Whatever Happened To Amanda Marshall?

For a variety of reasons, I find myself fond of the music of a variety of artists who had a brief and slight degree of popularity and then for a variety of reasons never found themselves again in the public consciousness to the degree that their initial promise suggested they might deserve. I have already, in passing, mentioned Amanda Marshall as part of a group of people who were helped by a particular producer and songwriter in David Tyson, and part of a family of artists of limited popularity, and it is worth examining why this was the case for Amanda Marshall in particular. Although she had a much more successful Canadian career, her popularity in the United States rests on a single song, “Birmingham,” that is far from a full picture of the sort of work that she was responsible for, even if it was a highlight in her body of work.

One gets the feeling that Amanda Marshall’s reputation as an artist would have been vastly different depending on which song of hers would have been her big hit in the United States. Had “Let It Rain” been popular, she might have been thought of as a Christian contemporary artist. Had “Trust Me Baby (This Is Love)” been popular, she would have been thought of as an adult alternative creator of acoustic love songs. As it was, since “Birmingham” was popular, she was thought of as a sensitive singer-songwriter with a taste for message songs. This is not entirely incorrect, but she was definitely more than that. In Canada, all three of her albums had hits, perhaps in large part thanks to CanCon standards, but in the United States her career did not attract a great deal of attention.

Sadly, Amanda Marshall only has three albums to her credit as a whole, all of them made between 1995 and 2001. The first of those albums was her most popular, going diamond in Canada, but the other two albums were at least popular enough in Canada to be certified. For me, at least, the second album of Amanda Marshall, Tuesday’s Child, is almost as good as the first. Songs like “Why Don’t You Love Me?” “Believe In You” and “Love Lift Me” are quite enjoyable to me, and it’s a shame that none of them caught on in the United States to give her at least a couple of hits that people could remember.

The real problem seems to be the effects of her third album, called Everybody’s Got A Story, and what it meant for Marshall as an artist. Eschewing the girl with a guitar or piano music that had made her first two albums tonally consistent and generally enjoyable, she decided to spend an entire album wallowing in matters of identity politics, including quite a few songs that dwell over and over again on her biracial status and her concern about authenticity as someone who feels considerably black but can pass as white, something that comes up frequently on the album. Even though the saying go woke, go broke was not known at the time, the results were exactly as one would expect as her strident tone and focus on identity politics drove away most of her audience and also seems to have killed her own creativity to such an extent that she has never put out another album in the twenty years since that album was made. Sometimes the greatest enemy to our career longevity is ourselves.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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14 Responses to Whatever Happened To Amanda Marshall?

  1. Nicole says:

    Anyybody that knows anything about Amanda Marshall knows that legal problems with her record company are why we haven’t heard anything from her in the last 20years.
    This article sounds like it’s placing all of the blame on the fact that she chose to write about her own identity and politics. That is complete and utter nonsense. Most of her fans didn’t feel ostracized by this. The album just didn’t catch on like the first two. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have bought or listen to a follow-up.

    • Legal problems would certainly explain a few years of absence, but given the restrictions on the length of contracts and her own ability to negotiate for a release from her contract with competent legal representation she shouldn’t have had her career derailed for so long, especially if the creative juices were still flowing. I think that there would be a market for her songs–especially in Canada–if she released music again, as you do.

  2. Diane Ostrozinski says:

    Just knowing her music, which I totally enjoy, I’m sad to know she’s not recording now!!
    For some reason I’m really drawn to her style.
    Play her CD very very often!
    Best to her, miss new music from you Amanda!

  3. Kerri says:

    She never put out another album due to contract disputes with Sony. It had nothing to do with her creativity or desire to create another album. She has songs recorded and ready to go that STILL cannot be released.
    It’s also notable that your list of favourite songs from her first album doesn’t include any of the three she was involved in writing. I get the impression you were never actually a fan of her creativity, just her voice.
    Also other than Double Agent, which songs on her third album dwell on her biracial status? I can’t think of a second song that even mentions it. It maybe influences a couple others, but I can’t think of any possible connection in popular songs like “Sunday Morning After” or “Marry Me”, or most of the rest of the album, like “Dizzy”, “Inside the Tornado”, “the Gypsy”, “Colleen I saw Him First”, “Love is my Witness”, “Red Magic Marker”…
    I don’t understand how you can say that was an entire album dwelling identity politics. The only other song where she directly talks about being biracial is “Shades of Grey” on Tuesday’s Child.

