Vanessa Daou is an American singer, songwriter, poet, visual artist and dancer. Most notably a musician, her work is known among electronica, nu jazz and trip hop circles for her trademark spoken word and sultry singing style as well as its erotic and literary themes.
A native of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vanessa relocated to Massachusetts in 1984 to attend boarding school. Later in the decade, she met her musical partner and future husband, Peter Daou, and the two briefly attempted to break into New York’s underground dance music scene as Vandal. With Vanessa contributing vocals and Peter on keyboards, the now husband-and-wife team signed to Columbia Records and released a debut LP, Head Music, as The Daou in 1992. The album immediately found an audience and its first single, a remix of “Surrender Yourself” by Danny Tenaglia, spent 11 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.
In 1994, Vanessa now billed as a solo act, recorded Zipless, a sexually-charged collection of pieces inspired by the work of the poet/novelist Erica Jong. A slight stylistic evolution from Head Music, Zipless employed a somewhat more synthesized sound and introduced her foray into recorded spoken word. Vanessa released Zipless on her own label, Lotus Records. The album quickly established a cult following and attracted the attention of Bob Krasnow, the music A&R executive whose artist signings include Anita Baker, Björk, Natalie Merchant and Metallica. Krasnow signed Vanessa to his fledgling MCA Records subsidiary Krasnow Entertainment and re-released Zipless in 1995.
A second album for Krasnow/MCA, Slow to Burn, was released later in 1995. With each song a vignette inspired by the biographies of such celebrated female artists as Billie Holiday, Gertrude Stein and Frida Kahlo, Slow To Burn enjoyed moderate to heavy smooth jazz format radio play with its first single "Two to Tango." The single was remixed by Danny Tenaglia and spent three weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.
In 1996, Krasnow parted ways with MCA giving Vanessa the freedom to opt out of her recording contract in order to embark on an exciting new chapter as a fully independent artist. She would release two successive solo albums via her newly minted DAOU Music imprint – Plutonium Glow (1998) and Dear John Coltrane (1999). However, it would be her fifth solo outing, Make You Love, that would thrust her back into the international spotlight. Released in 2000 via DAOU Music and EMI France, the introspective pop-leaning set garnered wide critical acclaim, global radio support (for stand-out cuts “Lovechild”, “A Little Bit Of Pain” and “Juliette”), and numerous TV and film synch licenses. She embarked on a successful seven-week concert tour of France with multi-platinum French pop vocalist Etienne Daho and the pair would re-record Vanessa’s song “Make Believe” (from Plutonium Glow) as an English-language duet, which was included on Daho’s chart-topping Corps et Armes album (issued in 2000 on Virgin France).
On the heels of Make You Love, Vanessa would take a seven-year hiatus and re-emerge in 2007 with the announcement of a new album, the launch of her DAOU Records label imprint, and her split with husband and musical collaborator, Peter. The following year she would release her self-produced, sultry nocturnal jazz opus Joe Sent Me. A nod to the clandestine speakeasies of the Prohibition era, the evocative set explores the nuances of language and poetry, building the sonic structures around vocal collages of poems, phrasings and stream-of-consciousness. Easily one of her most intimate works, the album yielded four successful dance singles: “Heart Of Wax”, “Black & White”, “Once In While” and “Consequences” (which was featured in the FX series Sons Of Anarchy - Season 5, Episode 3).
Vanessa returned in 2013 with her eagerly-anticipated seventh studio album Light Sweet Crude – Act One: Hybrid (DAOU Records). A notable departure from the more contemplative musings of Joe Sent Me, Light Sweet Crude was a far more upbeat and energizing endeavor that ingeniously consolidated the various themes and musical styles she’s explored continually throughout her 20+ year career. Touching upon everything from romantic flirtations, sexual desire and longing, love and loss, relationships, social mores, gender politics, race, global political upheaval and personal metamorphosis, the album is a thrilling rush of adrenaline that’s equally hedonistic, immediate and assured. It’s also one of Vanessa’s most extroverted enterprises featuring a range of collaborators including house music legend Lem Springsteeen (of Mood II Swing), Danish downtempo master Christian Ronn (Ganga), VIOS (Grey Devio and DJ Timka), French hip-hop producer Da Poet (Ozan Erdoğan), multi-disciplinary artist Charles Lindsay, experimental electronic producer André Baum, and more. Tracks like the mainstream-friendly “Love Is War”, “Revolution” and “Danger Ahead”, and sumptuous ballads like “BarD’O”, “Dream” and “Trouble Comes” fit neatly among Daou’s most treasured and timeless works.
Earlier this year, Daou issued her first solo career-spanning retrospective, Welcome To My Blues: An Anthology [1994 – 2017]. The 32-track digital double album (released via DAOU Records in partnership with KID Recordings) assembles Vanessa’s essential “signature” classics and fan favorites such as "Near the Black Forest,” "Sunday Afternoons,” "Two To Tango,” "Becoming A Nun,” “Waiting For The Sun To Rise,” "Alive,” "Passed,” "Heart Of Wax" and "Consequences," alongside three new recordings ("Pleasure And Pain,” "Snow [A Deeper Drift]" and "Feather Waltz"). It’s the perfect overview and introduction to the dynamic artist’s insightful, provocative and melodious, musically-expansive soundscape.
Vanessa is currently working on several new projects including Zipless 2.0: Songs From The Works of Erica Jong Remixed & Reimagined and an as-yet-untitled new studio album (slated for release in 2018).
Vanessa Daou is represented by Craig Roseberry for Shifty Entertainment Group.
Big Shot Magazine (news item announcing ‘Zipless’ vinyl)
All About Jazz (news item announcing ‘Zipless’ vinyl)
Billboard (Vanessa reflects on the 40th anniversary of Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man)
Slant Magazine (‘Zipless’ review, 2004)