At first glance, I may not be the person who can be thought of as the ideal fan for an artist like Natalie Imbruglia . Rising to fame as an actress on the Australian soap opera Neighbors, her main claim to fame is the massive international hit single “Torn” from her debut album “Left Of The Middle.” As I am a person who is definitely right of the middle, if left-handed and definitely out in left field a good portion of the time, this is not necessarily calculated to gain my appreciation. In the United States, Natalie Imbruglia is thought of as a one-hit wonder, and this is something I consider more than a little bit unjust. After all, “Torn” is the least favorite song of her discography that I am familiar with, and she has been praised and successful for more singles than that one alone. Therefore, given that I enjoy writing about one-hit wonders from time to time , it is worthwhile to turn our attention to the strange but intriguing career of one Natalie Imbruglia, and let us see why I am more fond of her than might otherwise be assumed to be the case.
Like many one-hit wonders, Natalie Imbruglia was a success right out of the gate. Her first album went multi-platinum in the United States and around the world, and spawned three top 5 hits in the UK and another one that hit the top 20. Even at her most popular, she was not that popular in the United States, as “Torn” only went to $42 on the charts. This low ranking chart peak does not do justice to how much the song was absolutely unavoidable in 1997, as it was an airplay only single, and ineligible to chart until the following year. The fact that “Torn” was #1 for eleven weeks on the airplay chart is a more reliable understanding of just how massively popular this song is. The rest of her first album did relatively well as far as airplay and international success is concerned. Big Mistake hit #2 in the UK, Wishing I Was There hit #13 on the Adult Top 40 and #15 on Top 40 Mainstream, so it was a moderate airplay hit in the US. Smoke, the fourth and final single from the album, went #5 in the UK. So far, it would appear as if Ms. Imbruglia had established herself as a successful new artist and had achieved substantial success in the United States and UK and around the world.
So, what happened? A few, things happened, really. Before her second album came out, she released a single from the soundtrack to the movie Stigmata. The song was written by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and I think it is a fantastic song, all dark and moody, but the song went nowhere on the charts. It was such a nonentity on the charts anywhere in the world that Natalie Imbruglia’s wikipedia discography doesn’t even show it as a single . Someone needs to edit that, stat. Her second album, “White Lilies Island,” featured three singles that did moderately well in the UK and Australia, but did not go anywhere in the United States. Only second single “Wrong Impression,” a song I really like, even hit the charts at all and it stalled at #64, being promptly forgotten by almost everyone. After that, her career was basically done in the United States.
That is not to say that she stopped making interesting music, though. Her second and third albums went gold in the UK, for example, and her third album featured international hit singles in “Shiver” and “Counting Down The Days.” Her greatest hits compilation in 2007 gave her another hit in the UK and Italy with “Glorious,” and that compilation also went gold in the UK. She then released the album “Come To Life” in 2009, which featured a minor hit in “Want,” and after a dramatic period of turmoil in per personal life released a cover album of songs from a man’s perspective called, appropriately enough, Male, which featured the song “Instant Crush,” which did not really chart anywhere except for at #150 in France. For all intents and purposes, Natalie Imbruglia is singing for a small audience of passionate and loyal fans who are willing to buy her albums once every few years with little interest by the music industry as a whole.
And that is a shame. Natalie Imbruglia is nothing if not a creative individual with an unusual musical perspective, and I think the musical world is poorer for not having someone a bit left of the middle with a somewhat odd and quirky way of singing and a passionate ability to sell a song on it. I like quirky people–I am certainly one–and Natalie Imbruglia is certainly a quirky singer herself. In the United States she is remembered for a song that I happen not to think is very good, but those who have looked over her discography can find quite a few turns in a dramatic career that ended all too soon stateside and only continued for a few more years around the world. That seems to be how the music industry goes, making stars and then abandoning them when their songs are more quirky and when they have a bit more individuality in the way they write and perform. And that is a great shame.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: