SHE MAY be on only her first U.S. tour, but British pop singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield is already schooled in the first rule of entertainment: The show must go on.
The other night in New York with her throat ravaged from a cold, she found another way to engage the audience: "It's interesting, when your voice goes, you have to rely on other things," she says, calling from Quebec the next evening. "I definitely wiggled my booty more. It's entertainment. As long as everybody goes home happy . . ." She laughs a little raspily, but otherwise she sounds chipper and resilient.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, July 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Natasha Bedingfield: A profile of singer Natasha Bedingfield in The Guide on Thursday rendered the title of Kim Wilde's 1987 hit as "U Keep Me Hanging' On." Wilde topped the charts that year with her cover of "You Keep Me Hangin' On."
Just like her music. Bedingfield became a sensation in the U.S. three years ago on the back of the uplifting title track from her first CD, 2005's "Unwritten." That song has proved to be sticky in America: It was the most played song on the radio in 2006 and remains a staple today. "Unwritten" is also the opening theme to MTV's "The Hills" and is apparently a cure-all for dull hair, given its usage in a never-ending series of Pantene commercials.
Bedingfield released her second album, "Pocketful of Sunshine," this year, and, similarly to "Unwritten," the title track is flypaper on the radio.
Bedingfield wrote and recorded "Pocketful" in Los Angeles, with the sunny skies and warm climes providing the perfect backdrop for the breezy album. "Los Angeles is an escape. Creatively, I'm very free there," Bedingfield says. "I spent a summer in Santa Monica writing this record. I had an amazing view of the sea. Now I stay in Hollywood and I have an amazing view of the Hollywood sign. I like a view."
Her current view is of the upper reaches of the pop charts. The album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and the title track is edging toward No. 1 on a number of singles charts.
For someone so associated with pure pop, Bedingfield concedes that she doesn't listen to much of the current stuff, preferring "old soul and drum and bass." She has a real fondness for Bjork because "we expect to be surprised by her. She's like a musical scientist, she's always experimenting." But Bedingfield is smart enough to stay within her musical lane: "I have written songs like Bjork . . . [but] the style that feels like I flow in it the most and that gets a good reaction from people is a bit more mainstream."
For years, female singers from Britain could not make a dent on U.S. charts -- when "Unwritten" hit No. 1 in Billboard's Pop 100 chart in 2006, it marked the first time a British woman had hit the summit since Kim Wilde with "U Keep Me Hanging' On" in 1987.
But the last few years have provided an unending cascade. Bedingfield and K.T. Tunstall followed Dido. Next came Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. Now, headlines tout the "New Amys" like Duffy, Kate Nash and Adele, as well as diva Leona Lewis.
"I'm really proud of them," she says of the current crop. She attributes the success to self-confidence. "Everyone was looking at America; you'd see the German Justin Timberlake or the English Madonna. Every country had their own version and when that person tried to make it in America, they didn't because [America] has its own very good Justin Timberlake. Now people are taking what's in our country and just being ourselves, with our own accents."
After her own outing, Bedingfield slips into the support slot on the New Kids on the Block reunion tour, which stops at Staples Center on Oct. 8.
Bedingfield is too young to have been hangin' tough with NKOTB the first time around -- she was under the sway of childhood idols with names like Bert and Ernie.
"I was still into 'Sesame Street' " during the boy band's first go-round, she admits, adding one more confession: "And I was into Disney, as I secretly still am."
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