The Return of Shirley Bassey
By Noah Michelson
Britain's 72-year-old grand dame of the music, Shirley Bassey, is set to release her first all-new record in more than 20 years tomorrow. The Performance, produced by James Bond soundtrack genius David Arnold, features songs written especially for the singer by a gaggle of some of the most famous gay (and/or gay adjacent) musicians currently recording including The Pet Shop Boys, Rufus Wainwright, KT Tunstall and Take That's Gary Barlow. The album isn't due out in the U.S. until early next year, so if you want a copy of it now hit up Amazon.com or get the import at your favorite local record store.
Billboard recently caught up with Bassey to find out a little more about the project:
Billboard: You've had compilations and remix albums, but this
is your first all-new record in more than 20 years. Is that because the
material wasn't right for you before?
Well, not only that. I'd really retired, to tell you the truth, and was
just coming out for special occasions. These writers have brought me
back. Only that could have done it, and it was a challenge, because you
wouldn't have thought they were my songs. I took them on holiday with
me, and I would say, "I can't do this, they're too difficult." But I
was listening to the way the writers were singing them, and trying to
sing in their key, which never helps. It wasn't until I actually went
into the studio, with a piano, and put my voice on, that I started to
get excited. I could hear myself. I'm always up for a challenge, and it
Billboard: Why do you think you still draw big crowds and have a loyal fan base after all these years?
Bassey: My down-to-earthness, I think. But if I knew what makes
success, I'd bottle it. That's the magic of this business -- you don't
know why you're successful. Those critics who say it's an all-gay
audience ... not at all. There's mums and dads, and their children
bring their children, so it's a family audience.
Billboard: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Bassey: I love all of them. But the Pet Shop Boys' song ("The
Performance of My Life") got right into my head and made me sob, and
not many songs do that. You can get too carried away with a song,
especially onstage, but you can't be crying during every one. When I
heard that, after doing all the other songs, it was just too much for
me. I don't need to write a book. The record is my autobiography.
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