Greek-born Stathaki has a fondness for multiple genres, including dub-step; yet turns in a celestial track of personal relevance and eulogistic regard: guranteed to impress.
Rise is available at:
The official video for Rise will be released shortly.
Photo taken by Jessamine Cera; whom is also creating the song’s official video.
NEW female artists and talent, are probably under the microscope…
more than any other type of talent. First moves and the initial steps of each new talent, are watched and studied carefully- trying to hint at what being offered up. Over the past few years, there have been various different types of female talent that have come through: each one earning a fair amount of attention- whether it is good or bad. At the forefront of the folk and acoustic movement, are the likes of Laura Marling. She defines the pinnacle of what you want from any talent (male or female): sharp and fascinating lyrics; a strong and unique voice, and an ambition and quality that is hard to top, and even harder to fault. There is not a great deal of genre diversification: little cross-pollination; more of a consistency. To my mind the likes of Marling, as well as her ilk are the modern-day embodiment of the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young: updating their sound and style, and proffering the same degree of (early-career) quality. It is the consistency of these artists (from album-to-album) that is also impressive- in fact they seem to get stronger as their careers go on. Away from the fascination and continued quality of this sector and genre, there is the more traditional ‘pop’ core: the likes of Lady GaGa and Rhianna can be seen to be leading the way. It is never my favourite genre, as there tends to be a less-consistent quality of output from the participants. An austere critical reception, as well as some balkanisation, means that these artists are never fully beloved and regarded. It is impressive that they manage to inspire and motivate young talent to record; they have a fairly common sound that it easily replicable, and is an obtainable style of music. I guess these artists are always going to speak more directly to- and inspire more heavily- women; and young women, due to their messages and themes. The quality tends to be quite variable with the likes of Beyonce turning in songs that can be quite universal; as well as superseding any preconceptions-Dangerously In Love contains a fair few tracks that will appeal to all music-lovers. When considering the likes of Lady GaGa and Rhianna (as well as Katy Perry) the quality and strength tends to less evident; songs and albums occasionally get some support and merits, but are largely seen as quite throwaway and insubstantial. From my perspective there are not enough genuine elements and great songs- it is vital to appeal and win more than the young female vote. The issue of femininity tends to pervade and dominate this scene- and I have never understood why. In 2013, there is still a large amount of equality and injustice towards women- especially in the workplace; although it is not an issue in music. It is an art form (like acting) that is free and open to all. There is no subjugation or discrimination, and anyone can (and is welcome) record music. Popularity and pay are not issues (as it is dependant on sales, and not gender-defined) and there are no barriers placed on women in music. Simply if the music is good enough, then you will get fans; if it isn’t you won’t. Restrictions and limitations arrive when you make music that is not up to par- when critics are waiting to write you off. There are the same rules applied to the men as well, and success and failure does not discriminate. It is understandable that these artists will use their music to try and inspire young women; but with this you are always likely to alienate the male market-essentially half of the voting public. If the music was fantastic then you would embrace it regardless, yet there are aspects lacking. Lyrics and ideas tend to be too narrow and unadventurous; some of the lyrics and words can be quite insipid or juvenile and there is not a great deal of depth to them. Beside which, a lot of the example’s stars tend to be more concerned with image than the music itself- again appealing solely to the female audience. Another sector of female artistry concerns the remainder. Within this sector are a great range of artists: those whom are usually willing to be diverse and ambitious. From soul and endeavouring pop acts, through to rock and indie acts; it is a core that is on the rise. The likes of Adele and Lianna La Havas are amongst the pack, and are showing that a powerful voice, as well as a talent for stunning song writing, can win support right across the board. There are always a lot of eyes trained to the new female artist, simply because of this: there are far fewer of them. If you look at the music magazines and broadsheets (as well as music websites), they are usually filled with male talent: both solo and in terms of bands. I am not sure why, but I guess the band market is the largest sector, and they tend to be male-only, or male-dominated. In that respect, there is a lot of ground and support the new female artist can gain: if they make the smartest early moves. The likes of The Voice are giving a bad message to new musicians. The participants of those shows are usually fame-chasing wannabes whom do not want to make music the honest way: there is literally no other reason to go on these shows. A lot of the participants tend to mimic other artists and come off as second-rate. If you take Leah McFall (runner-up of this year’s The Voice), she goes to prove my point. She is merely a Christina Aguilera/Adele/Mariah Carey hybrid, and has no individuality or substance. Proffered and raised on a pedestal (by a fickle and under-educated viewership) she contains no original elements, and will suffer the same outcome as the majority of talent show contestants: make an album with dozens of writers and producers; come off as sound exactly like another artist; have no creative mobility; fade from the scene pretty soon, before being forgotten about. Hopefully these shows will die a speedy death, as it seems that the shows are inspiring the wrong type of ambition. My point is, that the new talents whom do things honestly: write their own tracks; make their own way, and work hard on their original voice, are the ones whom are going to last the longest. Whether they are great lyricists and folk-orientated, or have a wide-ranging ambition in terms of genres and styles, then the market is going to be more receptive and welcoming.
