Scored British Chart Hits
Jamelia spent the next few years honing her vocal talents, and her first single, "So High," was released in 1999. She was also an accomplished songwriter by then, and co-wrote every track on her debut album, Drama. The album was a terrific success in Britain, with four songs from it making it into the UK Top 40, but it was the third single, "Money," that made the singer a household name throughout Britain. Co-written with British producer C Swing, who had worked with artists ranging from Mary J. Blige to the Beta Band, the song featured a solo from Jamaican reggae star Beenie Man and was termed "brilliantly histrionic," asserted Guardian critic Maxine Kabuubi. That same article also noted the range of tracks on Jamelia's debut, finding "One Day" the singer's "attempt to compete in the overheated American R&B market. Stripped down to just a lilting guitar, the song pushes her vocals to the fore, heightening the quality and purity of her voice," Kabuubi noted.
In October of 2000, Jamelia and the "Money" video won a prestigious Mobo Award, short for "Music of Black Origins," the premier industry event showcasing black music in Britain. Days later, the country's tabloid newspapers reported that the 19-year-old singer was expecting a baby. By then, she was already four months along, and she had been too afraid to tell her Parlophone bosses, fearing they might drop her from the label altogether. In the end, news of her pregnancy was leaked to the media, and the record company found out about the same way Jamelia's fans did—in a headline. When they called her to ask about it, "I was crying my eyes out," the singer told Sunday Times journalist Dan Cairns. "I was literally saying goodbye to them. At the time, I was, like: 'How and why did this possibly happen?' I was taking precautions and everything, but I still got pregnant. Then I got a call from the head of the label, and he said: 'Don't think that we're letting you go. We really want you, and whenever you're ready to come back, just let us know.'"
Jamelia's daughter Teja, named for a combination of Jamelia's name and that of the baby's father, Terry, was born in March of 2001. She virtually disappeared from the public eye for the next two years, returning first as an opening act for Justin Timberlake on his tour of the United Kingdom in May of 2003. Her comeback single, "Bout," was traditional R&B fare and featured a guest appearance from rapper Rah Digga, but failed to do well on the charts. Her next one, however, made up for it: "Superstar" was a disco-glittery tune released in the fall of 2003 that was a hit in both the United Kingdom and Europe. It even migrated across the Atlantic, landing on the official soundtrack to the highly rated A&E television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - PersonalJamelia Biography - Scored British Chart Hits, No Longer A Victim - Selected discography