TINA ARENA “Greatest Hits and Interpretations”
“Greatest Hits and Interpretations” is a 2CD / 31 track set, celebrating the great Tina Arena’s 40th anniversary as a recording artist.
First and foremost, the “Retrospective” half of this new collection is simply the most comprehensive anthology ever released of Tina Arena’s English-language songs.
It brings together all the much-loved greatest hits spanning her entire music career including, for the first time ever, Tina’s earliest solo breakthrough singles, 1990’s “I Need Your Body” and “The Machine’s Breaking Down”, right through to more recent classics, including 2013’s “Only Lonely” and “You Set Fire To My Life”.
Plus, naturally, “Greatest Hits and Interpretations” features all those megahits in between, the iconic songs that generations of Australians know off by heart – “Chains”, “Sorrento Moon”, “Wasn’t It Good”, “Burn”, “If I Didn’t Love You”, “Symphony Of Life”, “Heaven Help My Heart”, and many more.
A 40-year recording career – an extraordinary milestone by any measure. But consider this: Tina Arena is the only Australian artist to earn a gold or platinum certification for original album releases, in every decade since the 1970s right through to now. In fact, every album in her career has gone gold, platinum or multi-platinum. Her 1994 album “Don’t Ask” remains one of the highest selling Australian albums of all time, currently certified 14 X platinum. Add to this her unprecedented success in France – she’s sold 5 million albums there alone.
Tina’s journey is, of course, the stuff of Oz music folklore, dating right back to mid-’70s when all of Australia knew her simply as “Tiny Tina”, arguably the most popular singer in the country … by age nine! Tina’s debut studio recording, 1977’s Tiny Tina & Little John (co-starring John Bowles, her 12-year-old cohort from the legendary variety TV show Young Talent Time) had Tiny Tina belting out pitch-perfect covers of chart hits of the time such as ABBA’s “Ring Ring” and “When I Kissed The Teacher”. The album cover had a picture of Tiny Tina holding Little John’s hand and cuddling a teddy bear.
Needless to say, generations of Australians have grown up with Tina Arena and her music ever since then. The child star matured into one of our most successful singer/songwriters, the possessor of a voice for the ages, and she’s now a veteran (even though she’s still only in her 40s!), with total album sales topping 10 million. We all feel like we’ve known Tina our whole lives – the diva herself has certainly never hid her feelings from us – so it won’t surprise anyone that, Tina being Tina, she was never going to let an occasion like her 40th anniversary be marked by a straight-forward greatest hits set.
Which is why Tina Arena’s “Greatest Hits and Interpretations” is, in fact, a musical collection in two very distinct parts. Disc One, entitled “Retrospective”, is all about the greatest hits.
But on Disc Two, subtitled “Reimagine”, Tina herself barely appears. Instead, she’s invited a most eclectic collective of peers and some of her favourite newcomers to reinterpret a selection of highlights from her career.
“The whole premise of this record for me was about the other artists,” explains Tina. “How the other artists perceived this body of work. It was about them having the freedom to be able to do it the way they want to do it.”
The results are absolutely stunning, some of Tina’s most famous songs given an entirely new life and mood.
Tina only appears on two of these new recordings. Firstly alongside Jess Mauboy and the Veronicas, reprising the powerhouse performance of “Chains” from Tina’s epic ARIA Hall of Fame induction in late 2015 (who can ever forget the performance or Tina’s acceptance speech!) “I love those girls for their honesty and the fact that they stood up to the plate,” says Tina. “My whole thing to them was that this is not about me, this is about us, and I want it to be about us. And they were like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ It was three generations of great respect, we had a really good laugh and we just had fun. It was a really beautiful evening for me. I had a great time.”
And secondly, Tina appears as the guest vocalist on Dannii Minogue’s electro-pop remake of “Sorrento Moon”. “We go back over 40 years and it just made total sense to me that she would be a part of this project,” says Tina. Dannii Minogue, of course, also started her career on Young Talent Time. “She’s like my baby sister. She’s like my family. And I think she’s done a stunning job of “Sorrento Moon”, which was always a much-loved song in the Minogue household.”
