The fame of youthful singer Tata Young has spread outward from her native Thailand. Termed "Asia's version of Britney Spears" by the Cincinnati Post, which noted "catchy pop tunes you hear once and can't get out of your head, stiletto heels and a dash of scantily clad, gyrating naughtiness," Young conquered not only Thai entertainment markets but also those around Southeast and East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Indonesia. With the release of her I Believe and Temperature Rising albums, she set her sights on becoming one of the first vocalists of Asian background to achieve major stardom in the United States.
Young had an advantage in striving for that goal, for her background was partly American. She was born Tata Amita Marie Young in Thailand on December 14, 1980, to an American father and a Thai mother. The name Tata came from that of a well known industrial conglomerate in India; work had taken her father to India before she was born, and he saw that name on billboards all over the country and liked it. Young would achieve spectacular success in Thailand, but with her long light brown hair she was somewhat exotic even for Thai audiences, and her seeming lack of strong national identification proved a boon to her career. "Wherever I go in Asia, I can easily adapt to the culture," Young observed in an International Herald Tribune interview reproduced on the Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. "This means that my true nature is ‘Asian.’" Her English, learned from her father, has a Midwestern American accent.
After a childhood that she described on her website as "filled with singing and dancing," Young entered the Thailand Junior Singing Contest at age 11 and emerged victorious over 5,300 other young hopefuls. That brought her a contract with the Yamaha Music management agency, and when she was 14 she was signed to Grammy Entertainment, Thailand's largest label. Her debut album, Amita Tata Young, was released in 1995 and reportedly topped sales of one million copies in the space of five months. The title of her second album, Tata 1,000,000 Copies Celebration, reflected that triumph and duplicated its predecessor's success. Just 15, Young was generally accounted as Thailand's biggest pop star.
Young released several more albums in Thailand (in the Thai language) in the late 1990s, and all were substantial successes. By the mid-2000s it was reported that she had sold some 12 million albums, about one for every five people in Thailand. But from early in her career she showed a desire to branch out beyond the status of Thai pop star. She began to appear in non-Thai venues, giving a 1996 concert at the Hollywood Palladium and then representing Thailand in 1997 at the ceremony in which the territory of Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China. That year she appeared in the film The Red Bike Story, which became the best-attended Thai film up to that time. She appeared in several more films, performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, and began to rack up awards such as the Fun, Fearless Female Award from the Thai edition of Cosmopolitan magazine (2000).
Soon Young's tours were taking her to Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Japan, as well as putting her before English-speaking audiences in Australia. Another English language breakthrough came in India, where Young enjoyed a hit with the soundtrack to the Bollywood film Dhoom Dhoom. She quickly learned to appeal to new audiences. "Whenever I first visit an Asian country, I don't feel as if it's the first time," she told the International Herald Tribune. "I learn the language quickly. Even Japanese, I understand some of it, although I can't speak it." Like Britney Spears, Young showed a knack for stirring controversy, and thus gaining valuable publicity, by making outrageous comments while maintaining an outwardly wholesome image. She told a Times of India interviewer that the requirements of the "casting couch" were "just another step on the road to stardom." In Thailand, Young faced some criticism from cultural conservatives. "People who go to her concerts don't go to listen to her music but are wasting a lot of money to see breasts, hips, a belly, and a butt that can dance," former Thai senator Rabiabrat Pongpanich said in an interview quoted by the Cincinnati Post. A well publicized but brief romance with Thai tennis star Paradorn Srichaphan added to Young's renown.
In the mid-2000s, Young set her sights on American stardom. Her first move was to travel to Sweden to record with the Hitvision production duo of Henrik Andersson and Martin Ankelius; Britney Spears, whom Young emulated in some respects, had also recorded her first album with a mostly Swedish production team. The result was Young's 2004 album I Believe, released in 2004. Young enjoyed more international success with the gold-digger-themed leadoff single "Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy," with the title itself stirring up controversy in parts of Southeast Asia. In the United States the album saw minimal chart action, but Young was undiscouraged. She expressed a desire to collaborate with rappers 50 Cent and Chingy.
That ambition was not realized on Young's next album, 2006's Temperature Rising, but she did attract compositional contributions from top-notch songwriters such as Diane Warren and Natasha Bedingfield. Swedishborn, Los Angeles-based Adam Anders, who had previously worked with the Backstreet Boys, served as producer. "People who represent me have made a lot of people famous … like, come on, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, you name them all," Young confidently told the Cincinnati Post. The album was launched with a steamy video for its first single, "El Nin-YO," in which, noted Asia Image, Young "crawls felinely on all fours, demonstrates some nifty dance moves around a chair a la Madonna, licks her reflection on the mirror, yanks a showerhead off the wall, pops a strawberry ever so deliciously into her mouth, and proceeds to do some serious gyrations on the king-sized bed, declaring that she's ‘burning up in here.’" With an international team of video artists, producers, and songwriters in her corner, the slender Thai-American sensation seemed on the brink of international stardom.
Amita Tata Young, 1995.
Tata 1,000,000 Copies Celebration, 1995.
(with Mos) The Red Bike Story, soundtrack, 1997.
Amazing Tata, 1997.
Tata Remix, 1998.
The Very Best of Tata, 2000.
Real TT, 2003.
Real Love, 2004.
I Believe (English), Toshiba EMI, 2004.
Dhoom Dhoom, soundtrack (English soundtrack to Indian film), King, 2004.
Dangerous Tata, Sony, 2005.
Best of Tata Young, 2006.
Temperature Rising, Sony BMG, 2006.
For the Record …
Born December 14, 1980, in Thailand; only daughter of an American father and a Thai mother.
Awards: Elle magazine, named one of Thailand's 10 Most Influential People, 1997; named one of 25 most influential trendsetters in Asia, 1998; Cosmopolitan Magazine Award for Fun, Fearless Female, 2000; MTV Immies: Indian Music Excellence, award for Best International Female Pop Act, 2004; FHM magazine, 100 Sexiest Women in the World award (Thai edition), 2005, 2006; MTV Asia Awards, Favorite Artist, Thailand, 2006.
Addresses: Management—McGhee Entertainment, Ste. 200, 8730 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.Website—Tata Young Official Website: http://www.tatayoung.com.
Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, March 19, 2004; May 1, 2004; May 20, 2004; May 28, 2005.
Asia Image, October-November 2006, p. 16.
Cincinnati Post, October 3, 2006, p. C10.
Times of India, July 2, 2006.
"Biography," Tata Young Official Website, http://www.tatayoung.com/ (February 25, 2007).
"Singer of the Week: Tata Young," AskMen.com http://www.askmen.com/women/singer_250/269_tata_young.html (February 25, 2007).
"Tata Young," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com/ (February 25, 2007).
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