Over the course of her career, Crystal Waters has refused to play by the rules. When dance music was just considered disposable entertainment, Crystal injected the beats with social commentary and introduced a cool ironic style that distinguished her from the stereotypical leather lunged divas. The result was 1990’s gold debut Surprise and the now classic smash, “Gypsy Woman.”
In 1994, she continued to push the creative envelope with her gold follow-up Story teller. Containing the hit “100% Pure Love,” Storyteller proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you could be a singer/songwriter and rock the party.
Now, three years later and armed with perhaps her strongest songs and grooves to date, Crystal Waters is back with a dance album that dares to be more than just that. Which is exactly what Crystal Waters fans have come to expect from her.
Her eponymous album features the explosive single, “Momma Told Me,” with production provided by long-time collaborators The Basement Boys; and as usual, lyrics and melody delivered by Ms. Waters herself, “Momma Told Me” is part cautionary tale, party nursery rhyme and all Crystal. “If I’ve got a sound, “Momma Told Me” probably comes closest to it,” explains Crystal. “That combination of a story on top of a serious club beat. I like that sort of push and pull between the lyrics and the music.” The song also features Crystal’s two daughters, Morgan and Lindsay, on vocals.
On Crystal Waters, Crystal’ joins forces with some new and perhaps unlikely coconspirators. The funkafied feel-good romp, “Say … If You Feel Alright,” was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and co-written by the two with Crystal. Asked why she hooked up with the Twin Cities titans, Crystal laughs, “I’ve always been a fan of theirs. They know how to make great records!” Another person who knows how to make great records is Dallas Austin, who checks in with “Body Music,” which he co-produced and co-wrote with Crystal. Also joining Crystal’s journey into the land of smart groove is Dennis Rodman. The bad boy of basketball adds his sultry two cents to the sexed-up throwdown of ust A Freak.” And how did Rodman get involved? Crystal smiles, “Well, we were in the studio working out the song and the whole theme just seemed to scream out Dennis Rodman. He really adds a nice bit of freakiness.”
And while we’re on the subject of freakiness, check out the butt-rocking remake of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince’s “Uptown.” “I’ve always liked that song,” Crystal admits, “but to be honest we had originally planned on just sampling the track and writing a whole ‘nother song. But since we couldn’t get sample clearance, we Just figured, ‘why not Just record the song and add our own touches?…
Crystal Waters has been adding her own touches since she first entered the music business. As befitting an artist whose lyrics have enjoyed as much attention as her melodies, Crystal first put pen to paper when she was a young girl. It was an interest spurred on by some healthy sibling rivalry. “My older sister used to write, so I began by imitating her.” At 14, she became the youngest inductee into the American Poetry Society, and she continued writing throughout high school. But by the time Crystal entered college, she started to lose her creative drive. “I studied business and sort of fell out of writing. But I realized that my heart really wasn’t into business. I knew I could write, I knew I could do that well. So I just started looking for someone to write with.”
Crystal’s search for inspiration took an unusual route. A chance visit to a psychic planted the notion in Crystal’s mind that perhaps, it was not a new writing partner she needed, but rather that she needed to be singing her own words. “Coincidentally, the day I went to the psychic, I had lost my voice. The psychic told me there’s something that you’re not doing with your voice that you really want to.” The day after that, Crystal began calling around her native Washington D.C. to see if she could do some backup singing. She hooked up with a local production team, The Basement Boys.
Soon, Crystal was writing songs with The Basement Boys. In fact, “Gypsy Woman,” which would become Crystal’s signature song, was originally slated for Ultra Nate. But Crystal’s vocals on the demo were so idiosyncratic that soon she landed herself a record deal. Overnight she went from computer programmer in D.C. to burgeoning pop diva.
The rest, as the cliche goes, is history. “Gypsy Woman” emerged as the club anthem of 1991 and was cited by no less than the New York Times as a defining song for that summer. Three years later, Storyteller’s success proved that “Gypsy Woman” was no mere novelty song. In between touring, making videos and writing, Crystal lent her voice to the fight against AIDS. In 1996, she recorded a languid remake of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova standard “The Boy From lpanema” for the Red, Hot and Rio collection. Once again proving that her vocal talents had no limitations.
As she has always done throughout her career, Crystal Waters takes the music we dance to new heights on-her third Mercury Records CD. Funky, fluid and filled with knowing joy, Crystal Waters, much like the woman behind it, is not what you’d expect a dance album to be, but it is quintessentially Crystal.