For some artists, the challenge of topping past success could be more than a daunting task. For Deborah Cox - whose platinum and gold-filled career has propelled her to frontline status as an internationally successful pop-soul female vocalist - the answer is clear: "I didn't have any expectations going from one album to the next. I'd say the beauty of working on my third record is that I didn't feel any pressure to top what I had done before. As a result, I wrote more songs for this record than I've written before so this is my most personal album to date..."
Deborah's career has been filled with such accomplishments, accolades and achievements since the release of her impressive 1993 debut album which included the charted hits "Sentimental" (a Top 5 R&B single), "Who Do U Love" (a Top 20 pop single), "Where Do We Go From Here" and "The Sound Of My Tears." Signed to Arista Records by then-label President Clive Davis, Deborah brought a decade of honing her vocal skills, as a teenager growing up in Toronto, Canada.
Although her original interests were in journalism, poetry and sports (specifically track and field), Deborah's passion for music was sparked by hearing Gladys Knight sing "Help Me Make It Through The Night" when she was six years old. Fortunately, the Cox household's love for music allowed Deborah to be exposed to such artists as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Bob Marley and pioneers like Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. Attending the Claude Watson School For Performing Arts, Deborah excelled in music, dance and drama and after winning a local television talent show at age eleven, she began singing commercial jingles and working at clubs with local bands. "I think I was probably the busiest student in school," Deborah recalls. "I'd finish at a club around 1:00 and have to get up the next day for school or exams the next day. I was hectic but I really enjoyed performing..."
Continuing her studies in classical music and jazz, Deborah's partnership with high school friend, musician and songwriter Lascelles Stephens resulted in her first demo and in 1993, after singing backup vocals for Canadian superstar Celine Dion, Deborah's music came to the attention of Clive Davis. Impressed with her vocal range and soulful delivery, Davis masterminded her first album which featured tracks produced by Babyface, Dallas Austin and Darryl Simmons among others.
After extensive touring both at home and abroad, Deborah began working on her second album in 1997 but not before she had collected her two Canadian Juno awards for "Best R&B/Soul Recording" (in 1995 and 1996) and had been nominated for "Best New Artist" at the American Music Awards in 1997. With the 1998 release of the powerhouse ballad "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here," Deborah's career began to skyrocket. The single sold over a million copies, reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 and spent an astounding fourteen record-breaking weeks atop the R&B charts while a dance mix of the cut (by Hex Hector) became a club classic.
Once again working with a variety of producers including David Foster, K.G., Montell Jordan, Shep Crawford, Darryl Simmons, Rodney Jerkins and DJ Quik, Deborah worked closely with executive producer Clive Davis in creating a second album that would cement the popularity she had achieved with her first outing. Buoyed by the across-the-board success of "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here," ONE WISH was released in 1998 and led to further acclaim, recognition and a touring schedule that lasted for almost three years. The album garnered Deborah several awards including another Juno, a Soul Train Music Award, a Lady Of Soul Award and an Essence Award nomination. Deborah's duet with R.L., "Why Can't We Be Friends" was released as a third single from ONE WISH (following the Top 20 R&B hit "It's Over Now") in the summer of 1999 and topped the R&B charts as well as reaching No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100.
In 2000, Deborah toured with the famed Lillith Music Fair on shows with such artists as Sheryl Crowe, The Dixie Chicks and Sarah McLaughlin, further expanding her visibility. "Same Script, Different Cast," a duet with Whitney Houston, was included on Houston's "Greatest Hits" package in 2000; and the same year, Deborah branched out into acting via "Love Come Down," a critically-acclaimed independent film that starred Larenz Tate. "I was bitten by the acting bug," says Deborah, who has also had a recurring role in "Nash Bridges" with Don Johnson and Yasmine Bleeth. "I'm definitely looking into some other film roles for the future..."
While the silver screen may figure prominently in her future plans, music remains the central theme in Deborah's ever-burgeoning career. She performed at Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden and on the Stellar Gospel Awards in 2001 and deepening her commitment to humanitarian causes, Deborah traveled to Uganda and Mozambique for "World Vision" on what she describes as a "life-altering trip that impacted me personally in a major way," raising awareness for the organization's sponsorship efforts and co-hosting its annual telethon.
In 2001, Deborah also began work on her third album, THE MORNING AFTER, on J Records. "There was some delay because of the transition of moving from Arista Records to J Records but we finally got going in the middle of the year. I felt that with this record, I didn't have to try and fit in or conform with what was happening on the airwaves. This is a different time from when my first and second albums came out. I've been very fortunate in establishing an international audience that covers many different age groups and musical genres through the last two albums and the hits I've been blessed to have. I think that what I did for this album is what my fans expect from me: I'm being completely honest with my music through the songs I've written...I'm being real."
Whether singing her heart out on tracks like the standout pop-R&B ballad "Play Your Part" and the emotion-drenched "It Hurts So Much" or riding the groove with "Up And Down" and "Like I Did," Deborah Cox is indeed being real, offering her most personal work to date with THE MORNING AFTER, the latest milestone in her exciting journey as a premier worldwide ever-soulful diva.
Contributed by David Nathan