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.
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.
She spent something like 15 years in a legal battle with the record label at a stand still. Record contracts are notoriously one sided. I’m assuming after that bad taste that you would be reluctant to release new material. She packs the house whenever she decides to do a one off show.
It is understandable, I agree.
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!
I think we would all like to see a new cd from her; I know I would like to listen to it and review it.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
You’re welcome; I definitely second your points and would look forward to more Amanda Marshall, whether stuff that has been waiting for years or new stuff.
Just so sad we don’t have any new music from this lady. She has such a powerful emotive voice. Hopefully one day,,,,,,,,,,,
Yes, that’s right, hopefully one day we have some new music from this lady. I’d much rather talk about new music of hers than about why she doesn’t have any.
Sitting here sewing up a storm with Amanda Marshall cranked. I am 70 and still love her music. Saw her live in Saint John, New Brunswick years ago, maybe 2001?
That’s great; I’m sure she would appreciate that her music is still remembered and enjoyed.
I heard Amanda Marshall on radio and saw a you tube video castles in the sand. I would love to hear new material from her. This post made me think how legal struggles and/or personal inspiration struggles, or wht ever else has deprived us of a wonderful music voice.
Yeah, I agree with you there. I am curious to see what happens if and when she is able and willing to make new music, and how she discusses her time away from the music industry.
Without going into the things you mention about identity politics, I think the material on her third album was sub-standard and she was badly advised to change direction in this way. The first 2 albums were great, the 3rd was pretty crappy.
I think she realised her mistake and sacked her management, miring her in legal disputes and pretty much killing any momentum going forward.
It wasn’t broken, it didn’t need fixing. Such a pity for a great, great singer.
That’s a reasonable way to say it, I think. I do think she would have plenty of support and interest among her diehard fans if she was able to get the legal disputes sorted out and just be able to put out music.
I don’t think she was advised to change direction. You have to remember that the first album she was a still a teenager and largely just a voice singing other people’s songs. There were a couple she wrote, like Sitting on Top of the World, but not many. That’s the album that managers and Sony had the most influence on, and that’s the style they were pushing on her. And if we’re talking about wokeness, it’s significant to remember that one of her personal contributions was pushing to get her friend’s poem about the Rodney King riots made into the song Promises. That didn’t come from the label, that was what mattered to her, even when she was quite young.
As her career progressed, she had more influence, not less. By Everybody’s Got a Story, she has writing credits in every song. For the two new singles in Intermission, she’s playing instruments. By that point she was more confident and rejecting influence from management. Like it or hate it, those are the songs that reflected her, not the ones that were written by other people.
I’m also quite certain that she didn’t get into the lawsuit because she was upset the 3rd album didn’t make as much money. Obviously if money was what she was concerned with tanking her career over it would be a silly choice. This is something she chose to fight for, for over 20 years, to the detriment of her career. It’s probably something personal. Certainly she wouldn’t be the first teenage girl who signed with Sony in the 90s and suffered abuse they covered up with their draconian contracts. It might be that she wanted to keep writing her own music and Sony wanted her to go back to singing other people’s songs because they made more money. But whatever it was, it obviously mattered to her more than money or her career.
It’s a strange one for sure. All I know is that the first two albums I really liked and the third one I didn’t. Sometimes having others writing the songs is a good thing. It takes a bit of pressure off.
Whatever happened with contracts etc. it seems an extraordinarily long time to be in dispute over.
Maybe Amanda just fell out of love with it all? I don’t know. She still belts out those early songs the few times she’s performed live in the interim, so clearly likes the material.
I still play her debut album regularly, some 25+ years later and think I always will.
I hoe she manages to sort something out before she gets too old to be bothered any more.
That’s reality and sadness, especially because her management group should have taught her how to break into the American fans
That was a real missed opportunity, I agree.
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Too bad Amanda Marshall didn’t get more recognition. She has an incredible voice, love to hear her sing. What a waste of a talent these past 20 years. Sad.
It’s easier to find Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster these days than Amanda. I know some folks in the biz, and literally no one ever sees her around! She is almost impossible to find. I assume she must do something else that makes her happy with the majority of her time, and only comes out of private life once in a while to do a casino or festival gig – which are probably a nice pay day- but its probably not music. She still sounds (and looks) amazing though! I’ve long given up hope for new songs from her, but would be happy to catch a live gig if she should book a show or two next year.
This sounds like quite the mystery, indeed.
