Vanessa Williams returns with Latin-tinged classics

Wed May 13, 2009 8:46pm EDT
 
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - It's a prime time to be a Vanessa Williams fan. She's on the small screen weekly, as the shrewtastic fashion magazine editor on "Ugly Betty," and she plays a conniving label publicist in "Hannah Montana: The Movie." But on June 2, Williams returns to her first love -- music -- with the release of "The Real Thing."

The Concord album is inspired by jazz and Latin music, particularly the work of Sergio Mendes, who first performed the Stevie Wonder-penned title track.

"I wanted to do something with kind of a Brazilian feel," Williams says. "It's kind of a hybrid of samba, bossa nova, some salsa and also some pop and R&B."

Several of the songs are standards, like Bill Withers' "Hello Like Before" and Bebel Gilberto's "Close to You." Two of the tracks, "Loving You" and "Just Friends," are originals written by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

"The Real Thing" is Williams' first studio album since "Everlasting Love" in 2005, which sold 62,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (Her best-selling album is 1991's "The Comfort Zone," which sold 1.7 million.) Juggling Williams' acting career with her recording schedule was a feat. On and off, over the course of two years, she recorded the album during her hiatus from the TV show.

Williams relished returning to the studio. "Because of my TV schedule and the logistics of recording and moving to New York for the show, it wound up taking a lot longer than originally planned," she says. "But I love that kind of music and I wanted to perform it."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

 
<p>Actress Vanessa Williams poses at the "Miley&rsquo;s Sweet 16 Share the Celebration" party at Disneyland in Anaheim, California October 5, 2008. Miley Cyrus, who portrays Hannah Montana in the Disney television series, celebrated her 16th birthday. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>