Despite both an amazing voice and uncanny talent as a musical interpreter, Shanice has remained largely "under the radar" throughout her three decade career. A combination of relatively sporadic recording (she released only 4 albums during the period 1987 and 2005) and a lack of consistent direction have limited the overall impact of an artist with the talent that ranks among the greatest of her generation.
Born in 1973 in Pittsburgh, Shanice was performing nearly her whole life. And her striking talent and winning smile put her onstage at an early age, particularly after she moved to Los Angeles with her mother after her parents' divorce. As an 11 year old she won on Star Search by performing a tremendous version of the classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Her victory led to a recording contract with A&M Records, and after a number of false starts in the studio, Shanice released her debut album for A&M Records, Discovery, at age 13. Despite her young age, Shanice showed an amazing vocal range (five octaves), and she landed two top 10 singles, "(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance" and "No Half Steppin." Her initial success resulted in a move to Motown and her teaming with then-hot producer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Angela Bofill) for her 1991 sophomore disc, Inner Child. It was a smash and launched four hits, including her signature song, the innocent "I Love Your Smile," which hit the top of both the Pop and Soul charts.
It was three more years before Shanice released her follow-up, 21...Ways to Grow (at age 21), a conscious movement toward an edgier R&B sound (pressured by the Motown brass) which flopped, featuring only the modest hit "It's For You." With her career in flux, Shanice wandered before being signed by LaFace Records and teaming with Babyface in 1999 for the self-titled Shanice, a moderately successful album that included the hit "When I Close My Eyes." Around that time she also shined in her guest spot on Babyface's Unplugged album, where she showed her pipes by absolutely nailing Toni Braxton's "Breathe Again."
LaFace dropped Shanice after that album, and she focused on raising her new family until returning to the studio for her first independent project, Every Woman Dreams in 2006. It failed to restart her career, and she remained quiet for the next five years before releasing the song "Tomorrow."
The loss of her recording career and the cost of recording and promoting Every Woman Dreams led to financial problems for Shanice, and led her, along with her husband, Flex, to move in with extended family in a rented home. The unusual arrangement became and inspiration, and led to the three year television show, Flex and Shanice, which highlighted the highs and lows of multiple generations living in the same house.
Throughout here recording career, Shanice has always given the appearance of an artist who is ready to break out, but her albums have not always fully captured her vocal capabilities, often masking it with stifling production or uneven material. She remains however, an almost generational gifted vocalist who may yet release a project entirely worthy of her substantial talent.
by Chris Rizik
Shanice was recently the subject of an episode of TV One's biography show, Unsung. Check it out below!