******* I LOVE AMANDA MARSHALL!!!!********
This morning I was setting up a sound system and came across my “Live at the Corona Theatre” DVD. My morning was spent watching the DVD and remembering the times I saw Amanda Marshall live in Vancouver. My wife and I absolutely love all of Amanda’s music!! We would love to see her come back to Vancouver one day.
I don’t know the legal side of the music business but I do understand the power of music (I’m a drummer) and what it means to people. I am writing this as “Birmingham” is playing and the tears roll down my cheeks, that’s the power of music!! I would absolutely love to see Amanda Marshall live again!
Even though I have never been in a fan club in my 64 years, I can honestly say that I am a TRUE Amanda Marshall fan and will always be.
Thanks for your insight although you haven’t offered us any info that we didn’t already know. I think your serious nod to Amanda Marshall needing a hit in the “US” is redundant. This subject comes up often and does nothing but anchor the longtime old school expectation that getting a hit in the US is vital to an artists longevity and that no matter how well they succeed in their native Canada , it’s not really stardom til you get a hit on the US. I personally loath this ideology .
And her 3rd album which did take an intentional detour from the former studio induced , mass audience production was just that , intentional. Your thoughts on her career ending die to this is simply a matter of opinion and the biracial issue that “come up often” shoukd come up often. After 2 hit stacked successes , the fans are waiting for a creative turn , some insight to who the artist is and what makes them vulnerable. Many artists have done the same thing in the 3rd release Pat Benatars 3rd release Precious Time was less pop rock driven , turning to reggae beats and a slight indie feel sold less but it stands out as an album where the artist had something ELSE to say. And I’ve seen Amanda Marshal live and she has hinted at severe record company conflict issues and possibly a ban on new material which makes sense given such a long 20 year silent career of an artist who can blow the roof off of most female and male singer songwriters of this decade so far. She doesn’t do talk shows or festivals and rarely allows interviews. So come the day when she returns , she may have some explaining to do , hopefully with her best music yet.
I appreciate your comments, and I have also, in general, appreciated those who are from Canada who have some insight on the nature of her longtime silence over the past twenty years. I would be curious to know if there are differences between American and Canadian law about how long a record label problem can prevent an artist from recording or releasing new material, as there are some limitations on such contracts in the United States that may not be present in Canada. Given the comments I have seen on this blog, I think a new album of hers would be welcome to many individuals in Canada and abroad, and assuming it is released on streaming services in the United States I would certainly be willing to check it out as well.
Looks like Amanda is going to make a comeback this year! She’s now on Twitter and Instagram. First show announced in August in Nova Scotia, more to come! No mention of any new music, but definitely more shows coming for 2023.
That is great news, especially for her Canadian fans.
Hi. I can’t find her on Twitter. Can you tell me the her Twitter name? I will never find this page again either so…..
Presale for the tour is tomorrow (March 28)
Looks like Amanda is going to be active in 2023! One show already announced for August at a festival in Nova Scotia. She now has a presence on Twitter and Instagram. Not sure if she is personally posting or a publicist, but this is a major step forward in her getting the word out she’s coming back for more.
I’ll have to check out her insta and twitter.
Yes!!! Listening to her right now in San Francisco (2/27/23) having seen her live in Toronto way back then in 98-99 as I am from Montreal and lived in Toronto… Even bought a pair a beige leather pants and love every songs and the story they tell. Amanda, you have fans out there…
I don’t know if Amanda has ever read this herself, but I agree with you wholeheartedly that Amanda definitely has fans out there.
I’m just seeing this post for the first time as I was listening to Amanda and thought, “What is she up to now?” because I hear few updates and Amanda was stolen from us because of a greedy, controlling record company.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Amanda’s heart wasn’t even in it anymore considering the battles she has had to endure since this all went down 20 years ago. That could burst anyone’s balloon. And it’s disappointing she had to fight SONY considering her chart and sales success. In fact, I find it disgusting considering an artist of her caliber should have to endure that type of treatment. To endure for nearly two years with “Amanda Marshall” and its many chart hits at the same time “Jagged Little Pill” came out is quite a feat, to be honest. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the visibility Alanis did worldwide.
This being said, there are definite misconceptions of what went down since her last album. “Everybody’s Got a Story” was not the result of persuasion to go a different direction musically nor was the lesser sales as a result of this new, insightful direction with her music and lyrics. And we can see now, it was definitely ahead of its time in its musical genre when it came to the topics.
What is unfortunate in the subsequent years was the fact she has been far too inactive while trying to ride out the endless storm which has prevented her from releasing new music. I hope she comes back soon.