Hayley Westenra Marathon: Introduction
Well, here we are. As promised, a ‘Hayley Westenra Marathon’, if you like. Over the next week or so I will be reviewing all of her studio albums, a live concert (I will be seeing her on the 15th February with Jonathan Ansell) and other tidbits such as her biography, best websites, etc.
My relationship with Hayley has always been rocky, and I have actually been more disappointed by her albums rather than satisfied. In truth, I have only really ever liked just one of her albums. Others verge on average for me, whilst the others are just dull. So why am I fan? Can I even be referred to as a fan?
Living in the UK, I first came across Westenra unusually early, since she had only released albums in New Zealand at that point. It was 2002, and a friend of mine sent me the two NZ releases to determine what I thought. In truth, not much. Her first two albums could only be what you would expect from a very young, impressionable singer. She was given some standards to sing from musicals and some traditional pieces. She was only thirteen or fourteen recording these albums. Nothing was exceptional about either of them to me, and yet they were huge sellers in her native New Zealand. I disliked the albums, but I did find her voice very compelling. Upon listening to ‘Pokarekare Ana’ (now her signature song, if you like) I found her voice to be beautifully crystal clear, pitch perfect and had barely any vibrato. I decided from that point that I would keep an eye on her, and if she released an album with at least an interesting tracklisting, that I would pounce on it.
Pounce on it I did. Coincidence led the young Kiwi soprano to my country. What made her travel across the whole world to the tiny UK eludes me. Perhaps it was the success of Charlotte Church that her new label, Decca, decided that the UK would be the best spot to promote her. Decca released Hayley’s first international album, Pure. This was the album I was waiting for the haunting voice to make.
I loved Pure. It was in my CD player continously. I bought numerous copies and shared them out. I talked about her, and made people aware of her. I dragged different friends to see her live. Everyone liked her. In fact, one of my male friends was quite set on asking her out on a date after she performed on a television show that we were audience members of. Thankfully, I talked him out of it (I mean, come on, in your dreams!) I met her, her family, and her fanbase, who seem as gentle natured and beautiful as she is.
This was not to last, however. The following albums that followed Pure consistently disappointed me, and the last time I saw her live, I am ashamed to say, was late 2005. But no matter how many times I was disappointed by her albums, I still found her consistently perfect live. I enjoyed her in concert, regardless of what she sang, since you (or just me) can only truly appreciate her voice when heard live. I have always said that she sounds sedated on CD, but this is a little unfair – some things just can’t be captured on recording. The emotion in her voice is so subtle and quiet, that it can barely be caught on disc. That’s the trouble I find with Hayley.
As to why I was disappointed by certain albums? That will come with the reviews, but they won’t, by any means, be negative. Unlike my reviews written for her on amazon, these reviews will be written from a fresh perspective, taking into consideration her audience, marketing viability, the genre she sings in and her tender age.
I am the critical, unbiased kind of fan (I often joke that my favourite artists don’t need critics when they have fans like me) which often leaves me feeling like the outsider on several of my favourite artists’ forums, but I like to think that a detached fan here and there is a healthy thing. All I want for any artist that I love and respect is for them to improve and grow as artists, and this is my main drive about being a fan of Hayley. Because of her young age, I sit and wait for her creative juices to grow and flow. I do not follow just anyone, I follow artists that I believe in, and despite any criticisms I make, they are made with affection and sincere belief in the artist in question. Hayley Westenra is and always will be the one to watch.
Hayley Westenra Marathon Posts: (unlinked titles are yet to be reviewed)