LOVARI: His Bold New “Statement”
New York City native Anthony Lovari goes only by his last name… and it’s a name that’s been getting a lot of attention since the kickoff of 2009. Since he started performing, the proudly out and proud singer/songwriter/actor/director/activist has had his music reach beyond his neighborhood in a big way: He had a #1 song (“All I Want Is You”) in June 2006 on Hot 97 FM in Portland, Oregon. More locally, he has headlined through the years at such hotspots as Kurfew, Heaven, Tunnel, and Escuelita; and performed at many Gay Pride events. Appearances in magazines and radio play followed. Lovari’s visibility, which promises only to grow this year, didn’t happen by accident: certainly not by paying for publicity or sneaking into the biz through the backdoor. Fiercely independent, here’s an artist who has earned his place on the scene by tirelessly networking, conspiring with other artists, and building a fan base– night and day. More importantly, he has been performing, performing, and performing: at venues both intimate and grand-scale, in all five boroughs of New York City as well as New Jersey over the past year. The new year has Lovari with a new album (“The Statement”), a video (“Take My Pain Away”), and his debut as film director: “A Shore Thing”, a thriller with comedic touches filmed in New York City, which boasts cameo appearances by many of his New York City celebrity friends (Jade Esteban Estrada, Lady Clover Honey, and Ryan Wolowski to name a few). Beyond his artistic achievements, he stands out with his non-stop energy (Catch him dancing at Chris Ryan’s Wednesday night ’80’s music party Rewind at The Ritz if you need proof!) and his ingratiating personality. His persona is youthful, but you know he can hold his own; he’s street-smart but not “ghetto”… and he’s as devoted to the LGBT community as he is to his own music. Lovari largely credits his strong sense of spirituality with his endurance in the entertainment biz, and he refuses to stoop to the low level of the so-called “haters”: fellow artists (usually motivated by jealousy) who throw shade his way. Instead, Lovari transformed the experience into one of the best songs on his CD.
Lovari has a lot to say on “The Statement”, his new album– which he tells me has been in the works for well over a year. (A year that included severe highs and crippling lows, plus every emotion in between… and of course, lots of good old drama the way only we gay guys can do it!) The music has clear influences, but the emotions are highly personal, and Lovari lets us know it: “The Statement” opens with a quote from Socrates (!) and a spoken word piece (“This is my life. It’s my highs, my lows, everything in between… I’m not gonna offer any apologies, no justifications, and absolutely no regrets– just my experiences. This is my life. These are my statements.”) But don’t expect any heavy “message music” or self-indulgent pretense masquerading as creativity. Like the pop, house, and freestyle of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s which topped the charts and kept people happy at the clubs, this music is made for your listening pleasure. Lovari’s sound continues with the pleasure principle, but invigorates the music with an energy to go way beyond 2009. The complexity on “The Statement” comes with the vast range of emotion Lovari puts on display: On his new album, Lovari expresses about 20 different shades of desire. He has really pumped up the volume on his second CD. Compared to his self-titled 2006 debut album, “The Statement” sounds like it’s on musical steroids. As Lovari sings tracks like, “All I Want is You”, “Move Your Body”, and “Work It Out”, we envision go-go boys in Speedos gyrating on big black boxes, disco balls rotating, and sweaty bodies grinding together on the dancefloor. But unlike much of the club and house music out there, Lovari propels his vocals to the forefront, whether he’s singing with Rick Astley-like bravura or the youthful idealism of perfect love. The new version of “All I Want is You” is a high energy dancefloor anthem featuring some pulse-pounding, hot beats. His voice is vulnerable yet empowering. Throughout the album, starting with the next track “Move Your Body”, Lovari activates the falsetto (reminiscent of Prince and DeBarge lead singer El DeBarge). The song evokes the coy sexiness of the Mary Jane Girls (“In My House”, 1985– remember them?) rather than the in-your-face “Oomph!” of, say, The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha”. “Work It Out” (“You better work it out, you better do it! Ain’t nobody stoppin’ you now; You better work it out, you gotta prove it. Show your fierce on the floor now!”) boasts a pounding, aggressive house beat. That killer beat aside, the song is also a display of the singer’s deceptively complex vocal range. Lovari even inserts some light rapping into this one. In addition to music, the album is bolstered by often-hilarious interludes by some of New York City’s most outrageous nightlife stars. One of them is NYC’s “Queen of All Media” Lady Clover Honey, who sarcastically comments about a certain clothing company which shall remain nameless (but let’s just say it rhymes with “Jabber Zombie and Bitch”)… After that “intro”, we think that Lovari is going to break into a scathing (and much deserved) musical commentary on the tyranny of fashion– but no! Oh well. Maybe the next album… Next up is the quietly stimulating “Turn Around”, and it seems to have been designed for two in the bedroom rather than 200 on the dancefloor. For this one, Lovari layers sultry spoken word alongside that falsetto of his. This song clearly is an homage to old school funk ‘n’ soul. Keeping in that vein, “Take My Pain Away” is a stunningly beautiful track, with smooth, swirling grooves and electronic raindrops combined with a pounding beat and Lovari’s emotional delivery. It’s almost unbearably romantic as Lovari croons, “Take… take my pain away…” “Love Come Down” is next. At first it strikes the listener as solely dance music, but it doesn’t take long to detect the spiritual undertones beneath the surface: “Love come down and take my hand, won’t you help me understand; that the truth will set me free, love come down to rescue me.” It’s drama set to music, and a real gem. One of the highlights of the CD comes with some priceless, laugh-out-loud advice from the amazing Robynne Kaamil, before Lovari breaks into “Haters”. The song, featuring singer Janifer, boasts a serpentine rhythm, the musical equivalent of a mirror-scaled cobra slithering through a labyrinthine nightclub. There’s a seductive urgency in Lovari’s voice. High-spirited and infused with adrenaline, the song is a musical guided missile pointed at the haters of the song’s title. Another of the album’s high points is “I Feel You”. It’s quietly seductive with a deceptively addicting beat.
“The Statement” also features some musical surprises near the end, but I’m not going to give everything away! Let’s just say that we can expect lots more excitement from Lovari in 2009. People, get ready!
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR LOVARI:
(1) So, how long did it take to complete “The Statement”, from start to finish?
“The Statement” was actually going to be an entirely different record. The last 5 songs that you hear on the album were the first batch recorded. We originally were going to go into an R&B/hip hop direction for this album, since it is another genre that I love. However, at the end of the day, my first passion is dance music, and I also had to be respectful to my supporters, who are for the majority into dance music as well. Ultimately,I am satisfied with the way that it turned out because the album is divided into two parts with the two genres. The entire process took about a year.
(2) Have you really performed in all five boroughs?
Yes I have. I was the artist to perform at the most Prides in the Tri State area in both 2007 and 2008. I performed at Brooklyn, Staten Island, Bronx in 2007 and Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, Jersey City, and Trenton in 2008.
(3) What’s the hardest part about being an independent artist?
Well, the advantage of being an independent artist is able to creatively dictate what I can wear, what tracks I can perform, and where I can seek out bookings. The drawback is that while I may sometimes have more familiarity or popularity than another artist on the bill, if they have a manager, then sometimes they may get to billing, even if they are not necessarily as known. That rarely happens, but when it does, it usually doesn’t bother me because at the end of the say, it’s all about who puts on a great show, and I am always supportive of my fellow artists that I may share the bill with. But for the most part, I headline my own gigs. Another drawback is that label backed artists have the financial luxuries to spend on promotion, a la hiring record promoters, Billboard dance chart promoters.. Anybody with money and a decent record can also do the same for themselves independently, but you have to save up at least $3,000 to do so.
(4) I remember when we met Randy Jones of the Village People last March at a film festival, and you seemed to be an admirer. Was he an icon for you when you were a kid?
You know, when I was 3 or 5 years old, I used to sing into this rectangular wooden block three specific songs – “Staying Alive” by The Bee Gees, “On The Radio” by Donna Summer, and “Macho Man” by The Village People. So indeed Randy was a subliminal influence and when I presented him at the film festival to the audience, I did mention that I ran around the house in my underwear singing to this wooden block. I think he quipped if I would consider singing to him in my underwear. Ha,ha! But he’s a sweetie and a genuinely nice guy and his latest CD kicks ass. I love his version of “New York City Boy” and “If I Can’t Have You”. It’s just so surreal to be in and have conversations with the people you grew up dreaming about and now here you are chilling with them and they are sincerely sweet.
(5) Are you a spiritual/religious person?
God or a Higher Power, whatever you’d prefer to say, is definitely in existence. A lot of people say “Oh I pray and ask God for things and I don’t get it.” And my response to that is, “Well, why don’t you try praying and in the first sentence thank God for what you already have and in the second sentence ask him for what you need?” I can honestly say that I don’t remember anybody coming back to me after that and telling me that it didn’t work. Now obviously, you may ask for a million dollars and not get it, but who knows? As a matter of fact there was one time where I needed a thousand dollars toward joining SAG, after I had received my waivers, and I prayed and said, “God, I am so grateful that You have given me this opportunity to join SAG. I need about a thousand dollars soon, and I know it’s gonna take a miracle, but I am asking You. If You can bestow that on me, I’d be grateful.” And no joke, two days later, I received a phone call about a promotional job that paid a little over a thousand dollars! Also, I recently started reading the Bible. My goal is to read it from start to finish, Old and New Testament. By the way, can I just tell you that while the Bible does admonish homosexuality in some parts (the Old), Jesus actually says to let them be in the New. Also, the Bible has scandalous stories. There is one passage that actually says “So and So released his semen onto the floor in order not to conceive with So and So” I kid you not! This is in the regular Bible in the Old Testament. So that’s why I question whether people that make grievances about certain things really have indeed read the Bible cover to cover. Between December and now, I was going through a really horrible experience with another artist and the founder of a “youth organization” whom I used to vocally support and give money to. They both basically went on a smear campaign against me, sort of like extortion because I would no longer give them money because I discovered they were not a registered 501(c)3: AKA, not a real non profit. They literally were dragging my name through the mud, calling DJ’s, other artists, organizations that I was affiliated with, and telling everyone not to work with me or creating flat out lies, such as that I was breaking into computer systems – really ludicrous things. It was a modern day witch hunt. There were literally times when I would be yanked from a station, or an artist or gig would turn their back on me because they briefly believed these two liars. I would be so petrified and just pray to God and pick up the Bible, and then the next day I’d wake up and miraculously the situation was fixed or nipped in the bud. I try to live my life as best as I can, but it seriously takes all my strength not to punch their lights out, which is what they want me to do, because one of their plans is to try to sue me for harassment and get me arrested: AKA, turn the tables. It is definitely not going to happen. The funny part is, one of the artist’s songs has the word God and Love in it. At the end of the day, I live my life as best as I can. I respect myself and others around me. And respect definitely aids to self love and success!