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Taylor-made rock, pop and soul: An interview with Taylor Dayne from the vault

Thank goodness for reality TV shows. They dig artists out of the closet (per se), dust them off, and prove to us there’s still talent in them one-time hugely famous. If you’ve been wondering what singer Taylor Dayne is up to lately, switch your telly channel to Stan and watch season two of RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. Spoiler alert: Taylor appears as one of the competing drag artists, and boy does she do a frigging brilliant job of it.

Cream delves into its archives and pulls out a classic interview with Taylor Dayne in which she waxes lyrical about relationships, racial flattery, and her admiration for an army of female artists.

Interview by Antonino Tati

 

A CREAM25 CLASSIC INTERVIEW: TAYLOR DAYNE

Her speaking voice is typically Manhattan – husky, punctuated with the odd “like” and “you know” and projected with attitude aplenty. Her singing voice, on the other hand, is as smooth as those rare gems from the ’70s soul era – Donna, Gloria, Patti – earning her seven massive hits that have bridged the disco, rock, and rhythm and blues charts.

After a bit of a hiatus, the lady who commanded you to “prove your love” and to tell it to her heart is back, and Taylor Dayne’s cover of the Barry White classic Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love is as excellent a remake as we’re gonna get.

“I like Barry White,” Dayne tells me over the phone as she munches on a salad for lunch (“Lots of organic broccoli”). “There were a few other covers we talked about but when we went in and did the production on that one it sounded the freshest and the most ‘90s a la 70s’. It’s pretty slammin’.”

To help make the song ‘slam’, Dayne hired mix-masters David Cole and Robert Clivillés of C&C Music Factory fame to produce and arrange Can’t Get Enough. And the name-dropping doesn’t end there. On her third album, Soul Dancing, in which she gets more soulful and funkier than before, production credits are given to Shep Pettibone (Madonna’s main mixing man) and Narada Walden (Whitney Houston’s favourite producer), while guest vocalists include Kylie Minogue’s crooning partner, Keith Washington.

While working with these men, Dayne couldn’t help but compare her product with that of her contemporaries.

“It’s funny,” she says, “all these women I would say I think about. When I was working with Shep, for example, I thought about Madonna because she was writing with him at the same time. My contemporaries always come in and out of my head. It rounds me out a little — makes me think twice before just going forth and recording.”

In a quick game of word-association with reference to her peers, Dayne connotes Madonna with “power”, Houston with “strength”, Minogue with “sweetness”, and Janet Jackson (by the way) with “subtlety”. It’s Dayne’s ability to successfully combine all these elements into song that puts her in a category of her own.

But the one thing these women do have in common is the theme of heartbreak — perhaps drawing on the subject more often than necessary.

“Relationships are real key,” defends Dayne. “They tend to drive you in different directions and certainly the direction of going within and working it out.”

But surely there are other issues which require attention on the pop charts: ozone depletion, third world starvation, human rights?

“People are so funny,” she’s quick to critique. “They think that if you give everything outside of yourself, it’s gonna change you as a person. If you don’t have anything within yourself to give out to make changes, it doesn’t matter. You can go to every function you want but you’re not helping the planet any. You’re not healing the first person — yourself. You’ve gotta start with yourself first. My involvement in other things besides writing about love is obvious when I’m feeling better about myself.”

Lyrical content aside, let’s get back to that voice. If it weren’t for album sleeve notes and the opaqueness of music videos, one could easily mistake Taylor’s vocals for those of a black diva.

“People thought I sounded black on ‘Tell It To My Heart’. OK, that’s possible, but people also thought George Michael sounded black on the ‘Faith’ album. I didn’t think so. Can we talk?”

And does Dayne believe the suggestion that a white artist “sounds black” is in any way racist?

“God no!” she exclaims. “It’s a fucking compliment!”

 

Taylor Dayne appears in the latest season (two) of ‘RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race’, available to stream on Stan.

 

Throughout October, Cream is celebrating 25 years in publishing, pulling from our archives a host of brilliant interviews, each with relevance of what the artist is up to today. Keep on top of it all by Liking our Facebook page here.

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