CAREER KARAOKE OR IDOL FAME – PART 2 – SAMANTHA JADE

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What You’ve Done To Me (D Musumeci/A Egizii/T Doko/J Elofsen) and Firestarter (S Jade/D Musumeci/A Egizii) 2012 and Soldier (S Jade/D Musumeci/A Egizii) – Samantha Jade 2013

Samantha Jade Gibbs (1987) was born in Perth (WA), her father Kevin was Anglo-Indian and her mother Jacqueline was of Scots descent, she has two brothers Alex and Thomas, and attended the Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School (Kiara) and the Hampton Hill Senior High School (Morley). Below Baby Samantha and mother Jacqueline, grown-up Sam.

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She began modelling at the age of four and won her first singing contest at the age of nine with a rendition of Amazing Grace. In 2002 her family sent a demo recording to a Los Angeles producer who invited her and her family (Samantha was only 16) to relocate to the States, which they did in 2003.

A teenage Samantha with her debut single, bouncy, dance pop with an R&B/hip hop-lite ambience, but lacking in big emphatic moments, and the video was similarly pretty mundane.

By 2006 she had signed a contract with Jive Records, and was writing songs for others as well as for herself, she recorded the Dianne Warren song Step Up but it failed to chart, and then in 2007 she released Turn Around, which stalled at #61 on the local charts. Jade was providing backing vocals on songs by Ashley Tisdale, Tiffany Evans, and David Guetta, and recording sessions were proceeding on her debut album My Name Is Samantha Jade but it was never released, and Jive Records dropped her, and focused on their major star attractions Britney Spears and Pink. In 2009 she released her third single Secret in Australia, on the Affinity West Entertainment label, which was co-written by Jade with producer Christian Nilsson, a Swedish-born music and video producer, who was eight years older than Jade, and would share a seven-year relationship with her between 2006-13. Below- L-R Brunette Sam, and after the glam makeover and more sensitive lighting.

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Stylistically she was compared to Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani, but Secret was edgy, risky and borderline homophobic, as it focused on a doomed relationship between a man and woman where the male was a closeted gay man, the music vid aimed for sexy noirish chic, but it was more embarassing kitchen sink drama with a muddled narrative, “ Don’t waste your time trying to deny it/What you’re trying to hide is out the closet/…Just need to hear a clear apology/I’m not blind I’m just waiting/…And yeah , yeah I always knew/ Your game was for two/ I was too good for you.”

The video was apparently the inspiration of her then-partner Christian Nilsson, but if you start with a police lineup and the closeted gay man is in that lineup (guilty as charged?), with a succession of scenes of a hot Sam getting the cold shoulder from the guy despite her teasing come-ons, and then an indignant Jade questioning his virility, you just know you are heading into weird and dangerous territory, the tweenies would have been very confused, the gay community were not amused.

Secret failed to chart and in 2010 she abandoned her mission to break through in the States and relocated back to her home in Perth (WA), to work in the family business, but stayed in contact with Nilsson who remained in Los Angeles.

It was interesting that two female singers from Perth had both sought to go directly to the USA to kickstart their singing careers without establishing a fanbase or chart history in this country, Cosima De Vito had tried to secure a label contract in Nashville before she become known via her performance in Season 1 of Australian Idol. While Samantha Jade had taken the Los Angeles producer route and did secure a label contract there, but had to return to Australia and win Season Four of the X-Factor to kickstart her career in this country.

She was 25 at the time and had been bruised by her experience as a starstruck wannabe in LA,, but she trusted Guy Sebastian who encouraged her, and who could have been called out for a conflict of interest by his fellow judges – Bassingthwaite, Keating, and Mel B – but he wasn’t, and after several close calls during elimination rounds, she went on to victory in Season 4 of X-Factor.

Jade’s successful audition to compete in X-Factor was not universally welcomed, she had previously held a contract with the Jive Records label and had already released no less than three singles, she was perceived to have a professional edge and music insider advantage over her less experienced fellow competitors. She was closely mentored by Guy Sebastian throughout the competition and despite finishing in the bottom two on three occasions during the elimination rounds, the judges came to her rescue each time. Ultimately, she would prevail in a Grand Final with Jason Owen and The Collective who finished second and third respectively, and Jade would become the first woman to win X-Factor Australia, after the first three seasons were won by Random Groups, Altiyan Childs, and Reece Mastin. Below  – Qu: Is it Samantha or Kylie?

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Samantha has a light-soprano voice which she uses skilfully to impart a bright, breezy, sexy ambience to her songs, physically she is a pocket rocket, in a bouncy, busty, dynamic kind of way like Miley, Britney, Gwen, and Kylie, at 1.66 metres she is slightly taller than Kylie Minogue with whom she is often compared, who is 1.52 metres tall, and in several of her music videos she has quite purposely presented herself as a Kylie look-alike, and even played the role of Minogue in the 2014 telemovie INXS: Never Tear Us Apart . Below – Samantha was uncannily like Kylie in the INXS biopic.

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Her first single post-X-Factor was What You’ve Done To Me, written by Australians David Musumeci and Anthony Egizii (collectively known as DNA – Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy, Dami Im, The Veronicas), former Batchelor Girl singer Tania Doko, and Swede Jorgen Elofsen of Stockholm’s Cheiron hit factory (Guy Sebastian, Britney Spears, Westlife, Kelly Clarkson). It was an upbeat slice of sassy, radio-friendly pop which introed with spacey electronic effects that gave way to more familiar technobeats accompanied by Jade’s autotuned vocals. It was slick, with synth strings and keyboards, and was insistent and engaging in a way that met the generic standards of such a song for an Idol or X-Factor winner, and it would be a substantial hit, despite the unimaginative promo vid produced by Sony.

