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Ultra Naté / Ultra Nate

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It's been nine years since Ultra Naté (pronounced Nah-tay) released the international underground club anthem, "It's Over Now." In the time since, much has happened. She released two critically-acclaimed albums and numerous hit singles; excited audiences, from one corner of the globe to another, with her exhilarating live performances; redefined the parameters of dance music within the larger context of pop and rhythm-and-blues. And then, last year, after switching record labels, had the biggest success of her career with the worldwide smash single, "Free."

After rising to the top of Billboard magazine's Club Play and Maxi-Singles Sales charts, the anthemic "Free" quickly crossed over to the magazine's Hot 100 Singles chart, whereupon it exploded at Top-40/dance radio. In fact, "Free" remains in active rotation at many radio stations. While this excitement was happening stateside, across the pond--in England--"Free" became a Top-10 pop hit and was certified gold. The song was also a Top-10 pop single in both Switzerland and France. In Italy and Spain, "Free" reached the #1 spot on the national pop charts.

"Who knew that "Free" would explode in such a major way. I certainly didn't," says Naté smiling. "But it definitely made me feel like all my hard work was not for nothing. It's as if I came full circle and finally reaped the benefits of all the sacrifices I've had to make over the last several years. At one point, the song just seemed to take on a life of its own, and yes, I'm very grateful for that. To say that I'm happy would be an understatement."

Ultra Naté is also happy with Situation Critical, her first album on Strictly Rhythm Records. Merging euphoric pop melodies and innovative hooks with genre- stretching beat-intense rhythms, Situation Critical finds Naté entering a new phase of musical development, in terms of artistic control, songwriting style, and vocal verve. And after one listen to the album, it becomes readily apparent why the singer-songwriter is considered the contemporary dance floor diva. Hers is a voice full of attitude, style, and emotion.

Now, give the album a few more listens and discover how the 12 tracks go beyond the dance floor. With soulful grooves and a distinctly hip vibe, Situation Critical effortlessly blurs the borders that still divide pop, rhythm-and-blues, and dance. But this is something Ultra Naté has been doing since the beginning--blurring musical borders, that is. Perhaps it's due to her colorful musical upbringing listening to such diverse acts as Culture Club, Dead Or Alive, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, the O'Jays, Diana Ross, and the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. "Whatever," laughs the singer. "This album is totally me--musically and lyrically. I have been influenced by so many artists and, on this album, it shows. I can honestly say that this is the first album where I was in control of the situation."

Situation Critical is a personal exploration into Naté's mind, body, and soul. By exploring themes close to her heart, Ultra, who penned all the lyrics on the album, ably offers a collection of songs that are sensitive, introspective, vulnerable and, yes, attitudinal. While Ultra Naté is well known for her songs that deal with the pains and hangovers of love, the new album finds her also offering social commentary; albeit Ultra style.

Ultra Naté was born in Havre De Grace, Maryland, and raised in Boston and Baltimore, where she currently resides. Her entrance into the world of music was quite accidental. "I was taking pre-med courses in college when I discovered the nightclub scene in Baltimore which is where I was introduced to the Basement Boys." After a night of clubbing, Ultra went back to the Boys' studio and, before the sun had a chance to rise, wrote and sang the lyrics for what would become the now-classic "It's Over Now."

"It really has been one incredible journey," says Naté about her career path thus far. "If there is one constant, it's that I've always been conscious of breaking down walls that divide dance music from other styles of contemporary music. It's not about exclusion, but about expanding one's musical horizons, and experimenting with new and different ideas. In the end, you must find a balance. Hopefully, I've done that with Situation Critical."

"There is so much ground for me to cover as an artist," she says. "Every day, there's a new idea or a new sound to try out. I feel like my best music is still ahead of me, and that's an exciting feeling."

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