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)

Hayley Westenra
My Gift To You

Hayley Sings Japanese Songs
Hayley Sings Japanese Songs 2
In Her Own Voice (Autobiography)
The Valentine’s Tour (Concert Review)


14 Responses to “Hayley Westenra Marathon: Introduction”

  1. a fan with “tough love” – i like that. *smile*

    i’m actually a bigger fan of her Odyssey album (which i’m listening to right now; love Caccini’s Ave Maria). her voice sounds more mature, and the song selection matches her voice & character well. but that’s my opinion.

    anyways, let the Hayley marathon BEGIN!!

  2. ChungChungXavier Says:

    Wow !

    Miss , you surely are hard to please .

  3. I agree, her voice is always growing, and was impressed with her vocals in Odyssey. Well, I always am impressed with her vocals! 🙂 There are some really good standout tracks on Odyssey. I just think that at the time, I had allowed my expectations to go to high after Pure, so the bubble was bound to burst, no matter what the next album was going to be like.

    I’m doing repeated listenings for these reviews again and am finding my opinion change. Ah, you’ll see. 🙂

    Chung: It’s true. 😦 I am seriously critical when I, myself haven’t a shread of talent in my body (unless you can have a talent for criticising) 😦 Normally my reviews just come across detached or rational (or so I have been told) and not like I’m the devil handing out punishments. In either case, I will be ever so nice to Hayley. 🙂

  4. How many smilies did I put into that post? 😦 <– and again.


  5. ChungChungXavier Says:

    “””””””””I am seriously critical when I, myself haven’t a shread of talent in my body .””””””””””

    Oh ! I love that .

    You are very humble and modest . :> :> :> :> :>

  6. I love Pure, Odyssey, and Treasure, and am not disappointed with any of them. Odyssey was actually the album that made me a fan. Nicola, have you ever heard Never Saw Blue or You Are Water? Those are 2 of the best songs on Odyssey, but they are on the US version. The only problem I have with Odyssey is that there are about 22 songs scattered on at least 3 different versions, and 2 are on Celtic Treasure. It’s very frustrating, and it makes it extremely difficult to recommend Hayley’s albums to anyone who’s not familiar with her. But that’s Decca’s fault, not hers.
    Treasure is my favorite album. I love Summer Rain, Let Me Lie, The Heart Worships, Danny Boy, Sonny, etc. She wrote 3 of her own songs; I’m sure there will be more of those on her future albums. I like her early albums, too, but her voice is much better now, and the songs she sings now are better, too. There is absolutely nothing disappointing to me on this album.

    • Yes, I have ‘Never Saw Blue’ on my version, it’s one of my favourites of the album. I don’t think I have heard ‘You Are Water’, though. 😦 I didn’t pay any attention to NSB until I saw her perform it live. It was so serene and beautiful. As for Treasure, I do like Summer Rain and Let Me Lie but the other traditional songs bored me. I will have to see how I feel about it when I listen to it again to review. I know that I was disappointed at the time, and I am aware of how much thought and creativity Hayley put into the album so it’s not about to receive a low score.

  7. Oops, that last comment was about Treasure. Sorry.

  8. You can find You Are Water on youtube. 🙂

    I wish I could hear her sing NSB live, too! Apparently she’s been singing it on tour recently, on the RoD one and now the Valentine’s tour.

  9. Is she? I’ll be glad to hear it again. I’m going to see her on Sunday. I am strangely exicted. I haven’t seen her in four and half years. 😦

    I’m listening to ‘You Are Water’ as I type. It does sound like a standout track. I can hear emotion in her voice too (I do no hear that in her often).

  10. Mark Regan Says:

    Your review brought tears to my eyes, as it is so obviously written with love and respect, and is not as much critical of Hayley’s singing as with the song selections, musical direction, or orchestration (or lack thereof) which doesn’t compete as favorably with that in Pure (and I might add, Live From New Zealand). The orchestration and song selections and production were simply superb in those instances.

    Imagine the opportunity to take some of her Japanese albums, and add some of that magnificent orchestration and expose Hayley’s worldwide fanbase to those wonderful songs.

    Thank you for your frank, tough love, article. We hayleyfans love her so much, and cannot expect to be pleased by every single song or rendition selected by her or her team. But one thing that we can all agree on is that she throws her love and talent into each. There is nothing wrong with hoping that those who help her select the music for future albums become more enlightened and put more of their time and energy into ensuring it’s success, instead of cutting orchestral accompaniment out for budgetary reasons.

    That poor girl is overworked, and is on the road too much. She should spend no more than four months on the road each year, and no more than four months in the studio, and the rest of the time should be vacationing or attending college. She needs some personal time to keep healthy and happy.

    • Aww, thank you Mark. That is not normally the reaction I get! XD Are you on HWI, or did you find your own way to the blog?

      I think Hayley works the amount she wants to. She does not show much interest in education, I think she just likes to perform, and with her talent and success, she probably does not feel much need to do so. Have you read her autobiography? (I finished it a few days ago). She addresses the issues you’ve made and I think they are unfounded fears. 🙂 She seems happy in what she’s doing. And she’s a health freak, anyway! 😀

      So did you not like her later albums as much, then?

  11. Rosie Forsythe Says:

    You really managed to articulate what I feel about this lady! I seem to be obsessed with her (I’m always watching her on youtube etc) but I am often disappointed, especially by the CDs. They just don’t do her justice. But I still respect her immensely and can’t wait for her to hook up with some awesome muso who will write some amazing material for her to blow us away with. Or maybe in time she will become that awesome muso herself. We’ll just have to wait and see. And in the meantime, keep obsessively watching her. Hm, maybe I am a stalker in denial! LOL 🙂

  12. Rosie Forsythe Says:

    BTW I did like her Christmas album! Well, most of it…

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