X-Factor celebrity propelled this one to #1 despite the unimaginative video.

It debuted at #1 and ultimately sold 280,000 copies, Jade’s self-titled debut album climbed to #3 locally and sold 35,000 copies, other songs lifted off the album were Heartless (#10), and Scream (#50) while several songs recorded by Jade in the pre -X-Factor era, Secret (#50), and Turn Around (#21), were re-released and hit the charts driven by Samantha’s X-Factor celebrity, she was now well-positioned to take her career to the next level globally.

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Her follow up single lifted from her second album was the title track Firestarter, again written by DNA and Jade but without Elofsen, and it was cut from the same template as What You’ve Done To Me. Special electronic effects again introed the song until the dancefloor tempo of technopop arrived in support of Jade’s autotuned, cooing and keening vocals, musically and lyrically it was utterly generic and Jade admitted it was about getting the party started and having a good time, and did not aspire to any deep or meaningful inspiration “Come on my red light, don’t you stop/’Cause I love the way you’re playing it honest/To get in the dark, yeah yeah…”. The music vid was however her best to date, as Samantha got hot and sweaty with male and female dancers in a mostly monochrome shoot that took out the 2013 ARIA Best Music Video award, the song climbed to #9 locally, sold 70,000 copies, and inexplicably has become something of a gay anthem over time.

The chemistry of a good song, excellent choreography, and a great video worked for Sam here.

Her next single was Soldier, and the inspiration was the end of her seven-year relationship with Christian Nilsson, it had deep and meaningful stamped all over it, and clearly it was Nilsson who had done the moving on, not Jade who was obviously still carrying a torch for her former lover/mentor. Her entreaties to Nilsson  were a curious mix of melancholy and anguished battle cries, but also aspired to be a stutterbeat dancefloor banger, as Samantha appeared in a succession of bralets, seemingly designed to entice Nilsson back into her arms “ You brought me out of my shell, put me under your spell/Now I’m walking a straight line to you/I’ll never surrender…/ Tell me where you are so I can stop and take a breath/’Cause nothing’s making sense, I don’t want this to end/Come and get me out of this mess…”.

Sam going to war for her soldier, sultry, classy, angsty, the song deserved to do better.

It became Jade’s fourth top twenty hit when it climbed to #17, and in the music video, among a succession of different styles, she appeared in a retro hairstyle which was a dead ringer for Kylie Minogue in her 1988 video for I Still Love You (Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi), set in Paris.

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Samantha Jade would take four more singles into the local charts- 2014 Up (#18) and Sweet Talk (#38), 2015 Shake That with Pitbull (#32) and 2016 Always (#28) but her next ten singles all failed to chart. Her more recent albums, 2018’s Best of My Love was mostly a collection of covers except for two noteworthy original songs Roller Skates and Let Me Love You and climbed to #6, and her Yuletide offering, 2020’s The Magic of Christmas, peaked at #20, but nothing has emerged since then, although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted recording and performance plans in the past two years.

Over the journey Samantha Jade has experienced false starts, derailments, and disappointments in her singing career, an early attempt to establish herself Stateside failed after relocating there at the age of sixteen where she lived for nearly seven years. Below – Her mother’s funeral in 2014, Samantha with her father and two brothers.

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After resurrecting her career via the X-Factor win she then had to deal with several personal issues in the space of two years between 2013-14, when Christian Nilsson ended their seven-year relationship and a year later her mother succumbed to cancer and sadly passed away. Below – Christian Nilsson 

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Despite the setbacks Jade retained a steely resolve and determination to succeed in a market dominated by such global stars as Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Adele, Rihanna, Beyonce, Kylie Minogue, and others. She has embraced the commodification and sexualization of her image, suggestive outfits, showy music videos, and dance moves, but so have Miley, Katy, and Kylie, so that’s not a criticism, but there is little of the innocently teasing allure of the girl-next-door that would have more strongly connected her with the 12-15- year-old teenage female fans which would seem to have been her logical pop music market.

But as she entered her thirties she craved the attention of a more adult, knowing, sexually-aware demographic, however her songs were not sophisticated enough nor lyrically engaging for such a market, which is why Samantha has now found herself musically in no-man’s-land. Apparently frustrated with her lack of recent success, she has expressed a preference to follow Delta and Kylie into a judging role on shows from which she arose, rather than re-defining her career goals and following her future musical pathways.

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Like her contemporaries Delta Goodrem and Kylie Minogue, she fancies her song-writing ability and no doubt a share of royalties that flow therefrom, and while their collective efforts have been sincere, heartfelt, and honest, lyrically they are often clumsy, naïve, repetitive, and self-absorbed, and in Jade’s case lacking in engaging imagery, and poetic metaphors, simply put Sam Jade needs a big hit! Below Samantha and fiance Pat Handlin.

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Recently the rumor mill has kicked into overdrive regarding the future of Samantha Jade at Sony Music, following the sacking of long-time CEO Denis Handlin amid allegations of a deeply-entrenched toxic corporate culture of abuse of power, sexual assault, and bullying within the company. Samantha has been engaged to Handln’s son Pat since 2019, and he was Vice-President of A&R at Sony until last year when he and Vice -President of HR Mark Stebnicki were both placed on indefinite leave. Samantha’s nuptials have been deferred twice in the past two years ostensibly due to COVID -19-related issues, but as the fallout at Sony continues to go public, and such fellow Sony labelmates as Dami Im and Amy Shark, recount their experiences with Sony and Denis Handlin, it would seem that Samantha Jade may be considering her future options very carefully, before making any decisions. Below L-R Amy Shark, Denis Handlin, Sony Office Party.

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