Who or what was Mica Paris’ one temptation? And where is she, herself now?!
by Christopher Smith
Incredibly thirty years have now passed since British soul singer Mica Paris released her debut album “So Good”. Born Michelle Wallen in London in 1969, Mica made her musical debut in 1985 aged 16 years old as part of a local gospel choir before gaining work as a backing vocalist for the group Hollywood Beyond, who had a top ten hit with “What’s The Colour Of Money?” in 1986.
Mica was signed up to be developed as a solo artist in her own right soon after and in March 1988 released her debut single “My One Temptation” which peaked at No.7 in the UK and broke the US charts by reaching No.97 Stateside.
Her follow up came in June of 1988 with “Like Dreamers Do” featuring Jazz musician Courtney Pine. It fared less well and only reached No.26 in the UK. “So Good” was released in August to critical acclaim, with many comparing her vocal ability and style to Natalie Cole. The album reached a high of No.6 in the UK and received a Platinum certification for sales of over 300,000 copies. It also made No.86 on the US Billboard 200 and charted across Europe and Australasia.
Her third single “Breathe Life Into Me” came in September as an extended remix of the original album track. Mica performed the song on Top Of The Pops and that helped it to attain the same chart placing as its predecessor in the UK, after five weeks of climbing the singles chart!
For her fourth and final release from the album, Mica joined forces with American soul singer Will Downing on their cover of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s 1972 hit “Where Is The Love?”, which had reached No.29 in the UK and No.5 in the US. Mica and Will’s version was released at the very end of December 1988 and beat the original’s UK chart position by making No.19 in January of 1989, although no US release seemed to happen.
Mica spent the next year and a half writing and recording her second album “Contribution”, which was preceded by the title track in September 1990. This debuted at No.33 in the UK but did hit No.20 on the US dance chart. The album followed a month later peaking at No.26 in the UK.
Two further singles were lifted from the album in early 1991, “South Of The River” (UK No.50) and “If I Love U 2 Nite” (UK No.43). Mica also contributed the title song of the 1991 British film ‘Young Soul Rebels’ which reached No.61 in the UK. During this period she worked with The Stereo MC’s, Bobby Womack, Anita Baker and also reunited with Courtney Pine on his version of the classic “Redemption Song” in 1992.
Mica returned in fine form in 1993 with her third studio album “Whisper A Prayer”. Working with distinguished producers like Narada Michael Walden, Rod Temperton and Jon Lind, “Whisper A Prayer” showcased Mica’s vocal ability and style for outstanding pop/soul tracks as evidenced with the lead single “I Never Felt Like This Before” which reached No.15 in the UK in March 1993, her highest charting since her debut five years earlier.
The second single “I Wanna Hold On To You” came in June and reached No.27. “Whisper A Prayer” made its way to No.20 in the UK, beating both position and sales of “Contribution” and gaining very favourable reviews across the board. “Two In A Million” became the third single which made No.51 in the UK and the beautiful, tender title track, released at Christmas 1993, but which only scrapped in at No.65. Mica next appeared in 1995 with a cover of U2’s “One” which she took to No.29 in the UK, some way behind the 1991 original which had made No.7 and No.10 in the US.
A gap of five years existed between “Whisper A Prayer” and her next album, “Black Angel” which was released in August 1998. The lead single “Stay” was a cover of Sly and The Stone Family’s 1973 hit “If You Want Me To Stay”. It made No.40 in the UK and No.31 in New Zealand. The album reached No.59 in the UK with two further singles released, “Carefree” and the title track (UK No.72). A greatest hits album was issued in 1999.
Mica returned to collaborations over the next few years, this time working with Prince, Boy George, and David Gilmour and Jools Holland on the song “I Put A Spell On You”. It was during this period that she became a TV and radio presenter, hosting the 2002 Radio 2 series Soul Solutions and narrated a two part documentary on prince the same year. In 2005 she released no less than two albums. The first, “If You Could Love Me”, was a new collection of original songs, whilst the second “Soul Classics” was a collection or re-recordings and included her version of The Miracles 1965 hit “Tracks Of My Tears” which was issued as a single in support of the album.
Mica appeared on the 2005 series Hit Me Baby, One More Time and a celebrity special of Come Dine With Me, which she won. From 2007 she co-hosted two series of What Not To Wear for the BBC and appeared in the ITV version of Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel as a jazz singer. She returned to music in 2009 with her album “Born Again” which included the singles “Baby Come Back Now” and “The Hardest Thing”.
After that, she returned to radio and television presenting and since 2013 has been a regular on ITV’s This Morning programme. In 2017 she released “Mica Sings Ella”, a tribute album to Ella Fitzgerald and released her version of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” as a single. Mica has performed live to rave reviews and packed theatres across the UK including a number of nights at Indigo within the O2 complex in London.
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