Other fellow legendary Australian artists starring on the “Reimagine” disc include Jimmy Barnes with a pounding version of “When You’re Ready” (borrowed from Tina’s most recent studio album, 2015’s “11”); Katie Noonan with an innovative a capella-based reconstruction of “Burn” (“She’s an ethereal goddess,” says Tina); as well as friend and recent collaborator Kate Miller-Heidke with a most haunting reading of “Heaven Help My Heart”. “She’s a master,” says Tina. “There’s not many in the world like her. She reinvigorated, gave me hope in that song. To pull it back and strip it completely naked, and make it that raw, it just made me go, ‘Oh God – that’s serious!’”
Alongside all these celebrated Australian music figures, Tina also asked some of her favourite new talents to contribute to the “Reimagine” project. “I believe I have a responsibility to help showcase those new people, like other people believed in me when I was up-and-coming,” Tina explains. “I believe they deserve a platform.”
You might not have heard of a few of these artists yet, but once you’ve experienced how each tackles Tina’s songs here, with such emotion and distinctiveness, you can rest assured the future of Australian music is in safe hands.
Possibly the best known of the new artists is young Australian singer-songwriter Clare Bowen, who’s already well on her way to becoming a major star in the US with a starring role in the hit TV series Nashville. Clare totally kills her acoustic-based take on “Still Running” (from 2013’s “Reset”). “She’s a storyteller,” says Tina. “When she opens her mouth, she just pulls you in hook, line and sinker – you’re just gone. Her version of “Still Running” is just a moment of pure jubilation. It’s magnificent.”
Based in the real Nashville, but originally hailing from Newcastle, Australian country singer/songwriter Morgan Evans takes on “If I Didn’t Love You” from 1997’s “In Deep” and quietly flips the song’s original emotion on its head. “He’s just embellished it really beautifully,” says Tina. “I just love what he’s done with it. The writing of it came from a place of angst and his interpretation has taken that angst away. I was very moved by it.”
Another key track from the recent Reset album is stripped back on “Reimagine” by Tina’s original co-writer on the song, the brilliant young Alex Hope. “She’s so unassuming, an incredible music brain,” says Tina. “Max Martin (the world’s most successful songwriter) loves her. She’s a young producer making some serious noise. She’s flying, she’s off.”
While Tina’s original version of her 1990 breakthrough dance hit “I Need Your Body” opens the “Retrospective” disc, making its first reappearance on a Tina album in 27 years, the song is given a complete reworking on “Reimagine” by young Canadian star David Thibault, who recently came to prominence via the French version of The Voice. The song was released before David was born and as a native French speaker, his take on the track is unique. “It’s retro, it’s fun, it’s really laid back,” Tina says of David’s swinging ’60s version of the song. “I love the sincerity of it.”
Rounding out “Reimagine”, Ben Abraham and Ainslie Wills, another pair of emerging talents from Tina’s hometown of Melbourne, collaborate here for the first time to produce a spine-tingling duet rendition of “Wasn’t It Good” off “Don’t Ask”. “Oh my God – their version gives me goose bumps!” says Tina. “The thing that stuck me was the emotional maturity in their storytelling in that vocal. It’s just mesmerising. And they’re just kids! A moment of absolute grace on the record.”
What a stylish, creative and emotion-filled way to celebrate Tina Arena’s 40th anniversary as a recording artist.
While the star herself has always been forward-focused with her music and career, undoubtedly producing some of her finest original new music in this current decade, the 40-year milestone – alongside other recent awards and accolades such as 2015’s induction into the ARIA Hall Of Fame and 2016’s Order of Australia medal – has forced Tina to pause and reflect. And looking back, Tina couldn’t be prouder of everything she’s survived and achieved thus far.
“I’ve always been my harshest critic, that will never change,” says Tina. “For me it’s all about the quality of the songwriting – it’s got to make you feel something and this collection makes me feel something. And I go, ‘Yes, I’ve done okay.’ I’m proud of the collaborations I’ve had, of the things I’ve learned, of the things I continue to learn. I’ve loved working with the people I’ve worked with over the years. It’s really fulfilling.”
– March 2017 –