Earlier this week, I had the pleasure via longtime uber-publicist pal Rob Goldstone for a one-on-one meet with singer/songwriter Emin at Manhattan's Dream Hotel. Already an acclaimed hit artist in his home countries of Azerbaijan and Russia, and on the way up in the U.K., the (extremely) handsome artist recently released album After The Thunder, previewed by luscious pure pop uptempo single "Baby Get Higher."
That song is written in part by David Sneddon, whose sweeping ballad "Don't Let Go" was my No. 8 song for 2007 and "Time To Fall Down" No. 28. Any fan of Westlife, 98 Degrees, BBMak, Backstreet Boys, Five or the rest of the boy band pack will eat this stuff for three meals a day—although Emin perhaps brings a maturity to his vocals that supersedes them.
And believe me, "Baby Get Higher" is only the beginning. Thunder is packed with hitworthy singles, including dramatic midtempo anthem "Never Enough," ode to optimism "Walk Through Walls" and stunningly affecting lost love ballad "Dead Roses" (which Emin co-wrote with Mark Read and Patrick Mascall).
After releasing four indie LPs between 2006 and 2009, which Emin wrote, arranged & produced, he aligned in 2011 with A-list producer Brian Rawling for previous album Wonder. That move propelled him to the world stage.
Emin was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and relocated with his family to Moscow at age 3. He moved to Europe to pursue his education as a teen and then studied in New Jersey, where he launched an eBay business that reaped $30,000 a month(!). But music kept calling.
His 2006 debut album Still was an immediate sensation in Russia, followed by three more indie releases: Incredible, Obsession and Devotion. By this point, Emin was entertaining at arena-size venues throughout Russia. And his biggest performance: Last year, he was a featured singer at Eurovision, hosted in his home nation of Azerbaijan before 300 million worldwide viewers.
Recognizing that in order to conquer Europe and North America he had to amp the stakes, Emin worked his charms and was brought into the stable of London-based producer Brian Rawling and his team of world-class songwriters at Metrophonic studios, including Paul Barry (Enrique Iglesias' "Hero") and Wayne Hector (Westlife, James Morrison). That resulted in a contract with EMI.
Emin told me, "He had me singing in a range that I had never attempted before, and I fought him on it, asking him to bring down the key. But he encouraged me to record the songs as they were written and in the end, he said, 'Now, you've found the real you.' He was right. I found a voice with highs I didn't know I had, keeping the lower register I was accustomed to."
As a result, Wonder scored two radio singles in the U.K.: "Obvious" and "Any Time You Fall," a rarity for a newcomer in the nation.
For After The Thunder, he is again working with Rawling and the team, and now has high hopes for North American domination. First single "Baby Get Higher"—already another hit in the U.K.—certainly possesses the goods to foster attention from radio's A-list PDs.
Of course, we know how U.S. radio works: It takes a mountain of money and a major label before programmers will dare bite. Given his talent, I simply can't image that there isn't a record company with backing ready in the waiting once they hear this guy.
Emin says, "I've been fortunate to have success not only in my home base in Russia, but in Europe. Of course I'd like to break in the States. If it happens, it's really the ultimate. America has found an appreciation for pop melodies again so if there were ever a time, I really believe this is it." *