The Industry "Old Boys"
Prior to beginning work on her first solo album in 2000, Danielle had written and sold songs for movies, including The Nutty Professor (performed by Brandy) and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. "The first chance I got to write my own song for my own project, the subject I chose was racism." Danielle had seen the television drama Roots when she was eight. "I had no idea what slavery was. It was then that I decided, 'Okay, I'm going to marry a black man and my whole family is going to be different colors.' " The first verse of her song, entitled "Call Me Sister," reads: "Eight years old, eight p.m., Roots, part one, channel ten. I never ever will forget that day I first felt the shame of my color, my face."
While living in L.A., Danielle often visited a friend she'd gone to school with at United States International University in San Diego. Eric Bishop (who has since changed his name to Jamie Foxx) rented a room at Studio 56 on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.
"I was the only female hanging out and doing work with them, being a part of the music. But, as with nearly every studio in L.A., and even with those guys, your worth as a woman was largely determined by how sexy or fine they thought you were," she says. "When an A&R person says, 'Hold off until you lose a little weight and change your hair color and then we'll introduce you,' it often means getting a boob job and dropping 25 pounds." The A&R agent who shopped Danielle's record Balance under the band name Stone 7 to MCA, Hollywood Records, and Interscope from 1996 to 1998 told the nearly 6-foot, 140-pound 27-year-old that she would have to lose weight if she wanted to be taken seriously.
Earlier, in 1994, another A&R rep had attended one of Danielle's performances in San Diego. "He was one of those flashy business guys who knew people in a million places," Danielle says. "While I was onstage, he said to a friend of mine in the audience, 'You know, Danielle would be absolutely perfect if she'd just get her tits done. She's pretty and she sings her ass off, but she's got no boobs.' The only people who didn't tell me I had to lose weight were the black folks, because they like curvy women."
According to Danielle, "Ashlee Simpson is a good example of someone -- gorgeous in terms of the airbrushed-looking people that L.A. loves -- who by most people's standards is not a good singer at all. Many people would think the same thing about Britney. She's very flashy, but she's not a musician -- she's a pop star. Milli Vanilli is another classic example. Two beautiful guys who knew how to dance but couldn't sing."
Not long after she fled the office of the man who'd proposed sex in exchange for a record deal, a music producer/ writer Danielle had become friends with advised her that studio executives will "work ten times as hard if they want to fuck you." This was in 1996, while Danielle was living in Van Nuys and shortly before she completed Balance. Because the statement hit a nerve, she wrote a song called "10 Times as Hard." The chorus goes: "You're tough, you can do this, just stay cool, they'll work ten times as hard if they want to sleep with you. So I closed my mouth and wore my boots, and I tried to memorize this new rule: they'll work ten times as hard if they want to screw you."
One of Danielle's notable encounters was with Tony Ferguson, the artist and repertoire agent at Interscope Records who had signed No Doubt, now a multiplatinum-selling band. In 2000, Ferguson had gone to see Danielle perform and scheduled a meeting with her in his office. "He sat across from me at his desk, complimented the music, complimented me, he was a total gentleman. In terms of all the major labels, he's the only one I can say that about. Then he looked at all of the songs I'd submitted and said, 'I would like to know, Danielle, why are you so angry?' "
Danielle considered the question, then said, "First of all, because my eyes are open. And, I've been living as a woman and as a female artist in L.A. for a few years now, and I'm not afraid to write about what's happening to me."
"I'm just not convinced people are going to want to hear that," Ferguson said.
"The reason he didn't sign me was that he wasn't looking for an artistic performer, he was looking for a commercial success," Danielle says. "He was looking for something that was a little edgy, pushing the envelope, but still a slam-dunk in terms of commercial viability." In other words, the agent had hoped for the intensity of Alanis Morissette, with the safe familiarity of her woman-scorned lyrics. Danielle's songs, however, covered child abuse, racism, plastic surgery, and the foibles of the record industry. Topics, she says, that nobody likes.
Danielle's song, "Say It," is an autobiographical song about being molested as a child. The incident occurred when she was six years old and lived in Clairemont. Her mother was working in the home office, and her father Frank (owner and captain of the famous sportfishing boat Royal Polaris) was out at the docks. "I was riding my bike in the cul-de-sac, and he called me by name," Danielle says. "He" was a teenaged neighbor a few doors down. "He said, 'Come here, I need your help.' As people know, once [a sexual predator] gets a child behind a closed door, you may as well kiss that child's innocence goodbye."
Danielle remembers the man showing her his penis and asking, "Do you know what this is?" She did not answer. "I literally forgot the word for it and then remembered the word, but it was so ugly to my mouth that I couldn't possibly say it. I was totally stricken by shame. It was terrible, awful," she says. " 'Say It' explores the fact that I lost my voice, that I wasn't able to speak, and I take what he was saying to me, 'Do you know what this is? Do you know what this does?' and I place it back to him and the whole male gender. Do you know what this is? Do you know what it does? This misogynistic objectification of women that runs rampant throughout our culture? From just the tiniest age, Barbie dolls, the way they're made, what they look like, makeup and little baby gifts -- do you know what this is? Do you know what it does? Do you know what you're doing?"
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