She was the winner of the 2008 version of Britain’s all-conquering X Factor. Her debut single ‘Hallelujah’, a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, remains the highest selling track in a 24 hour period in European chart history and after just two weeks on sale, became the highest selling British single for 2008. Armed with a No.1 album and four top ten UK singles (including two number ones), Alexandra Burke has now turned her attention to Australia, where her new single ‘All Night Long’ and album ‘Overcome’ have just been released.
During the singer’s fleeting visit to our shores last week, we were lucky enough to be granted some time with her for a little natter and discovered a young lady excited to find the comforts of home on the other side of the world.
“I just love the fact that I’ve flown nearly 26 hours and I still feel like I’m in London. I’ve walked into heaps of interviews today and everyone was just drinking tea, and I was like ‘Oh, GREAT!’ Everyone understands English things, so it’s really cool. And also the sense of humour here. You know, I get it, which is great, so it’s good that we can all laugh,” she says.
Laughter is something Alexandra knows quite a bit about. She’s been giggling frequently since her X Factor win; she’s had a million-selling single, a further No.1 in ‘Bad Boys’, two top ten hits and a No.1 album. But her career has suffered its setbacks. She auditioned for X Factor once before – in 2005 – when as a 16 year old, Louis Walsh knocked her back for not being ‘ready’. She was shattered, but five years on remains philosophical about the rejection.
“I wasn’t ready at 16. I walked out of school thinking that I knew it all and thinking that I was so ready for this world. And I think if I had have been given this opportunity at 16, I would have crumbled a long time ago. There’s a lot that goes into this business and a lot of stuff you have to deal with, negative and positive. Thankfully mine has been a lot of positive things so far, but if you’ve not got the mentality to deal with it, you will crack.”
She’s learned a number of lessons so far, but by far the biggest, she says, is trust.
“Trusting. My thing is that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush – I think it’s wrong to not trust people and I wear my heart on my sleeve, which is just me and it’s just the way I am. And I won’t change that for anything or anyone. When press get really involved in my family’s life and stuff, that’s the hardest thing to deal with. But I kind of turn a blind eye to it and take it with a pinch of salt and keep going. It’s been difficult at times, but you know, at the end of the day, you’ve got to keep going.”
Alexandra’s win on X Factor was a very moving piece of television, with the singer unable to hide her emotion on winning the competition (below). Her subsequent performance of the winner’s song was stirring to say the least. The whole moment for her remains somewhat of a blur.
“I mean, when I heard my name that I’d won the show, honestly it was the most amazing feeling in the world. I can’t even describe the feeling though, because I never expected to win. Having that opportunity, that platform was incredible, just incredible,” she says.
But who had the most tears, Alexandra or her mentor Cheryl Cole?
“The most tears was definitely me. Absolutely it was me. My goodness. A lot of tears.”
The rumour was that Alexandra didn’t like ‘Hallelujah’ (the Leonard Cohen song) as the choice for the winner’s single. Scratch that – she didn’t even know the song.
“I didn’t know the song before I heard it at all. I always said from the beginning, I just didn’t think it would suit me. I didn’t think I would win, I didn’t think it was my type of song to sing. I went away for ten minutes, came back down to the label and said to them, ‘I’m going to Whitney-fy this song’ and they went ‘that’s the spirit’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to give this my own twist and if it doesn’t sound good, it doesn’t sound good – at least I tried.’ So that’s what that situation was at the time.”
Within three weeks on sale, Alexandra’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ had astonishingly broken through the one million sales mark, making her the first British female solo singer to do so.
She then set about crafting her debut single proper. But just as most people were expecting the singer to park herself right back up in the middle of ballads-ville for her new tunes, she hit them with a left turn – ‘Bad Boys’.
“It was the first single off the album and it was just incredible, because nobody expected me to come out with a song like that. A lot of the time people have said to me that they were expecting ballads. And I was like ‘okay, cool.’ And it’s incredible – I just had a blast doing ‘Bad Boys’ and I say ‘why not?’ Why would you not put your experiences out there and have fun with it?”
