MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 4: DELTA GOODREM

Guy Sebastian, Jessica Maulboy, Rebecca St. James, Johnny Farnham, The Rogue Traders, Natalie Bassingthwaithe, Stan Walker, Human Nature, Shannon Noll, Kasey Chambers, Samantha Jade, Dami Im, Jimmy Barnes, Olivia Newton-John, Missy Higgins, David Campbell. What do all these music artists have in common? Anyone…no one? They’re all Australian! Yes that’s right, all these artists do not originate from America, like I’m sure many people could think right, because all good music comes out of America…am I right? No really, on a serious note, music doesn’t have to come out of America for it to be good, and much of these aforementioned artists in the beginning of this paragraph have all had moderate to very high success in both Australian radio and the Australian market, as with exposure and influence overseas as well. Rebecca St. James, originally from Australia, moved to America with her family in the 1990s and became a superstar from her early teens onward. The family, the Smallbones, also produced a duo band years later- Rebecca’s younger brothers Joel and Luke a.k.a. for KING & COUNTRY (more on both Rebecca and her brothers in two separate Momentous Mondays posts at a later date). Johnny Farnham, Human Nature, Kasey Chambers and Jimmy Barnes are all legends in their own right, and more recently, artists like Dami Im and Stan Walker have captured the international stage after winning singing competitions X Factor and Australian Idol respectively. But for me, there’s one artist that has been influential, not necessarily as popular, compared to any one of these artists I’ve mentioned, but nevertheless, has worked hard at their music, touching listeners and impacting an entire generation over the last decade or so. Delta Goodrem, basically a household name now because of her music career as well as a judge on the Australian singing competition show, The Voice; is, I reckon, one of Australian music’s most impacting and dare I say it, decade-defining, if you look at the years of the 2000s.

While Delta’s music career at the moment isn’t as strong as I reckon it once was when she unveiled albums in 2003, 2004 and 2007 (that gave us chart-topping singles like ‘Lost Without You’, ‘Born To Try’, ‘Innocent Eyes’, ‘In this Life’ and ‘Believe Again’ to name a few); what she has accomplished in being arguably one of Australia’s most successful (aside from Olivia Newton-John) female artists within the last 15 years or so, is something truly remarkable and impressive. While for me personally I hadn’t listened to much of Delta’s music aside from the odd single here and there, prior to me researching and listening to the music in preparation for this blog post; what I’ve come to realise and appreciate, is the beauty and unique way that Australians represent their music and craft, and though it is not always slick and polished as most of American radio can often be; what is different, and thereby in turn welcomed and celebrated amongst society, is that good Australian artists, especially an act like Delta, don’t come around that often, and once one surfaces; nurturing and fostering of talent have to be the focus for whomever catches and holds onto the artist’s talent at the start of their journey. Delta’s years of experience, along with her TV Neighbours gigs throughout the years, has given her major influence in the world of Australian music. For me personally, I enjoyed much more of Delta’s earlier work- that’s not to say that her later material isn’t as riveting or even convicting- far from it. But what I will say is this- Delta’s career as an artist has had its most impact during her earlier part of her career, and if that atmosphere and emotion can be recaptured in her next album, whenever that arises, then I truly reckon that Delta’s best music is still to come; whenever that album comes to life!