Elena Ramona (or Elena Stathaki, to give her real name) is a 23-year-old artist, whom is amongst a growing band of talent that are bringing their own voice and identity to music. She is based in Guildford, Surrey and I have known her for a little while now. Being a local artist, I have charted her progression and- excuse the pun- rise, for some time. Elena is inspired by the likes of Beyonce and Rhianna, yet has a wide-range of idols; from Maria Callas to Joss Stone. The diversity of influence is hardly a surprise, given her upbringing and musical training. Growing up on the island of Skiathos, she wrote and sang songs as a young child; fostering her love for music. Whilst at boarding school, Elena appeared in many plays; honing her eventual vocal identity. After moving to England and attending the Academy of Contemporary Music (in Guildford, where she obtained a diploma in Vocals and High Vocals), she gained valuable contacts and friends (many of whom she has kept, ever since she started at the A.C.M. in 2008); which helped to foster her love of music and desire for the spotlight. Over the past few months I have reviewed and featured a few other Surrey-based solo talents, including Chess (Fran Galea) and Emma Nadine Stevens. Between those two artists, a great swathe of folk, pop and soul is covered. Each has a unique style and set of songs, but there is one constant to be found: they worked hard to get where they are; and have done so by having a unique and individual talent. Elena is another artist whom is long-overdue some attention and praise. I noticed her work several months ago, and one thing hit me straight away: her range and diversity. Not being beholden to recording pop songs and more ‘mainstream’ tracks, her passion for the like of opera, rock, dance (and even dub-step) has meant that she has worked with a host of very different artists. She collaborated with sub-step artist Backspace on the track Addiction: a track which has amassed over 14,000 YouTube views and a lot of fervent praise. I know for a fact that Elena has been working on the operatic side to her voice, and is a hungry artist whom is not content to stand still and restrict herself to one genre or style of music. Her voice has a power and ability that few other’s posses: capable of employing soulful prowess; sweetness and operatic lust. In the mainstream there are very few solo artists as a whole, whom seem capable of having a long-term and focused career. Either their voice is too thin and ineffectual, or their songs are far too predictable and limited. For every new solo talent that comes through each week; very few will survive in the long run. Elena Ramona seems intent to make big waves and use her talent and abilities to enjoy a lucrative and rewarding career in music. Her background of classic training, a great music school and exciting and varied collaborations, has put in her good stead: giving her a confidence and step that few others can attest to. Elena Ramona is not a pop artist that is pure image, and too overly-concerned with being a fashion statement. There are no Gaga-esque theatrics and shock tactics: she is an honest and down-to-earth woman; one who loves meeting new people and connecting. Her natural friendlessness and reliability enhances her image as an artist and will draw in a lot of female fans- whom will be inspired by her personality as well as work ethic. In terms of her sound, she has a diversity and ear for quality and range that will draw in a great deal of male fans. Myself, I am prone to heavier sounds and experimental music: that which- for want of a better phrase- “pushes the envelope”. Elena Ramona’s endeavouring and variegated palette draws my ear in, as she has a deft ability to weave different styles of music into her cannon; going from operatic power to delicate seduce within the space of a line. She has a stunning and quite startling beauty as well (it’ll be those Greek roots) and an incredible and alluring sex appeal that marks her out as a modern-day idol: one whom can win a wide range of hearts. All of this well-travelled musical background has lead Elena Ramona to the present-day. She is still in her early-20s, yet our heroine has an ambitious and busy future ahead of her. There are plans for a future release, and whisperings of future songs to come. Elena has been in the studio and making some fascinating moves for the last few weeks; and Rise is a track that is both personal relevant and a milestone for her: a piece of work that highlights the young artist at her very best. She has worked tirelessly and long in order to get her music and visions recorded- I know from talking with her how happy she is with her progress. I have been lucky enough to survey and a review a wide host of varying and diverse talent: each with their own stamp and style. Elena is an artist whom marries a huge vocal talent, with a touching and personal set of lyrics: tied around a swelling and evocative sound- with some fantastic production values. Our young heroine has had a difficult and challenging last few years. She has had to face the realities of life on a shoestring; working continuously, and bidding her time in order to achieve and realise her dreams. The story behind her single Rise has an air of tragedy. Elena’s father died of cancer and the track is dedicated to him- and inspired by him. It’s themes and lyrics revolve around her father’s influence and passion: it is a remembrance of a great man, and what he meant to her. It is a bold and brave step from our star, whom has forgone issues of love and issues-of-the-bed, to concentrate on something more original, meaningful and emotional: paying tribute to a hero of hers, and doing him great justice. It is not often I get to form a personal relationship with an artist- prior to review- but I know how much the song (as well as her music) means to her. Her touching tribute is not a forlorn or introspective tear-jerker. It has an upbeat and invigorating warmth and energy to it; one that will seduce as well as provoke: tied around a coda that is tender and heart-warming. Our young heroine is putting Surrey; the south, and new talent on the map. Pushing away from the fallowness of the modern scene: employing an ambitious spirit with an original flair and direction, Elena is looking towards a long-term career and regard. With her great promise, memorable music and jaw-dropping looks; she is a young woman that can effortless fit into the current scene: and with a ready-made and natural openness she is a young artist that will speak to (quite literally) fans of all ages, genders and musical persuasions. Having overcome personal tragedy, setbacks and obstacles, and doubts and hardships; it is fitting that Elena is poised to make a surge for momentum and memorability: with a track that is filled with conviction and passion. Our heroine is keen to tease and intrigue as much as possible: there are plans afoot, but no firm details yet- building suspense and intrigue further. Rise is the opening gambit, in what is sure to be an incredible future prospect.