Alexandra’s debut album ‘Overcome’ followed, with a blend of fun pop tracks infused with licks of R&B from some of the biggest names in the world of pop – Ne-Yo, RedOne and Norwegian production team Stargate.
“Stargate were the first boys I worked with on the album and they were incredible. RedOne is a talented producer, a great songwriter, someone I know I’ll be friends with for years to come. I’m really really pleased that I was able to work with him and am still working with him on loads of new material. Working with Ne-Yo… It’s incredible how far this has gone in a very short space of time and I can only want to work harder to make sure that I may continue to give you guys good music.”
Here in Australia, we’ve bypassed the album’s second single ‘Broken Heels’ for the Pitbull guested ‘All Night Long’. Not to be confused with the Lionel Richie single of the same name.
“I actually incorporate Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ in one of my shows I’m doing and it’s fun to put the two together because everywhere I go people are asking, ‘Has it got anything to do with Lionel Richie?’. Man, I wish. But it’s got something to do with a little bit of Pitbull, so this is just a nice, fun, clubby song and I love it. ‘All Night Long’ was one of the songs I’d actually heard before I’d made the album. I remember hearing it and falling in love and saying to the label, ‘This song has to be mine’,” she says.
The video (above) was created using fifty video cameras, loaned to the star by her record company Sony, with guests of the shoot invited to “go ’round and do what they needed to do” to provide 60 seconds of footage each. Even Alexandra’s family was in on the act.
“My dad’s in there, my brothers, my sisters, and loads of fans. My mum’s not in there because she was in hospital on that day, so she couldn’t make it, but it was so great that I could have my friends and family in that video,” she says, adding that some of the footage just couldn’t be used for one reason or another.
“Some of it was a bit too X rated to make it. I looked at the footage and I thought ‘what the hell is this!?’ and there was no way it could make it on there. You would have been laughing your nut off, I tell you. It was so much fun – and really funny.”
Rumours abound that Alexandra is recording new tracks for inclusion on a re-packaged US version of her album ‘Overcome’. Though she confirms those rumours, she says the lucrative US market will have to wait a little while longer.
“Plans are in place for the US, but right now we’re concentrating on Europe first and obviously now Australia and then Asia. So plans for America at the moment are still out there. But I’m still recording for that album to be released there, so they’ve just got to wait a little minute. Just a minute longer.”
She also confirms to us that she’s already started work on her second UK album.
“I have yes. The process of recording is always ongoing and I’m never stopping, so you’ll be hearing some new material very soon.”
In Australia, meanwhile, Alexandra’s album ‘Overcome’ was released into stores over the weekend – and her new single ‘All Night Long’ is now starting to make inroads at radio. But though she worked hard on her promo trip last week, we couldn’t help get the feeling that the trip was all too brief for her.
“Yes, it was really quick – I literally just got in on the Monday night and now I’m leaving and it’s just been really intense. I really haven’t got to see Sydney much because I’ve been working, but I did get to see Melbourne. Melbourne was a lot of fun. Sydney’s been great and now I have to go back. I’m right ‘round the corner from the Opera House,” she enthuses, adding “It’s just incredible to see it in real life.”
And in concluding, does Alexandra Burke have a message for all her Aussie fans?
“Absolutely – the message for all the Aussie fans out there; I want to say thankyou so much for all your love and support so far. I hope that I’m around for years to come to give you guys brilliant music and loads of fun, laughter and smiles!”
And she leaves with an ominous, but welcome, warning;
“This is my first time, and not going to be my last because I’m SO coming back!”
Hallelujah to that.
ALEXANDRA’S ALBUM ‘OVERCOME’ IS IN-STORE NOW.
ALEXANDRA’S SINGLE ‘ALL NIGHT LONG’ IS AVAILABLE PHYSICALLY AND DIGITALLY NOW.
(UNTIL THURSDAY JUNE 10, THE TRACK IS JUST 49c from BANDITFM)