    • I think that’s fair. I’ve heard a lot about her supposed contract dispute with Sony, but she got dropped after an unsuccessful album twenty years ago. If she had plenty of songs in the vault she could find an independent label to get those songs out without any trouble given her pedigree as a Canadian hitmaker. I’m not buying the idea that contract disputes are the only thing holding up her music.

      Your other points are more interesting. Especially, I think you’re probably right that I prefer her voice on her debut album as opposed to her as an actual songwriter, which probably accounts for my lower enjoyment of her material as she wrote more and more of it. Still, I’d enjoy hearing something she had written, reflecting on life and her career and the like, if she released something new.

      • Kerri says:

        She did not get dropped by her label for releasing a bad album. Sony won’t let her go, that’s the whole fight. She was trying to sign with a different label, Sony decided they’d rather destroy her career than let her leave. She released a compelation album with two new songs that was supposed to satisfy her contract (Intermission, you might like “Cross My Heart”, it’s my personal favourite) and then like 3 other compelation albums, which means she’s released more compelation albums than actual albums, which has got to be some kind of record. All of that nonsense was to try and satisfy lawyers in and it apparently failed. I haven’t heard anything since I saw her in 2018, but at that point she had an album fully recorded and was just waiting for the lawyers’ OK to release it. She can’t release anything with a new label (or even perform the new songs) until she’s released from whatever contract she signed as a teenager with Sony.

      • That’s pretty brutal. I’m curious how many albums were on that deal, because with 3 studio albums and 4 compilation albums she would already have released seven albums for them and would likely be at the fulfillment of the contract, not least because she recorded a full album’s worth of material in 2012-13 or so, possibly the same one you had heard about in 2018. Her lawyers should really get on that. Do you happen to know anyone who has released that contract?

      • Kerri says:

        I haven’t seen any actual details of the contract. She doesn’t talk about it, I get the impression that she can’t, or at least her lawyers have advised her not to. Sony’s contracts from that time were notoriously abusive.
        I just checked, it was actually 2017 when I saw her. She briefly came out and did a handful of music festivals because she thought she was finally going to be able to release something, saying it’s going to be resolved “this year”. Of course she says that nearly every year and nothing happens, but this time she was actually performing again so I kind of believed it. But nothing since then.

      • I mean, given my comments on this post there is probably at least enough support for a #freeAmandaMarshall type of campaign on Canadian social media. If Sony has a contract so abusive that it takes 8 albums’ worth of material to release her and allow her to release new(er) music, one would think that some pressure could be brought to bear against them.

      • Kerri says:

        I’m not sure releasing many albums with slight rearrangements of basically the same songs and no new material should really count. Even I didn’t buy anything after Intermission.
        I doubt there’s any way to get a viable social media campaign going. Anyone who remembers her is in their late 30s at the youngest, so it would have to be Facebook. The fan clubs are all dead. I’ve never really seen any discernable pattern to which social media campaigns succeed and which fail (other than that any I try to start fail miserably), but this one seems doomed to fail.
        I’m also not certain that it would help. If Sony gets the idea she’s still popular that might just make them fight harder for a share of her future profits. And even if it worked, what are the odds of her successfully restarting her career at nearly 50? I’d love to see it but I’ve given up hope.
        That’s not to say if that if you try to start one I won’t share it with all 12 of my Facebook friends, none of whom are Amanda Marshall fans.

      • That’s very amusing. Then again, I have seen legendary shelved albums like Stones of Sisyphus eventually be released after nearly 30 years and have also seen Michelle Branch be released from her contract after multiple shelved albums and then be able to release Hopeless Romantic and then tour in its support. It’s not as if such efforts are necessarily hopeless. Shaggy spent more than ten years in contract purgatory and then was able to come back with new music, including a well-regarded collaboration album with Sting. These sorts of things can happen.

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks Nathan for bringing up Amanda Marshall, as I too have always been curious where she went and why. I first became aware of her in the UK supporting Whitney Houston. She completely blew me away with her powerful vocals (Amanda not Whitney) and her second album is one of my all time favorites.

    I think her 3rd album is such a departure sonically from her previous two that I can see why it didn’t sit nicely with with the rest of her catalog. That said, it does contain some decent songs and shouldn’t be written off completely.

    It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why she disappeared and I suspect had this happened now we’d know all about it due to social media and the ease with which an artist can just release music independently.

    The same sort of thing happened to UK artist Dina Carroll – she made 2 albums, had a bunch of hits for a few years then was never heard from again.

    Fingers crossed for more Amanda at some point!

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