Amber Exposed
by Matt Kalkhoff

The list of artists who start out in the music business with both a lucrative recording contract and creative control of their career is a short one indeed. The major record labels generally demand that newly acquired acts follow an archaic but proven formula for success that might make them a superstar, but often at a hefty price that leaves many artists feeling compromised and enslaved. But the rules are different at independent labels like Tommy Boy Music, and Dutch dance diva Amber is taking full advantage of her artistic freedom with the release of her third studio album, Naked. Clearly the album she has always wanted to make, this stunning collection of 13 songs is an ambitious and emotional effort that reveals a very personal side of Amber.

With writing credit on all but two of the tracks, this was a pivotal project for Amber that helped her to evolve both as a singer and songwriter while broadening the scope of her repertoire. "I’m pretty happy with this album," she says, "But I’m always expanding; I never stop expanding and becoming something else and making people wonder, What is she up to? I’m pushing the boundaries of dance music with this album very clearly. Of course, I started out with dance music which I’m not leaving alone, but I guess the difference is that I’m taking it to another level with more meaningful lyrics, with a depth to it that is overall not very heard of in this genre. That’s why I called it Naked, it’s Amber bearing her soul, and it’s just really showing my diversity."

The first two singles, "Yes" and "The Need To Be Naked," have already topped the Billboard dance charts courtesy of remixes by industry heavyweights like Hex Hector, Thunderpuss and Guido Osario. Both songs are primed for Top 40 crossover, but that all depends on radio airplay. Unfortunately, the major labels dominate the airwaves leaving little room for music from the independents. But Amber’s overcome that inane hurdle before, most notably in 1999 with another provocatively titled song, "Sexual." With an impressive following of dedicated fans and prime media coverage, including being featured as Billboard’s Artist of the Day on August 20th as well as a cover story in the August/September issue of DMA magazine, Amber is perfectly poised to capture a much-deserved wider audience.

Commercial success aside, Amber’s music is firmly rooted on the dance floor and she’s not planning to change that anytime soon. While the mother of an 11-year-old boy may not particularly enjoy hanging out at nightclubs in her spare time ("It’s just not my usual environment."), she does know and appreciate the importance of a good remix. Amber is hoping that Moby will eventually lend his talents to one of her songs, but touring conflicts have thus far kept that from becoming a reality. Among the many prominent remixers who have already taken turns reworking her records for maximum disco indulgence are Junior Vasquez, Deep Dish and Hani, and Tommy Boy is currently soliciting remixers for her next single, "Anyway (Men Are From Mars)."

Like most of the songs Amber wrote for this album, "Anyway (Men Are From Mars)" is an introspective and philosophical portrayal of a significant event in her life. Rather than dwell on the negative aspects of her recent divorce, Amber sings about coming to terms with the separation from her husband by learning to accept what has happened and moving forward with a positive attitude. "The Smile of My Child" is another deeply personal song Amber wrote with her mother. "It’s pretty much a declaration of love for my son," she explains. "It’s done with a philharmonic orchestra and piano played by my mom. It’s a very emotional experience to sing that song and really feel the depth of how much you love your child. I think that’s my all-time favorite."

The HBO series Sex and the City has featured several of Amber’s songs in its first two seasons. So when she heard that the show’s producers might be looking for a new theme song, Amber quickly wrote the lyrics for "Sex & The City." "I want this to be a really funky, straight-forward classical disco song, and I want to add drama," she said to her producer. They finished the song’s music the very next day and immediately sent it over to HBO. She hasn’t heard yet whether they’re going to use the song, but if they do, Amber hopes to negotiate a deal that will include a guest appearance on the show.

Amber’s already made her big screen debut with a cameo in the 1998 film 54 where she sang the soundtrack’s lead single, "If You Could Read My Mind," along with Jocelyn Enriquez and Ultra Naté. Her exceptional musical talents have also led to other high-profile projects like co-writing a song for Bette Midler’s last album ("Bless You Child"). Then Cher decided she wanted to cover Amber’s 2000 hit "Love One Another" on her latest album ("It was really weird to hear Cher singing my song; I was thrilled."), and Liza Minelli and David Gest invited her to join the distinguished roster of performers at their wedding reception. After attending Liza’s bachelorette party and the church wedding, Amber sang "Yes!" for a star-studded audience that included Michael Jackson, Liz Taylor, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and countless others.

As her remarkable career continues to soar to new heights while breaking down traditional mainstream boundaries, Amber is becoming one of the most influential voices in the dance music community today. Determined to remain true to the music that launched her career, Amber is thankful for the opportunities afforded her and for the continued support of her fans. "I’ve had pretty amazing success for a girl who started out in the dance genre," she says. "And people still do not understand just how big this genre is and how much of a following we have." But at the end of the day, she doesn’t really measure success by how many records she sells. "I think the main thing is to be positive," she suggests. "If that’s what you give, that’s what you get back. That is something I genuinely feel in my heart. Even if I didn’t make money at it, I’d still make music."

© 2002 Matt Kalkhoff
This article was featured at in June 2002