Before going into depth about the track, it is worth giving kudos and special mention to Martyn Corbet. He was the co-producer of the track (and also recorded it); and is a major inspiration, according to Elena. He is someone without whom it may not have happened, and it is his production values and touch that can be heard on Rise. The two of them met in 2011; Martyn helped Elena gain confidence and ambition- leading her to cover Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight. Having written/produced an original dub-step piece together- Addiction– they continued to enjoy working with one another. Elena- hungry to expand her ambition and move into pop- joined with Corbet to bring Rise to life. The initial, romantic piano parable is tender and touching: summoning a soft and touching mood ahead of the vocal entry. When our heroine begins; her voice is passionate and soft- with hints of modern-day U.S. stars such as Rhianna, but imbued with a very natural tongue. Early words speak of childhood; or how her career and dreams began: “Just a little girl and a tape recorder” flows into ambition and a dedicated persistence: “Keeping my spirit shining bright”. The emotive and simple piano line augments the words, as well as creates a calm and gentility: one that blends perfectly with Elena’s voice. On the subject of that voice. It is hard- not that you would ever particularly want to- to think of obvious comparisons. Its core has roots within the modern scene- it is a fresh and relevant sound. Where as the likes of Leona Lewis and many contemporary U.S. solo females may linger in the back of the mind; in the initial stages, it is difficult to invoke a particular name. The combination of Elena’s native accent, as well as her natural voice, drags you away from any obvious names; instead making you focus on the words themselves. “Thank you/From the bottom of my soul” is how the chorus begins: a message to her family and father; paying tribute to their support and influence. Elena’s voice lifts and contains some added sweetness: an audible smile can be detected. Themes of thanks and consideration make up the majority of the chorus; with a special message paid to her father: “You taught me how to rise”. When the words have been delivered, piano is employed; keeping the mood consistent, whilst bringing images to mind: emphasising the lyrics visuals, whilst offering a playful coda. The following verse builds upon the chorus’s messages; paying homage and due to her father (and family), whom have “kept me on track” and “Rooted me down”. Whereas a majority of modern songs deal with the negativities and cynicism within love (although there are exceptions); Rise proffers from its tender core, and espouses honest thanks and appreciations. It is hard to see fault with any of the lyrics, either from an emotional or intellectual standpoint. The balance between quality; quantity and potency is struck well: the words are simple and affective; with a consistency and consideration present throughout. Elena’s voice is kept tempered and focused: possessed of a U.K./U.S. pop core, but also other facets too. At times the voice has country-tinged edges; when Elena’s voice quivers during “You saw in me…”, there is an element of blues and soul: there are hints of U.S. idols such as Alicia Keys. In the way that the song presents its key themes and cores (“You taught me how to rise” is probably the most meaningful) our young heroine makes her feelings and message felt. No need is there to deviate or to present too many words (thus distilling the song’s essence): the verses are touching and thought-provoking, whilst the chorus has an uplifting and redemptive coda (and a catchiness to it). From the 2:00 marker, Elena’s voice is replicated: providing wordless chorus and interjection- backing her central performance. This adds extra potency and atmosphere; and emotional sway. Towards the closing moments the chorus is introduced once more; a final thanks and praise dedicated to the song’s focal hero. The overall impression one gets is one of satisfaction and surprise. Rise is a song which is surprisingly selfless; infused with warmth and genuine sentiment, that you cannot fault its intentions and themes. With an evocative and impressive composition- both serene and sparse- the main focus on Elena’s voice, which is solid throughout. Her more operatic and dramatic tones will get an airing very soon; but here the emphasis is on tenderness and passion: making the meaningfulness of the words stand out. With a tiny sprinkling of the likes of Leona Lewis and Rhianna apparent, Elena’s vocal strengths lie in its originality and dexterity: able to go from a softer and seductive whisper, to a powerful rise (during the chorus). Martyn Corbet’s production galvanises and shines the sound: making everything crystal-clear and concise. Each word and note can be heard concisely; with the emphasis placed on the voice- it is placed high in the mix, so that it stands out strongest. The duo work well together, with Corbet possessing a clear understanding of mood and clarity: he ensures that the track is tight but not too polished. Overall the track is an intriguing and impressive cut from a young talent whom has plenty more to say. The music video for the song is forthcoming, and from what I have heard about it; it will be a fitting testimony to the song’s values and spiritedness (a great deal of feathers are involved!).
