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Tina Arena at State Theatre
2004-12-08

It can be exclusively revealed here that Tina Arena named her breakthrough 1994 album Don´t Ask because she was tired of being asked what it was like to be on Young Talent Time.

Arena dropped this revelation on a stunned audience at the State Theatre on Tuesday night while filming her performance for a DVD release. So I promise there will be no mention of the fact that Arena got her start on that most iconic of kitsch 1980s Oz television shows. None whatsoever.

In fact, Arena´s career has taken an implausibly successful arc since she last said, "Goodnight, Johnny". For those of you who don´t know, she´s big in France. Huge. And having sold an astonishing 3.5 million records, Arena is still our biggest-selling female artist. She told us she can sing in Italian, Spanish and - demonstrably, as she covered Edith Piaf´s Three Bells - in passable French. Passable to Australian ears, anyway.

Like Dido, Arena´s selling point has always been her voice (strong, smooth and pitch-perfect) and certainly not her dancing (maybe it was those towering heels) or her personality (her drawn-out between-songs repartee tried the patience of even the most pro-Tina hecklers).

A sluggish cover of Foreigner´s cheeseball I Wanna Know What Love Is was a low point. But if you were looking for simple pleasures and no surprises - that is, nice, easy melodies sung by pretty girls the occasional money note and at least 12 choruses a song - you had come to the right place.

Arena´s lean, sharp four-piece band and two female backing vocalists kept the songs and the delivery silky smooth but avoided being bloodless, mercifully steering even the cheesier ballads away from saccharine territory.

Arena even took a stint behind the grand piano to play one of her many ballads, Wasn´t It Good, a song that fit into the lite relationship-affirmation half of her two musical modes (the other being lite self-affirmation).

Burn For Me stirred the audience´s hearts while Heaven Help My Heart had people dancing in the aisles. The inevitable finale was her top-5 hit in Britain, I´m In Chains, though Arena altered her final chorus to "I´m no longer in chains", given she´s really quite happy now, as she explained at length. Probably since she escaped YTT.

Seriously, though, getting your career started on a sort of Rock Eisteddfod-meets-the-Mouseketeers TV show looks positively heavyweight when compared with the TV-soap route to pop stardom.

And Australian Idol? Please. The YTT kids had to do dance routines and wear leotards while they busted their best karaoke. It´s much tougher.

Have you tried it?

[By Kelsey Munro]
[Source: SMH]