‘…I could feel the smallest sense of something building. When I first wrote “Born to Try” and I was listening to it in my mum’s car –– because I wasn’t even driving age –– I remember when we were driving to the city and the demo was just the piano and vocal and I had this feeling in my heart that it was special and it turned out the feeling was true! But of course I could never have fully imagined its eventual impact and I don’t think I’ll ever really understand. I remember the ARIAs, when I was first kind of walking out and I could actually feel like feel the tactile feeling that people had it in their homes, you know? They owned the album. I was hearing it everywhere, I knew people were taking it home…I just didn’t know any different [at 18]. I started very young, with a vision. I always knew that was just what I was going to do. I didn’t think ‘That’s what I want to do,’ it was just ‘This is what I am, this is what I do.’ I think when it started so young, I felt calm in that I knew I was worthy of it, but it was still scary. When I first started out and I was doing signings for fans for fifteen hours, I just kind of stayed on the path of giving it my everything, making sure every single person that was giving me so much love felt that back from me. I just wanted to give. I’d write one song, and I’d put it on the album and it was very, very innocent in the way that I’d approach the album. I didn’t understand any of the other aspects of this job, what I understood was that I’d written this song, that was it…’ Taken from an exclusive interview about her reflection upon creating her first album Innocent Eyes way back in 2003; Delta’s sense of innocence and hopeful music has been able to permeate every moment of the 2000s, and, if I can extrapolate further (this is just my observation), Delta’s music for Australia is I reckon what Avril Lavigne’s music was for Canada and by extent, the whole world during the 2000s. Both Delta and Avril, though vastly different sonically and even stylistically, have pretty similar careers (aside from Avril’s latest bout with Lyme Disease). Delta initially had to overcome Hodgkin’s Disease, a treatable form of lymphatic cancer when she was very young (18 I think), and because of such, much of her music earlier on is more reflective, compared to Avril’s more punk/pop image earlier on and then her more reflective and mellow music much later, because of her bout with Lyme Disease. Regardless of any of the similarities (and differences) between these two artists (obviously one more well known than the other), Delta has crafted her career with such heart, emotion and intention, and much of her earlier work, particularly the albums Innocent Eyes and Mistaken Identity, reflect this observation.

Some may often question why I added in Delta on here, the most influential artists of all time. Because frankly, when you look at all the other sea of Australian artists out there, there are tons that are much more critically acclaimed or even more accomplished and popular, dare I say. Artists like Johnny Farnham and Jimmy Barnes and Australian music legends, while Kylie Minogue is…well, she’s Kylie. But, as I’ve mentioned a fair amount before in my blog series, influential doesn’t necessarily mean popular, nor should it be. Just because on the whole, an artist is popular, doesn’t mean they have the songs in their repertoire to affect a generation, and to tug at the listeners heart. An artist could be popular for all the wrong reasons, and much of the mainstream pop industry right now thrives on music that is sadly, monotonous and lyrically unimaginative. For Delta, what I’ve heard in much of her albums, from first till now, tell us a vastly different story. Though not as monetarily successful, or even as iconic, as many Australian musicians, her music for me I’ve felt, has always gotten through to listeners during difficult times, or even happy and joyous times as well. A song has the power to transcend any boundaries across the heart we can place around it, and through much of her career, Delta has done just that!

Its amazing to think that Delta, though only in her mid-thirties, has accomplished as much as she has at this moment. On top of releasing 5 albums (Innocent Eyes, Mistaken Identity, Delta, Child of the Universe and Wings of the Wild), she’s also unveiled to us an acoustic version of Innocent Eyes, complete on iTunes with acoustic music videos for all of her songs from her first album; a Christmas EP, continued to star in Australian soap drama Neighbours, as well as play the iconic part of Olivia Newton-John in a TV miniseries, Olivia: Hopelessly Devoted to You (which also has a counterpart soundtrack of songs written by Olivia herself, that Delta sings). She has been, and is perhaps the original from the start, a judge on The Voice Australia, as well as launching programs like Teen Info on Cancer and now being the ambassador for Research Australia’s ‘Thank You Day’. And yet, all of the extra things she has done in her years as being a woman that has become one of the most inspiring role models for young women and girls around Australia; has not dampened her continued passion and excitement to create a song that connects with the individual. Let’s take a look through her star-studded career, shall we?

