, speaks of optimism in the face utter adversity. The delivery of these cuts mixed with their lyrical content speaks volumes regarding how Manika is so much more than your average poptart.
Many of the cuts reinforce the positivity that surrounds Manika as such a fantastic role model. "Dreaming In Color" (Don't let them take away the colors of your rainbow) and "Going Off A Feeling" (I'm anxious about the possibilities/So I've tucked away my fears/Gonna leave them far, far behind) encourage you to go for your dreams despite any naysayers and to trust your own instincts.
Dancier tracks like "Take A Little Give A Little" and "Notice Me" also lend themselves to Manika's natural transition to more adult-friendly material and are huge highlights. In the end, the conjunctive single "My Way" basically sums up the thought process behind this project -- why box someone in to one specific style or agenda when she's capable of doing it her way?
I asked Manika a few questions about Double Album, as well as opened the floor up to YOU, the fans! Check out our interview below. You can also read my first interview Manika from 2011 here.
MELISMATIC: This album was a long time coming. How does it feel to finally have it available for your fans?
Manika: It feels AMAZING to finally have it out there!! My four million fans on Facebook and Twitter have been waiting over two years for this so I am very happy to be able to give them A LOT of great content ---28 songs including five music videos!!
What was the first song you recorded for this project? What was the last/most recent song?
The very first song I EVER recorded/wrote/produced in a professional studio was "Boyz R Dumb"!! I shot the music video for this back when I was a junior in high school. This music video is on the album. :) The most recent songs would be "My Way", "Breathe", "Notice Me" and "I Like Shy Guys."
How involved were you in the songwriting itself? Which songs did you get to work on specifically?
I was extremely involved in the songwriting for my album :) I wrote on 22 songs on my album.
Of all the different producers you worked with on this double album, who was the absolute craziest (in a good way) in the studio?
I LOVE Qura!!! He's amazing :) Kizzo can be pretty crazy tho...in a good way haha :P
This album set really shows your progression as a young artist. Which song has the most emotional meaning to you?
"Through The Eyes Of The Young". Prior to my double album, I wrote the children's book The Exciting Adventures of Boo and donated my proceeds ($15,000) to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). I read my children's book to inner-city school children and young terminally-ill cancer patients, which moved me to write the song “Through the Eyes of the Young” on this album dedicated to those beautiful children. I will be donating the proceeds from this song to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Of all of the new material that fans haven't gotten the chance to hear yet until now, what song or songs are you most excited to perform live?
"MY WAY"!!!!! No matter what tour I was doing...whether it was in sold-out arenas with One Direction or a small acoustic radio show, every time I would perform "My Way" the crowd would just go CRAZY!! (and that was before "My Way" was even released!) Now that "My Way" is on Top 40 radio and my fans recognize it... I think they will love it even more. ;)
Your mentor, Frank DiLeo, passed away in 2011 and I'm sure that was difficult for you, especially during such a creative and exciting time for your career. What was the best piece of advice Frank passed on to you?
Don't try to copy someone else in your music...just be you. -- Might sound cheesy but it is totally true.
SOME QUESTIONS FROM THE FANS:
A LOT of fans wanted to know: Do you have any dating advice? Is it difficult to date while being a popstar?
It is alway best to be friends first. :) And the most difficult thing about dating for me is that I'm always on the road so it's like you go on a date and then you don't see him for a few weeks... I hate long distance. :(
Facebook or Twitter? (Debbie)
BOTH!! But I do have more Manikans on FB so..... ;)
I saw you perform live last year with One Direction!! I love your music! I wanted to know how old were you when you first started singing? (Jenna)
I honestly don't know! For as long as I can remember! :) I have always felt most comfortable when I am with my music. For instance, when I was super young like in pre-school, saying hi to a "grown-up".... I was SOOOOOOO nervous. But singing on stage in front of a packed audience... no problem!
What's some advice you would give to fans that also wish to pursue music as a career? (Artur)
So many of my fans ask me this but it's not as easy as me jotting down a paragraph answer to them... That is why I am actually right now working on a step-by-step course to show my fans and anyone who wants to get into the music industry exactly what to do! I really want to help aspiring artists out there in any way I can. :) I will be posting that on my website soon, and it will be FREE!!
What's your favorite place to tour? (Britney)
For me it's not about the place it's about the people. The vibe and amazing energy from the audience.
Will you be touring again soon? And if so, will it be on your own or with another artist? (JB)
Yes, I will definitely be on the road again soon. :) Also Aaron Carter's management contacted my people and said that Aaron is a Manika fan too! And that he would love for me to do some guest appearances on tour with him and have us sing a few songs together. Super Excited! "I Love Candy" is still my jammmmm. :)
For more on Manika, you can visit her official website at www.ManikaOfficial.com. You can also become an "official" Manikan by following her on the Twitters via @ManikaOfficial or on Facebook via Facebook.com/ManikaOfficial. My thanks to Manika and her management for this opportunity!