Volume 93, Issue 4

Friday, June 4, 1999


Pat O'Callaghan croons a sultry song

Performances in Notting Hill make it worth visiting

Catatonia equally good and frustrating

Thirteenth Floor brings bad luck

Amsterdam takes you on a trip to the dark side

Rosie should practice what she preaches

Pat O'Callaghan croons a sultry song

Photo by Bryce Duffy

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

Patricia O'Callaghan is not a pop star, nor does she want to be. She's not cashing in on a new musical trend, nor is she billing herself as the "next big thing." Most importantly, unlike many new artists who appear and then disappear over the span of a few short months, O'Callaghan is not another example of style over substance.

Which is not to imply that she doesn't have style – this sultry 29 year-old Canadian exudes a rare combination of wisdom, sensuality and sophistication. However, in addition to her poise and grace, O'Callaghan is also fronting a musical resurgence with actual relevance.

Unlike the few swing bands suddenly cluttering the airwaves, O'Callaghan has the potential for musical longevity. Considering the relatively short life span of contemporary artists, that is an accomplishment in itself.

What is more astonishing is O'Callaghan achieving fame within a most unlikely genre – cabaret.

Although there have been a small handful of successful cabaret singers to emerge from North America in the past few years, none have been more poised to bring the neglected genre into the mainstream than O'Callaghan. A recent article in Billboard magazine praised her latest album Slow Fox, and even went so far as to call her a "commercially explosive young star."

In keeping with the graceful overtones of her music, O'Callaghan seems dutifully reticent when confronted with the notion she is cabaret music's hip young saviour. "Cabaret has so much to do with the singer's persona," she says. "They have to exude some sort of charisma or have some sort of edge. Maybe that's what it is with me."

Whatever it is about her, there's no doubt it has caught on with the public consciousness. She seems thankful to be performing during a time when listening audiences appear to be craving something different. "People want to be challenged with more interesting stuff," she states emphatically. "They're more educated – they want depth and they want to explore a little bit. We're more global now. We have access to other worlds and we've become curious about other cultures."

It is this foresight which led O'Callaghan away from dreams of rock stardom, which she cultivated as a child while listening to bands like Pink Floyd and The Doors. After becoming exposed to more traditional fare, like Mozart and Strauss as a teenager, her preferences gradually veered towards more timeless, heartfelt music.

After completing a four-year program in music performance at the University of Toronto, O'Callaghan eventually settled on cabaret music as the perfect vehicle for her vocal abilities. In addition, she recognized the political and social messages in many traditional cabaret songs were still valid in a modern context.

"I don't think the world has changed," she says. "The climate is different but I think the same philosophies hold true. [The songs] are all about individual human nature and when it comes to that, I don't think we've advanced much."

Of course, just because O'Callaghan is taking a unique approach to her music she is not necessarily averse to the idea of commercial exposure. Like almost any artist, the exuberant chanteuse is eager to reach a wider cross-section of people. However, this doesn't mean she plans to change her style for the sake of the record company. "I guess [the record company] wants a big sell and they want radio play, but you gotta be careful with that."

So success for Patricia O'Callaghan will only be sweet if it comes on her own terms? "Well yeah," she says amusedly. "What's the point of doing it any other way?"

Patricia O'Callaghan makes an appearance at Chaucer's Pub on June 9.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999