Singer. Celebrity. Producer. Survivor. Timeless.Taylor Dayne

Taylor Dayne
Taylor Dayne

I have been writing my music column for four years now. Part of my New Year’s resolution was to be more rebellious with my work, and that includes my writing career. As opposed to my regular reviews and charts discussion, I opted to shine a light on Taylor Dayne, particularly because this is an artist who has managed to survive the most revolutionary decades within the music industry. Having entered the music scene in 1985, and currently embarking on a national tour set to run through summer, Taylor has withstood the changes from cassette to CD to streaming coupled with the varied shifts in mainstream radio. Taylor sat down with me before her Englewood show at BergenPAC to reflect on the industry and her career.

You are an American Music Award winner, Grammy nominee, and one of the most successful dance artists to date. The music industry has evolved extensively from the time you hit the scene. Did you ever think you would achieve such long-lasting success?

Taylor Dayne: The technology we are using today did not exist then. Our form of sharing was mixtapes in the 1990s. However there was nothing of computer exchange until Napster took off in 2000. I came from a time when you purchased a record, you purchased an album. My debut album, Tell It to My Heart, was released in 1988 and the self-titled lead single dropped in 1987. I was truly a part of the “record business.”

Your career took off at a time when the charts were more accurate and artists actually profited from album sales. It was a game of pure sales and pure sales only. There was no streaming of any kind. Do you feel like the industry was more competitive then because of this?

TD: Absolutely. There were only two ways you got yourself in front of a record company: you either did showcases or were discovered performing live. You had to put yourself out there. I was far from discovered. By the time I was signed I had already recorded, produced, and was a part of multiple small bands. Ric Wake and myself were completely hands-on with my debut album. We hired an independent promo for the lead single, “Tell It to My Heart,” and it just so happened Arista Records heard it and picked it up. The rest of my career is history because the song blew up.

The single is still blowing up today. You collaborated with New Jersey-based Cash Cash to create a phenomenal remix, which is giving it a new life all these years later. Do you consider this a testament to your talent and work ethic?

TD: A great song is a great song, but a classic song is timeless. That is a classic. I fight for the privilege and right to be here, I work very hard, and there is no yellow brick road. This is where I want to be and it was my determination to make a reproduction and revamp to blow up the single again on its 35th anniversary. And we did just that! I just did not think we would keep so much of the original song. I thought initially we would just keep the chorus. I reached out to Dave Waxman, president of Ultra Records, and we were discussing everyone from Calvin Harris to Cash Cash. We agreed Cash Cash was perfect and they just killed it. You feel the energy of the original song yet are blown away by all of the new elements, especially the vocoder usage.

Dance is my favorite music genre, and Housewives is my favorite form of reality TVB, and I was surprised to see you on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills recently (laughs). How did that happen?

TD: Paula Abdul, who was hosting the charity event on the episode, goes back with me 35 years. Paula was the choreographer for my music video “Prove Your Love.” Funny story: I received a call from Belinda Carlisle’s son, Duke, asking if I was in town. This led to a call from Dorit Kemsley’s husband, PK, who manages Boy George. Boy George was originally scheduled but had a personal issue. It was important for them to feature a great performer for the Homeless Not Toothless charity gala since Dorit and PK work so closely with them. It all came together.

Fans loved seeing you on the show. On social media many were vocalizing how they would love for you to be added as an official housewife. I think you would elevate the franchise. Would you ever join the show?

Taylor Dayne with Cash Cash
Taylor Dayne with Cash Cash

TD: Years ago I actually sat down with someone who wanted me to test for the show. I love watching the show, God bless Kyle Richards, but I do not know if I would ever actually film for it. It is very intrusive and a very challenging way to be seen. I am not sure I would want to give up my privacy for reality TV. It is fun to watch though.

I love your voice. You can slay any song whether it be your own music to your new cover of Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me,” where you worked with nine-time Grammy recipient Gregg Field.

TD: Thank you. I am a vocal chameleon. Clive Davis used to debate which tour to put me out with because my music was dance yet it was pop simultaneously. When my first tour was with Michael Jackson, I realized how I was able to break through a number of genres, which led to my music being nominated in a wide array of different genre categories. I was told I could “sing the phonebook and make it sound good.”

Who are some of your favorite people you’ve worked with, in front of and behind the scenes?

TD: Debbie Gibson, Belinda Carlisle, Paula Abdul, and Leann Rimes. You are talking about warrior women, survivors. Those are four women I can think of at the top of my head. Additionally, Tiffany, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar. These are all women who have had an impact on my life and I have had an impact on theirs. RuPaul has been a dear friend to me for so many years, and has been there for me when I’ve endured a few personal crises. His honesty has gotten me through it many times. Those are my people.

You were great on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. It was great to see so many people outside of their comfort zone.

TD: I was terrible (laughs). I had a great time but I was certainly not the best. I am no dancer, but I can sing, so that saved me. It was more fun than anything else. I was with family like Michelle Visage, and we go back a long time, thanks to Leah Remini. As an artist, I always say to challenge yourself once a year, and this is a perfect example of that for me.

What did you enjoy competing on more, RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race or The Masked Singer?

TD: Ooh you can’t compare the two. My season of The Masked Singer was filmed during the Covid-19 pandemic at a time when nothing was taping in Hollywood. They were so hush-hush about everything, and yet, it was one of the top creative experiences for me as an artist. There are so many creative elements to that show, both in front of and behind the scenes. Since the season where I competed I have gone back on the show a number of times both as a judge and as a performer.

You are an advocate for many causes, you have a large gay fanbase, and you are an ambassador for Fit for the Cure. Can you speak on your experience with colon cancer?

TD: Over the past year I endured a serious battle with colon cancer. During that process, which took me down, I had to fight. It challenged me on why I want to live and it made me question my purpose. Now I am more in tune with my body. I had no symptoms. Early detection is what saved my life. Thus, it has become my job to tell my story and convince people to get a colonoscopy. Do not believe it is male-dominated, and do not believe you can wait until you are 50 to screen. I go twice a year because the first time they discovered polyps. Then, five years later when they found the cancer, I had two weeks to make a decision between my entire colon out or a colectomy. Fit for the Cure saw me openly discussing my colon cancer battle and offered me the opportunity to be their ambassador. As with colon cancer, it is important to be screened for breast cancer, to wear the right bras, and protect yourself entirely to avoid cancers of all kinds.

What can fans expect on the Love Me tour?

TD: I am one of those artists who delivers. Yes, I pull into the hits and incorporate media, but it is all about the journey you take from start to finish. It is a different experience for me every night because the audience changes; in turn, so do I. I am going to be doing a lot of VIP meet-and-greets too.