"I WANT PEOPLE TO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M DOING."
Taio Cruz talks pop, car chases and how 'Umbrella' got away…
Taio Cruz was showing signs of being the UK's answer to Chris Brown until his new single 'Come On Girl' made it blindingly obvious he was a good deal more than that.
We spoke to the singer, songwriter, producer and cautious driver about his own career and the numerous other popstars he has worked with…
Questions: Peter Robinson
Answers: Taio Cruz (obviously)
Hello, Taio. Do you think people will be surprised that your album is a pop record?
I usually try to stress that my album is more than just an R&B thing so that they are prepared. I didn't want people to be baffled with a second album that suddenly switched from R&B, so I wanted to make pop records from the very beginning.
How long have you been sitting on 'Come On Girl'?
I've had it for quite a while now, but when I first played it to the people at my record label I just got a load of weird looks because nobody thought it was good enough to be a single. Maybe they thought people wouldn't get it and that it was a bit too weird, but I am happy people would think it was weird. I want people to look at me and not totally understand what I am or what I'm doing – in the same way that people look at Seal. He doesn't make the music you might expect. That's where I want to be.
Why did you get Luciana involved on the song?
When I heard her on the Bodyrox single I thought she was cool and her vocal sound was just so British. She's like a UK Fergie or Gwen Stefani. I really wanted her on the track, especially since 'Come On Girl' has that electro/rave thing going on. She rocked it and we kept her on there, she's got a great singing voice too. Not like Mariah Carey, but she sure can sing.
Was 'Umbrella' really meant for you or were you just on a very long list of potential singers?
It was for Britney at first. I was working with the producer when it was written. We were all submitting songs for Britney and as soon as we produced 'Umbrella' we all thought it was a smash hit and of course Britney was the first person who came to mind. I didn't really think it was her style though and her A&R agreed. I demoed it and planned it as my third single, but it was still being sent around to people. Mary J Blige heard it too, but it was only Rihanna and Jay‑Z who saw how big it could be and said they'd take it, so it went to them.
And it was taken away from you.
It was a good business decision – Rihanna does have a rather large fanbase.
Would sacking off this while performance lark and concentrating on a career in writing and production not be a lot easier and profitable?
I think every producer grew up dreaming of being an artist — it's the first dream you have as kid. To be a popstar. When you're watching Michael Jackson dancing around on stage you want to be that. Every time I recorded a demo for someone else people would ask me why I wasn't recording it for myself, so I thought it was worth a try if only to show people what I'm about and see how well it was received. So far it's been good, people have been nice, but it's a treacherous pop market I'm getting into filled with landmines and paparazzi.
You've been working with Esmee Denters, the first signing to Justin Timberlake's label. What can we expect to hear from her?
Her stuff is pop with an R&B twist to it as well; she's got an amazing voice and we've written some really good songs with her. I can't wait for her album to come out. She's been working with Danja as well, who obviously did Britney's 'Blackout' album. She is really beautiful in person, but she's just a kid and only 17 or 18. She's a lovely girl and there are plans for her to start releasing later in the year.
Is Corinne Bailey Rae still trying to sue you?
She tried to sue me, but wasn't successful. I called the lawyers in. I have a song on my album called 'She's Like A Star' and Corinne seems to think it was a copy of her 'Like A Star'. She demanded I took it down from MySpace or they would have my page deleted and then they'd sue me. I got a musicologist to compare the songs and he agreed that they were nothing alike.
Shall we deal with that now? Why does your video move at the pace it does?
The guy that owns the car I was driving treated that car like his baby. As soon as it was driven over 40 miles an hour he would completely lose it. We wanted to make it look really fast but it just wasn't possible with the owner on set.
Anything else you think we should have discussed by now?
I don't think so, no.
Thank you very much, Taio Cruz.