Was Tina Arena really in “Chains”? Or is it because she remembers the “Sorrento Moon”? (“Don’t Ask”!)
Filippina Lydia Arena (as she was born in 1967) can trace her roots back to Sicily. Her parents moved to Australia in the early 1950’s where they had three daughters, Nancy, Silvana and ‘Pina’ as she was nicknamed. Aged 8, ‘Pina’ performed on the TV talent show Young Talent Time (the same show that years later would introduce us to Dannii Minogue). Even at a young age, ‘Pina’ was taking control of her career as she entered the contest under a stage name of Tina Arena. And that stuck. Although she entered the show as a contestant, such was her strength, the producers invited her back the following year (1975) as a presenter. And there she remained for the next eight years until she ‘retired’, aged 17!
Tina was immediately snapped up by an independent label, Graffiti, who helped release her debut single, “Turn Up The Beat”, in 1985. The single flopped and that was that. Tina sang in bars and clubs as well as TV commercials but she was given a big break in 1987 when she provided support to Lionel Ritchie on the Australian leg of a world tour. Tina was picked up by Columbia Records and work began on new material. The first single, “I Need Your Body”, was released in April 1990 and was a huge hit, reaching No.3. The follow up, the unfortunately titled “The Machine’s Breaking Down”, did not! Her debut album soon followed in October. “Strong As Steel” charted top twenty and with the title track reaching No.30, her first era was done.
Recording for her second album began in 1993, but only after she had moved to Los Angeles to take up singing and songwriting lessons, returning to home soil to appear on stage in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as well as some useful work as a backing singer. By August 1994, she was ready to show what she had learned and the first single from the new album, “Don’t Ask”, was “Chains”. The song put her back in the top five and lead to a much better reception to this second album, which topped the Australian chart being Platinum certified many times over.
“Chains” was followed by a succession of hit singles, “Sorrento Moon” (No.7), “Heaven Help My Heart (No.22) and “Wasn’t It Good?” (No.11). But so far her success was confined to her home country. That all changed in 1995, when “Chains” reached No.6 in the UK and No.38 in America. The album followed suit, peaking at No.11 in the UK, No.12 in New Zealand, but just missing the Billboard 100 as it halted at No.101 Stateside. The singles did well too with “Sorrento Moon” making No.22 in the UK, “Heaven Help My Heart” (No.25) and even a cover of Maria McKee’s 1990 smash hit “Show Me Heaven” from the film ‘Days Of Thunder’ making No.29 in the UK and No.103 in the US, although this was much less successful than the original.
Tina’s third album, “In Deep”, kept the momentum going when it topped the Australian chart upon release in 1997, again being certified multiple Platinum. The album featured the lead single “Burn”, a No.2 smash, “Now I Can Dance” (No.13) and Tina’s cover of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” (No.36). Globally the singles proved less successful, with “Burn” and “If I Was A River” just missing the UK top 40, while the album was only a hit in Belgium and France, completely missing the chart in the UK and the US. There was one success, however, in the period. Tina performed the title song from the latest Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Whistle Down The Wind in 1998 taking it to No.24 in the UK.
In 2000 she recorded a version of “Live For The One You Love” from the musical Notre-Dame de Paris. The song had already been recorded by Celine Dion and featured on her multi-million selling best of album “All The Way: A Decade Of Song” a year earlier. While Celine’s version had proved a big hit in many French speaking countries, Tina saw only release in the UK, where the song halted at No.63. Tina’s fifth studio album “Just Me” was released in 2001 and made the top ten in Australia. It featured the singles “Soul Mate #9” (No.22) and “Symphony Of Life” (No.8 in 2002). Tina provided guest vocals on Roc Project’s 2003 debut single “Never”. The track made No.47 in the UK and No.97 in America, her highest chart showing for five years in the UK and nine years in the US.
After a greatest hits album in 2004, Tina released the French language album “Un autre univers” in 2005 together with the singles “Aimer jusqu’à l’impossible” and “Je m’appelle Bagdad”. All three were a huge success in France and Belgium, while her cover versions albums “Songs of Love & Loss” (2007) and “Songs of Love & Loss 2” (2008) were both top ten successes at home. After more stage work, Tina returned in 2013 with her first full album of new material for twelve years. “Reset” peaked at No.4 in Australia and included the hit single “You Set Fire To My Life”. Two years later, she was back with “Eleven”, her 11th studio album, which made No.2 and featured the lead single “I Want To Love You”. In 2018, Tina released another French language album, “Quand tout Recommence”, and returned to the stage to play Eva Peron in Evita, for which she was nominated as Best Actress at that year’s Helpmann Awards. Tina continues to tour the country with Evita to rave reviews and many sellout shows, so it looks like it will be some while yet before she returns to the recording studio.