Innocent Eyes debuted in 2003, with songs like ‘Born To Try’, Delta’s first single released at the latter half of 2002. A song that encourages us all to take a chance and try the things that often scare us, we are reminded that ‘…I was born to try, I’ve learned to love, be understanding and believe in life, but you gotta make choices beyond the rights, sometimes you gotta sacrifice the things you like, but I was born to try…’; something that even now is as much poignant and relevant in life as it was back then when it was written. Through such a song like this, we are reminded to indeed try, even if we do fail, because to try means you have looked beyond what is currently; and longed for what could be at a foreseeable moment in the future. To try means to get out of our comfort zones and to leap with a certain degree of faith, never fully knowing if what we’re about to undertake will turn out right. It is, in some ways, putting faith, for me (I’m not sure for anyone else), in God, knowing full well that whether I try fully or half-heartedly, God ultimately knows what is best for myself, even if I may not know it at that particular moment! Such an album like Innocent Eyes has resonated with a lot of listeners, this song particularly. Even others like ‘Lost Without You’ was also popular. Originally about a longing of a relationship that seems on the surface to be strained and rocky; it was re-recorded by American singer-songwriter and also child prodigy Jaci Velasquez, and placed on her own album Unspoken, while ‘Innocent Eyes’ is a call for us to look at the world through the innocence of youth, and to never lose what we have been grown up with, as we see the world in a much better light when we were of our youth, than when we grow up. In fact, much of Innocent Eyes is youthful and, ironically innocent, and that is why I reckon it appeals to much of the Australian public, especially teenagers. We are reminded that the dreams and hopes that we aspire towards can in fact be overcome and champion to be thought about, and Delta has given the public an avenue for them to connect with music that expresses their own feelings about what they were feeling in the teenage years. While I myself am frankly not really part of this niche market that absolutely adores Delta and really connects with her music, I can really nevertheless see the importance of Delta, not just in music, but as she lives her life and longs for connection between herself and the people around her. Innocent Eyes by far I reckon is her most top selling album, and though commercially, she didn’t rise to those peaks again as the albums progressed, the messages and encouraging melodies kept coming!

Mistaken Identity followed in 2004, and featured songs with a much more layered musical and even lyrically a more evolved atmosphere- ‘Out of the Blue’ was in response to the support she had during her time with Hodgkin’s Disease, and that the blue is metaphorically the time she spent having chemo and recovering from such a harrowing process; while other songs speak of the time of her diagnosis and her subsequent dealing with such an unknown disease. By far it is Delta’s most personal album to date, borne out of a time where vulnerability and asking various questions, and longing for things to be made right, is very much welcomed, in such a time like this. Similarly with Avril Lavigne, it was out of her Lyme Disease that bore what I reckon is her most vulnerable album yet- Head Above Water. But similarities aside, Delta grew up on this 2004 album- long gone are the innocence words of her 2003 album, and in place, are songs that are heavy in their own right, but songs nevertheless that are needed to be asked. As said by Delta in a bio about her album, ‘…In “Mistaken Identity” I sing ‘I played the role of the nice girl next door who gets cut like a knife’, I mention ’emotional suicide’ in “Electric Storm”: there’s some intense lyrics in there. It was an intense year. I mean, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t acknowledge what went on; everyone knows what went on. I feel like I know people personally even though I don’t, but I feel I had to go into depth; get things out of the way, go through the journey and end with “You Are My Rock”, which is a thank you song…’ Delta has in fact evolved, and dare I say it, it’s ok, and even welcomed for change to occur.

And while I still believe that there will never be another Mistaken Identity, or Innocent Eyes for that matter, again; what Delta has continued to undertake is to create music, not comparing that to the past in any way, but rather, to create music for that very moment, regardless of what that may look like to the listener, consumer or critic. Delta’s heartfelt nature to create music with emotion behind it, in vastly everything that she writes and records, is what I reckon has made her success in Australia. Not as big in America as maybe she herself would’ve liked, Delta has still forged along to create songs of hope and change- songs like ‘Believe Again’, ‘In This Life’, and more recently ‘Sitting On Top of the World’, ‘Wings’, ‘Dear Life’ and ‘Enough’, all discuss themes that are very much needed in society, but would otherwise have been dismissed and discarded because of heavy nature. ‘Believe Again’ comes at a time when hope is lost, while ‘In This Life’ encourages us to pursue love and happiness in a life that can often champion these things as ever fleeting. ‘Wings’ encourages us to lose control over situations, and just be and try, because ‘…everybody’s looking for a new horizon…’ A song that reminds us all to spread our wings and search for new horizons, and to discover new things that would otherwise not have been possible if we weren’t taking leaps of faith and determination; Delta also invites us into a poignant discussion with ‘life’ in ‘Dear Life’, a pseudo-religious track that asks deep questions to ‘life’…and though the questions in the song themselves ought to be directed to God Himself, the fact that these questions are being asked in the first place are indeed a step in the right direction.

