The Star Observer met visiting UK singer Luciana in the foyer of her Sydney hotel last month mere hours after the underwhelming new Madonna demo, Give Me All Your Love, had leaked to an almost universally disappointed reaction from fans.
Luciana, avid pop fan as well as fabulous pop star, hadn’t heard it yet, so it was left to us to break the tragic news that Madge’s all important comeback single sounded like a Britney B-side.
“Oh no,” she wailed, clearly crestfallen. “Richard Vission, who co-wrote [Luciana’s 2010 hit] I Like That, actually worked with me on some stuff for Madonna and we sent it to her people.
“You’d think it’ll have to be spot-on and amazing and individual for her to want to use it — but then she comes out with a title like Give Me All Your Love? No! It’s the first song, it’s gotta be punchy!”
Punchy’s been Luciana’s stock-in-trade for five years now, since her memorable vocal performance on Bodyrox’s 2006’s electro hit Yeah Yeah finally launched her as a hot property at the rather-advanced-by-pop-standards age of 33.
In the ensuing half-decade, she’s been the featured vocalist du jour for producers worldwide, guesting on no fewer than 15 singles by top names including Fedde Le Grand, Static Revenger and Taio Cruz.
Now, she’s plugging her first solo dance single, the addictively bass-heavy I’m Still Hot.
“I could go on and say ‘Yes, it’s a progression’ and all that, but it is what it is. Sometimes I collaborate, sometimes I’m the featured singer, and this time it’s just my name.
“I’m supposed to be working on an album, but it’s hard to put it all together because I’ve got so many different singles with so many different DJs and producers,” she sighed.
That pattern shows no signs of abating, as she’ll soon be guesting on a Tiesto track and releasing a song called Wicked Workout with newcomer Jochen Simms.
“Beyonce loves [Jochen]. She got him to remix one of her new songs. I’m really excited about it because it’s a real sort of forward-thinking track, sonically.
“I get a lot of tracks sent to me that sound a bit like Yeah Yeah or I Like That, but not as good, so it’s nice to hear something fresh.”
But it’s behind the scenes where Luciana spends much of her time, writing for other artists (including Kylie Minogue, for whom she co-wrote Aphrodite highlight Cupid Boy). She’s currently juggling writing projects for No Doubt, Maroon 5, Nicki Minaj and Willow Smith.
“Everybody wants a bit of I Like That, but it’s really hard to re-create. With No Doubt and Maroon 5, they’re just looking for choruses, so you can collaborate vicariously via filesharing, and if they like that, they might get you into the studio to expand on it.”
Songwriting’s clearly been one of the keys to Luciana’s survival in what’s now been a rollercoaster 17-year career (she released her debut single and album in 1994 to little interest) .
“I think you can only survive if you are a writer. If you don’t write your own stuff, you’ll always be beholden to other people. And having the lows, having those times where I’ve cried because I’ve lost a deal or haven’t landed a hit, those times actually make my songwriting better.”
Now she’s on a career high, thanks in part to her most unlikely collaboration to date: a hilarious duet version of I’m Still Hot with Golden Girls star Betty White. The pair even team up for a saucy, tongue-in-cheek video clip.
“Isn’t it ridiculous? That all came about because we were in a club in LA, and he [she gestured to her stylist and photographer David Burgoyne, who’d been snapping away all interview] said to me ‘Come smell this man’s armpit’.”
As you do.
“He was this giant 6’4” man with his boyfriend, and they’re a part of a scene where they don’t like to wash their armpits.”
“Can I just interrupt? It’s not that they don’t wash, it’s that they don’t use deodorant,” Burgoyne corrected. “They prefer the natural smell. It doesn’t stink, it actually smells better because it’s natural man-smell.”
“OK, anyway. Smelled his armpit, got talking, friended him on Facebook,” Luciana said. “Turns out he works for a company who had a project with Betty White, and they had been searching for ages for the perfect song to soundtrack this ad she needed to do.
“He contacts me one day and says, ‘Oh my god, I’ve just had a dream about I’m Still Hot and Betty White!’
“She loved it, and then all of a sudden there I was shooting a video with Betty White. And all from smelling a man’s armpit.”