'90s pop icon Whigfield talks female empowerment, friendship with Vengaboys and creating music during lockdown
Whigfield has returned with her brand new single, 'SUGA', just in time for the summer. An Italian dance project fronted by Danish singer-songwriter and producer Sannie Charlotte Carlson, Whigfield first shot to fame in 1994 with the global smash hit 'Saturday Night' followed by a slew of Top 10 hits. Since then, Sannie has continued to evolve her sound, putting out everything from the classic '90s dance bops to modern club bangers.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) got a chance to chat with Sannie about 'SUGA', her musical journey and producing music amid a global pandemic.
For '90s kids, you're a living legend. We've all jammed to 'Saturday Night' on more than one occasion, and it's nothing short of fascinating to see how your music has evolved since then. How did you make the leap from classic '90s dance music to more house-style music?
I've been working as a songwriter for other artists as well, such as DJ Benny Benassi, so I've changed genre quite a few times. I didn't want to be known for just doing one thing. And in the late nineties when I was touring less and selling fewer records, I thought it was time for me to do something new.
A few years back, I was living in London and started working with a new producer and we started doing a house project. I was lucky enough to get picked up by Armada Music in Holland, which is a great label for house music. But the funny thing is they didn't know I was Whigfield because I didn't say I was Whigfield. In a male-dominated industry where you're not supposed to be over 30 and you still have to wear a miniskirt, it's sometimes better to let the music be heard before they know who you are.
Most would say '90s music is cheesy and outdated, yet it makes a resurgence every few years. What do you think it is about that era that has such a hold on people?
I think it's the songs themselves. Some of them are basically like nursery rhymes. They're catchy and are very easy to sing along to. They create a happy mood and feeling. They're not complicated songs. But also I think people are digging into their memories. We're living in a very crazy world right now, especially now with the lockdown, I think a lot of people are just trying to get through the day and going back in time, remembering the good times, like the '90s that were easier, happier moments, is how they do that.
How does creating music during a lockdown work?
I released my single right at the beginning of the lockdown and people said I was crazy because nobody was going to hear it. But I think more people heard it because more people are online now, more people are using the internet, and more people listening to the radio. So the song actually went straight to number one on the club charts and now it's back on the commercial pop charts.
I haven't been able to do a video and all my shows have been canceled, of course, but I've tried to be online as much as I can. I'm just doing whatever I can. I'm working on music, I take pictures of my food and share it with people every day. There's not much we can do but ride it out. I'm trying to be as active as I can. I've cleaned my house five times already today.
You've recently said you wanted to make the 'Saturday Night' Whiggy Wiggle dance go viral on TikTok. What has your experience on the platform been like?
I've always had dancers with me doing that dance, and I was quite lazy about doing it again until a friend of mine challenged me and said, "I dare you to do a TikTok." And I had just made an account a couple of weeks ago. So I thought "I'd better put something on there," and I ended up doing that dance for the first time in 25 years and it was actually quite fun because I got to dress up, I did my hair, I did my makeup. It was like going to a proper gig.
With regards to TikTok, there's another '90s act that recently had a bit of success on that platform: Vengaboys. Do you have any plans to collaborate with them?
Oh my God! We're good friends. We have done some touring together and we did a tour together in Australia. I'm always doing shows together with them. I actually have a track that is very, very, very nineties. So that would be like a dream come true if I can actually do a collaboration with them because they're so much fun. We hang out backstage all the time and they are such a wonderful band. They are everything that fun is about.
You are easily one of the most international artistes, having lived and toured all over the world and charting in many regions. Are there any places that were really memorable for you?
I was doing a tour in India and I did a show for the Bollywood awards. I was in Mumbai and I had something like 50 dancers behind me, and they told me, "You know, billion people are going to view this?" I had to do a duet with a Hindi singer, and we did 'Saturday Night' together. That was a really special moment for me because it's not something you imagine you would get to do when you grow up.
Did you imagine you would be a chart-topping artiste with a career spanning several decades?
When I wasn't a little girl, I was always entertaining. I was always dressing up. I was always performing for my family. So I've always been somewhat an artist. This is what I felt like I wanted to do. It was in my blood. I come from a family of musicians. My grandfather built me my first violin, my father was a bass player, my mother played the trumpet. And I started producing when I was 10. I had this cassette player, and every time there was a song that I liked on the radio, I would change the chords and record it. That's why I always tell people: you have to follow your dreams. If there's something you like to do, you have to go for it. Life has to be like a game. You have to play when you wake up every morning.
Aside from being the perfect pick-me-up, is there anything else you would like people to take away from 'SUGA'?
Well, it is a bit of a woman in a man's world, calling the shots. And it's just supposed to be a bit of fun. We were laughing while writing it. I remember actually sitting on the floor of the studio and it was just one of those silly days. It wasn't really meant to be about girl power, but you know, boys, they do videos with girls in bikinis twerking and stuff. So this is me saying this is my song. I can do what I want.
Do you have any other new projects coming up?
I've got demos, and in this day you don't really need the studio. I could record a track and send it over to my producer, but it's not the same thing. I miss the human contact. I get so much more out of sitting in a studio with other people and collaborating and working and mixing ideas.
I go for a run every morning and my favorite part, even though I have to wear a mask, is when I cross people on the street or see children. We need each other, we need human contact. It's the same with music. So as soon as this is over, I will definitely get back into the studio. In the meantime, I could recommend my producer's music. He's from an Italian band called 'Planet Funk', and they had a huge hit called 'Chase The Sun'. Their albums are really well produced, so that's something that I would tell people to listen to.
Stream 'SUGA' now via Spotify.