‘Enough’, Delta’s latest song to chart the radio airwaves, is a duet with American rapper Gizzle, and the two of them unveil what I reckon is one of the most universally applicable songs recorded by Delta in all of her time as an artist, since ‘Born to Try’ and ‘Out of the Blue’, I reckon. A song that is an Australian version of ‘This is Me’ (my opinion), we are called to go against the grain, and believe that what we stand for, and what we don’t stand for, who we are as people, and as a collective group in society, ought to be enough for us to keep travelling on this road of life, understanding that ‘…I know they wanna see me break, I know they’d rather see me fall, and that’s the very reason why I’ma rise above it all, they used to say I wasn’t a star, said, wasn’t going very far, well, now I’m shining like a star and I’m screaming out my cause, cause you can’t be back tomorrow…’ A song to put to death all the screams of the people that try to curse us or hate us for whatever reason they can, ‘Enough’ stands tall to be one of Delta’s most crowning achievements in her career thus far. And while even now in 2019, she’s still as relatively unknown as can be in America (apart from her album titled Innocent Eyes that is a compilation of her first two albums that released internationally); Delta still can hold her head high, as we as listeners know full well how much passion and relevance Delta has delivered through all her material, both when she was of young age, and even now.

While some may wonder why such an artist is in my on very personal list, because she doesn’t speak about or even glorify Jesus; what I can say is this- that Delta’s music can move the listener, maybe in ways we cannot understand. As influential as this artist and many out there are; there’s just something about Delta and the hope that covers a majority of her songs, hope that I’m sure will not go unnoticed to whomever hears the albums next! And, if I’m being honest, if God can speak through, for me, Avril Lavigne and her music, then I’m sure God can speak through Delta’s (and He indeed does!). Nothing is impossible for God, and I mean nothing. All we just ought to do, is to sit back, and watch and be amazed at what the Lord is saying through songs that may not have been intentionally speaking about spiritual matters.

That is something Delta and her music does, which is one of the reasons why I have placed her in such a prestigious list. Sure there are others that are more experienced and others that have much more accolades. But as I’ve reiterated before, popularity does not equal influence, nor should it. Delta’s music is indeed influential, and such that encourages people, especially teenage girls and young adults, as they journey on through life in a world that can be so unforgiving! Well done to Delta for such an inspiring career. And before we all go, let us be inspired by Delta in her own parting words, words that will encourage us all on our journeys of life and discovery. And with that, I bid you all adieu. What songs from Delta have been instrumental in your own life? Which songs would you love to listen to if given a chance? Is there any song that has been a standout (aside from ‘Enough’ and ‘Born to Try’) in life so far? Till next time!

‘…I can’t compete with myself. I’m still young, and I feel like I’ve just started. But it’s relevant, the fact that I can’t compete with that moment in time. It’s a part of history, it’s something that I am so proud of and honoured and humbled by. I don’t try and compete with those albums. I can’t compete with Innocent Eyes, it was a magical moment that I love, and am proud of. I have to love it from that space and appreciate it, but what I make now has to be a breakthrough, it has to be about what’s going on right now. I love having a new song out that can be new and different. It doesn’t compete with another record for me… I think I have such wonderful success and I’ve been so thankful to all the parts of the world that have taken in my music. I’m never going to try and change my sound for anyone, I think that wouldn’t be truthful. It’s got to be real. I just make music it because I want to…’

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