Meeting Anggun, one can’t help but be struck by her beauty and elegant demeanour—a vision that has always been associated with the Indonesian music icon in her long and illustrious career, along with her vocal prowess. Here is someone who started her singing career in 1986 when she was just 12 years old, and has since gone on to become one of Asia’s best-selling artists outside the region, yet she has remained grounded and true to her craft. In the ever-changing face of the music industry, that is an achievement in itself. How does she do it? Anggun herself gives us a quick insight:
Tell us about your upcoming album.
“My new album is coming out this 8 December, and it’s called 8—it’s my eighth album. I’m super excited about this one, because I have to say it’s my favourite album so far, and it’s very personal. I really hope people are going to like it.”
Let’s talk about your new single ‘What We Remember’. It has this really upbeat pop-electro sound to it, is that a reflection of the new album?
“Actually, there are many different musical genres in this album. To be honest, I’m always a bit confused with genres (laughs). While I want to make something that is radio-friendly and easy for people to listen to, I ultimately want the music to underline and envelope the lyrics nicely. The lyrics in this album are very meaningful and deep, so musically it has to be in balance, and that was what I tried to achieve with this new body of work.”
And there is always this blurring of genres these days anyway.
“Yeah, there’re so many of them. But I always break it down to two—good music and bad music.”
Going back to the ‘What We Remember’, what does it mean to you and why was it chosen as the first single off the album?
“It was a mutual decision, everybody that I played the song to agreed that this should be it. The story behind the song is basically the fact that we only live in this life for a certain amount of time, and when we leave—we don’t have anything, the only thing we have is what we remember. So it’s really important to be able to build memories and moments that are positive for ourselves and others.”
What inspires you when it comes to songwriting?
“A lot of things, but mostly life. Songs are just fragments of moments in a lifetime, and I like to try to do that in a very poetic, but not heavy way. To me songs are important because music is so powerful, and music has the virtue of bringing people together and consoling people. Being in the music industry, I believe we have some kind of responsibility.”
Who are your personal role models in music?
“I love Billie Holiday. There is something about her—she always sang about her love stories, and her love stories were always painful, tragic almost. But the way she sang the songs, it was almost as if she was laughing, or she was smiling. It’s like she was saying: “This is what happened to me, but it’s okay, it’s life.” And you can feel it when you’re listening to the way she sings, it’s like she wants to protect you from heartbreak because she lived it, so she’s telling you the story, and it’s just beautiful.”
Last year marked your 30th year in the industry, which is really amazing. Looking back, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
“Differently… no, not really. Maybe I would’ve sold more records if I did it a certain way, or if I had been more ambitious. But I know that in life, especially in this business, it’s all about compromising, and I want to be able to stand up to my compromises and be responsible for it, instead of going “ah I wish I hadn’t done that”. So far, I’ve been trying to do things in a way that I see as honest, idealistic, and elegantly.”
I think being honest is really important, especially when you’re in for the long haul.
“Yeah, and I think people can see when you do something because you have to, or because the market wants it that way. I try to always write songs that are going to last, hopefully. I don’t want to write trendy songs. That is probably also why my look hasn’t changed, because I don’t want people to look at an image and go “this was from September ’98” or something. I want to be classic, like a Audrey Hepburn (laughs). Timeless.”
Like Billie Holiday…
Being one of the few Asian artistes to break into the international market with great success, what do you think it takes to make it big across the borders?
“I don’t think there is one single formula. There are many recipes, at the same time there is none, if you get what I mean. The way I have done it so far is to really stay true to who I am, and try not to be the Indonesian version of Madonna, or Pink, or Beyonce. I try to be me. Out there, there are many who look alike, or sound alike. There is so much competition. To stand out, you have to be yourself.”
Is there anything else in your career bucket list?
“There are many things, mostly artistic. I want to write more songs, to make that perfect song, to make that perfect concert, to touch people in a more meaningful way.”
Ending things on a lighter note, who are you listening to at the moment?
“I love Pink. She’s very honest, and she never fails to deliver. She’s a very strong woman—you can see it, you can feel it, you can hear it—and she’s very individualistic. To me, she’s one of the best singers out there. She and Kelly Clarkson. Vocally, it’s really hard to top those two.”
Anggun’s new international album ‘8′ launches tomorrow, 8 December 2017 .
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