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Come Away With Me, 7:31 PM, Tuesday, November 10, 2009
According To You
You know how the magic of radio works? I do, its when you accidentally stumble upon an amazing singer with a talented gift of playing the electric guitar and also have a great voice to go along with it. Full package right? So I introduce you now, Orianthi Panagaris. She's only 24 years old. Same age as my elder brother Marcus who is in New Zealand. Best part yet is that she's born on the 22th of January 1985!! I kinda get all excited when I know people in the entertainment world has the same name or born close to my birthday kinda thing. xD Orianthi was born in Adelaide, Australia, of half Greek descent. She is most commonly known as Michael Jackson's guitarist for his comeback tour, This Is It.
Orianthi was Michael Jackson's lead guitarist and was present on all rehearsals for his This Is It tour before his death. In regards to being handpicked by Jackson, she stated:
“I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them. He had his choice of guitar players, but I came in and played the ‘Beat It’ solo for him. Afterward he was so happy he got up and grabbed my arm and started walking up and down the stage area with me. He said, ‘Can you play once for me?’ He hired me that night. I wish he was still around. He made me believe in myself more, and I learned so much. Going into it, I thought it would be all about playing guitar solos. But the majority of it was playing chords and funky rhythms.”
At 24 years old, Orianthi has already experienced what most aspiring musicians only dream of. She's opened for her hero (Steve Vai), backed an Idol (Carrie Underwood), traded solos with a legend (Carlos Santana) and shared the stage with the King of Pop (Michael Jackson). What's left to conquer? The world stage, for one, and this guitar wunderkind has her sights clearly set on the road ahead.
After a performance with Carrie Underwood on stage at the 2009 Grammy Awards the blogosphere was buzzing with news of this little-known guitar prodigy. It prompted Michael Jackson to call with an offer for her to be his guitarist for his dates at the O2 Arena in London. When offered the gig in Michael Jackson’s live band, Orianthi joined a prestigious line of guitar players including Eddie Van Halen, Santana, Slash, Steve Stevens, Jennifer Batten and Larry Carlton. Sadly the tour was not to be and music lost an icon. “Working with Michael was a life-changing experience,” Orianthi reflects, “One I will never forget.”
Her story starts in Adelaide on the southern tip of Australia where, at the age of six, Orianthi began taking an interest in her dad's record collection. "Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream, Santana… he was into guitar players that are real songwriters," she boasts. Growing up in the 80s, a decade remembered for its many guitar greats, Orianthi also listened to a lot of Whitesnake, Van Halen and Def Leppard. Her father, who used to be a player in a Greek band, also kept plenty of instruments around the house, and it didn't take long before Orianthi strummed her first chord. Mastering the six-string came naturally.
"When I was 11, Carlos Santana came to play Adelaide and that show really affected me," she recounts. “I begged my dad to get me a second hand electric guitar so I could be like Carlos, and that was it, no more acoustic. After that, I would buy all of Carlos' videos — on VHS! — which I kept rewinding to try and learn his solos. I totally wore out the tapes."
Some seven years later when Carlos Santana passed through Adelaide again
Carlos' brother arranged a sound-check meeting between the guitar god and his young disciple after hearing some of her music. A sound check jam evolved into an invitation to join him on stage where Orianthi played for about 35 minutes and took a solo in front of a hometown crowd. Performances, tours and guest appearances with Steve Vai, ZZ Top and Prince have kept Orianthi busy up to this point.
But guitar is far from Orianthi’s only means of expression. Before she received the call from the King of Pop, Orianthi had already been hard at work on her upcoming album, Believe, on which she sings, writes and leads her own band. Working with Geffen Records Chairman and A&R veteran Ron Fair and producer Howard Benson (All American Rejects, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, Three Days Grace) her fierceness of character has made its way to songs that will simply knock the socks off of any boy in the rock star school yard.
Orianthi packs modern girl-power punch into every turn of phrase, but it’s the shredding that takes her brand of rock to an entirely new level. Songs like “Suffocated” and “Think Like A Man” are anthemic rock tracks recalling at time Evanescence, Avril Lavigne, Paramore and even a less-music row more-sunset strip Taylor Swift. First single “According To You” is a catchy tale of an ungrateful boyfriend with a killer guitar solo. The result: a thunderous, hook and riff driven debut that sounds larger than life. If, for a moment, you’ve thought the music world could use another taste of The Runaways’ Joan Jett, let us introduce you to Orianthi.
For someone who has been compared to legendary guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai and has been endorsed by the latter and Carlos Santana, its really quite surprising how much of a pop record Believe actually is. After hearing all the hype surround this gorgeous 24-year old, I wasn't expecting such massive pop hooks that feature on this record, notably on tracks such as According to You, Believe and Drive Away. Indeed with song titles like those mentioned, Feels Like Home, Bad News and others, you might think that this is another pop album that likes any sort of substance. And in many ways it is.
But that doesn't mean they aren't fun pop songs. The girl has a pretty good voice as well, comparable to the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, the latter of which she played behind at the Grammys last year and was subsequently offered a place in her band. There's no doubting that with the right promotion, Orianthi and her four-piece backing band could have quite the success as a pop-rock act in the same feign as Avril Lavigne and Paramore.
But what sets Orianthi apart from those type of acts is obviously the guitar playing. Her work has earned his many awards over the years. Her first ever support gig was with Steve Vai at the age of just fifteen. Vai returns a favour with this record, providing his own guitar work on the instrumental piece Highly Strung, where the two axe-wielders go back and forth in what is an absolutely mammoth track, and honest to God Orianthi more than holds her own. She is an incredible guitarist. Whether its in the masterful solos of According to You, Bad News and others, or the soulful grooves of Drive Away, this woman sets the standard for female guitar players everywhere. Hell, her playing is better than the fast majority of male guitarists in rock and metal, and deserves to be appreciated by as many people as possible.
Like the pop singer that she is though, Orianthi plays it safe with a seemingly average backing band behind her, and songs about typical themes such as inconsiderate men, love, loss and forgiveness. God Only Knows is a powerful track written in the wake of Jacksons death that encourages us to move on despite never having the chance to say goodbye, and this uplifting mantra is reflected in her thunderous guitar work. And there are a fair few duds. Believe has a fairly decent pop hook but it lacks the stunning guitar work present through out the rest of the album, aside from a fairly short solo. If your guitar skills are your selling point, why wouldn't you utilize them at any given opportunity?
All in all though, its a tremendous album that uniquely combines big pop hooks with vicious guitar skills. I want to give a shout out to her drummer as well, who puts in some very impressive performances, namely on Whats It Gonna Be. Its also one of the best guitar tracks on the record, yet the accomplished drumming is still very noticeable and is really the driving force behind the track. This is a must-have for any guitar enthusiast, particularly those who like their guitarists stunningly beautiful and Greek.