After preparing Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton for their eventual rule over musical queendoms, Arista Records is now using its heavy arsenal to carve out territory for its new princess, African-Canadian Deborah Cox. And with her self-titled debut CD, the fresh singer is already capturing the hearts of many.
To appeal to various musical segments in the populace, Arista had Cox record several remixes of her singles including my favorite, “Who Do U Love?” “Artists now have to do so much to get their music heard by so many people because radio is so segregated and you have to have different formulas for different radio stations,” Cox told Port of Harlem.
The CD’s midtempo version of the tune is a favorite among Rhythm and Blues (R&B) listeners. While, “the dance version,” she says, “is hitting more of the gay clubs, the dance radio stations and house stations.” The single CD offers even more versions.
“Nowadays you have to have 10 different remixes of the same song, but sometimes an audience only hears one of them. You might have a dance crowd that won’t hear the R&B version because they don’t listen to those stations that play R&B,” says Cox.
More than just a songstress, Cox also co-penned four songs on the CD. “The melody is usually what hits me first,” she says. After the melody, Cox works on developing the lyrics, then the “hook.” “The hook is usually the part that’s most repetitive - - it’s the chorus - - the essence of the song,” explained Cox. Her writing partner, Lascelles Stephans, then joins in at completing the verse, B section, and the bridge.
Cox continued our conversation by singing a cappella- in perfect voice - - the “hook” of her first hit that she also co-wrote: “Sentimental.”
I’m going crazy, alone, in a daze
And my heart ain’t the same
And I don’t even think, unless I think about you
That’s the only time I get sentimental
That’s the reason why, baby, I can’t let go of you
That’s the only time I get sentimental
Like many contemporary artists, Cox recorded a back in the day remark for her CD. She chose the S.O.S Band’s “Just Be Good to Me.” And who from the old school inspires the blossoming Toronto-born star?: Gladys Knight. “I think the artist who was most inspiring was Gladys, from her fashion, her voice, her image, everything - - she has class and style!”
And when it comes to her hair, the 22-year-old singer can be seen sporting a variety of styles ranging from a fashionable wrap to fashions that were also popular in the days of The Supremes and Betty Wright like a roll or flip. “It shows you how everything is an evolution, music evolves, fashion evolves, everything,” she says.
However, Cox, who also has class and style, admits that her hair stylist, fashion and other professional consultants play an important role at molding her image, but insists that she has the right to reject their ideas.
“You got to be really open,” she says, “because you never know what is going to come out of, say, a photo session. You might just end up coming out with something that’s going to just start a whole new trend.” The fashionable African-Canadian is open to other’s ideas, but Cox says that she and her family are “heavily influenced” by Caribbean culture and that being West Indian has more of an impact on her life than being a North American Black.
Her father was raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, but his father was from Bermuda. Her paternal grandmother was also from Nova Scotia, but was a descendent of enslaved Americans. Cox’s mother was raised in the South American country of Guyana.
“One of my favorite Guyanese dishes in roti,” she says. While roti shells can be filled with goat, shrimp, vegetarian ingredients, etcetera, Cox prefers curry chicken filling. She also likes pelau (a chicken and rice dish) and tamarind balls.
Like many other West Indian achievers, she feels that her Caribbean culture provides her with a feeling that part of the world’s territory is hers and that eagerness to do what is necessary to get one’s share will allow her to reach her target. “Hey, that’s why we have ten jobs!” she laughs.