From Rise‘s evidence, our Greek-born heroine has an undeniable ability to tap into the sound of the modern-day scene. Her anthem has a utility that can see it nestle alongside her idol’s sounds; yet has a personal and uplifting message that means it defies any conventional barriers or limits. In a modern scene that concentrates too hard on the vicissitudes of love- something that seems to be the sole theme for some artists- it is unusual and refreshing to hear that Elena’s first solo step is a bold one. Whereas she could have presented a typical love-gone-wrong tale- in order to fulfil a preconceived demand and predictability- instead a more meaningful and personal song has been created: something will win a lot of impressed nods of approval. There is some exciting whispers of future release, and it will be interesting to see what directions and sounds Elena Ramona chooses to include. Knowing that she is similarly at home amongst operatic and pop sounds, as well as dub-step avenues and balladry, it seems that she is not limited for options: and that sense of emotional and creative range is something that is important to her. Too many new acts will think about a future that involves several similar-sounding songs- normally concerning love and relationships; break-ups and the like-without considering diversification of theme, sound or direction. Our heroine has been working hard and thinking about her future with a smile and consideration: imaging what could be, and what the next track(s) will sound like. Although Elena has a passion and fond regard for her idols and influences, the striving for originality (in terms of her songs and sound) are as important anything; so where as new mainstream artists such as Tom Odell are being reprimanded for their lack of emotional depth and range, Elena is going against that; keen to explore as many possibilities as she can: pushing her voice and keeping her identity true. Rise is a track which lays down the (intriguing) groundwork: the expansive and striking voice; the professional and accomplished production; emotive and subtly composition, and impressively mature and accomplished lyrics. Given the tough subject matter (paying tribute to her late father), the issue is dealt with, with a great deal of reverence and restraint: no histrionics or over-emoting; just a measured and passionate performance. With Martyn Corbet’s helming and guidance, a tight and impressive song has been produced: one that has been receiving a hell of a lot of plaudit and appreciation. Whatever is in the pipeline (our star is keeping cards close to her chest, to build suspense and curiosity), it is sure to be an intent and confident work; whether it follows Rise’s themes, or goes in other directions, is to be revealed. I had begun by listing the typecasts and categories that female solo talent usually falls into: the mature songwriter; the pop princess; the cross-pollinating genre-crosser. Our gorgeous Greek has an already-mature and tempered song craft (a rarity for any new artist in their 20s); a girl-next-door-cum-Siren allure, and a potential portfolio that will see many different colours, shades and movements. She fits into the two brightest and most-prosperous categories, whilst able to elicit influences from her pop heroines. The first steps are always the most interesting- and most difficult from the artist’s perspective. Getting it ‘right’- by being utilitarian as well as original and diverse- is an alchemy that is much-required yet seldom-found. Elena Ramona has created a song that is has already impressed many; will impress many fans-to-be and potential labels alike; and- I am going to go out on a limb here; quite confidently- pays great homage and tribute to the song’s muse: her father. This year has been a busy and exciting (as well as fraught and challenging at times) for Elena, but one which has served to foster her ambitions and push her further on. Further consecrations and hallmarks will be met with excited minds and focused eyes: each curious to hear what will arrive next. Whilst many of her contemporaries use subterfuge to achieve their limited goals; Elena is ambitious and determined to realise her potential: and do so honestly, letting only her talent and voice do the talking. It is still early days (where twitterpatted plans are made), but I know how much music means to Elena- and how hard she has worked to get where she has gotten to today. Our heroine has a very steadfast and all-inclusive mantra: ” I want to touch a chord in everyone’s hearts with my lyrics and music”. With a selfless attitude, and bustling talent, she is an artist whom will have…
A very bright future ahead.
The official video for Rise will be released soon. For further updates: