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REGINA BELLE : 'Aladdin' Opens the Door to Pop World

April 18, 1993|DENNIS HUNT

A whole new world has opened up for R&B singer Regina Belle since "A Whole New World," her duet with Peabo Bryson, became a recent No. 1 pop single.

Belle must be sick of hearing that line by now, but corny or not, it makes a point. Her first big hit, the Oscar-winning love theme from the Disney animated feature "Aladdin," is her long-awaited introduction to the pop masses.

"Until now, R&B fans knew about me, but I never could quite reach the pop fans," explains Belle, a 29-year-old New Jersey native.

She first created a stir in R&B circles in 1987 with her debut Columbia Records album, "All By Myself." Her vocal range, phrasing and soulfulness were so impressive that she was mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan. The consensus prediction: stardom, just around the corner.

Until now, though, she'd never turned that corner.

Her second album, "Stay With Me," sold more than 500,000 copies--and further entrenched her with R&B audiences. But her new album, "Passion" (see review, Page 60), is designed to appeal to both R&B and pop audiences. One of its big selling points, of course, is "A Whole New World."

It's been said that the media-shy Belle, quiet and reserved during interviews and less than a demon at self-promotion, is often her own worst enemy. Referring to her reticence, Belle notes dryly, "The singing is the easiest part of all this and the rest of it isn't that much fun."

With Belle pointed in the pop direction, R&B fans looking for something more soulful and hard-edged from her may not be satisfied for quite some time. An album of pre-rock pop and jazz standards, though, is a possibility.

"I definitely want to do one, but that's way in the future," she says. "That's another whole world. I'm just trying to deal with this one right now."

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