I was driving most of the day yesterday, so I missed MSNBC’s Valentine’s Day promotion of 10-year-old YouTube “sensation” Heather Russell. I use sensation in quotes not because the girl can’t sing, because trust me, she sings like I haven’t heard a 10-year-old sing since back in the days of Star Search. Not only that, but she writes her own music too, which I think shows incredible integrity and enormous talent on her part.
That being said, Russell is being widely compared to Mariah Carey, largely due to her non-stop riffing I imagine, since her voice is even bigger than Carey’s. I’d say if at 10 she sounds like Leona Lewis, she’s on her way to becoming the next Jennifer Hudson. That is, a) if she doesn’t lose her voice in the meantime and b) people can take her uber-soulful songs about coloring pictures and going out for ice cream seriously.
The mantra “write what you know” is a good one, so I totally get Russell’s inclination to shout, “Wake up in the mornin’, look at what I’ve done, tell me if you like it, tell me if you like it. Did it look like you, the picture that I drew? Was it too much color?” as her father sits next to her playing guitar. Kids want the approval and love of their parents, and a line like “Let’s go get some ice cream on a sunny day” is perfectly sweet and appropriate coming out of the mouth of a young girl. The problem is, she’s belting it to a bluesy melody – eyes closed and all – that one should really only reserve for divorce-level heartbreak. Adding insult to injury, Russell is being groomed for Bieber-style superstardom by producer Rob Fusari, who has had a hand in the careers of Lady Gaga, Jessica Simpson and Destiny’s Child. As it turns out, all the women I just mentioned started performing with superstardom in mind at a very young age, as do most pop musicians who are groomed to top the charts.
Russell’s parents are clearly making a choice here by exposing their daughter to this kind of attention at age 10, and I hope it works out in their favor. For me, tho, I’d rather see a 10-year-old look, think, act and sing like a 10-year-old. It’s bad enough watching Justin Bieber sing about love and romance, but he’ll be 17 on March 1st. He’s probably starting to have legitimate experience with those things – that is if he can get away from his security team long enough to go out on a date for some ice cream.
What do you think? Is Russell acting too maturely for her age?