What Ever Happened to Me?
How a pop star rediscovered the healing power of music
By Jennifer Paige
Hello, I’m Jennifer Paige. You might remember hearing my song “Crush” on your favorite pop radio station or watching my videos on MTV back in the day. Maybe we grew up together a little bit over music in the late 90s or the early 00s? Those were good times, yeah? Maybe you’ve followed along as I’ve released new music throughout the years but, occasionally, I’ll get tagged in a tweet or post that asks the dreaded question…
“What ever happened to Jennifer Paige?” Ugh…
Some of you know that I went on to record a few more albums: Positively Somewhere, Best Kept Secret and most recently, Holiday. With each album, I’ve gone slightly more rogue — “indie”, if you will. I’ve made music for TV shows and ad campaigns, movie trailers and trance records. I’ve recorded with other artists and I finally made the Christmas record I always wanted to make.
As I write this, I am 10 days out from realizing my goal on a Kickstarter campaign to making Daydreamer, my 5th album. This will be my first full-length solo album in eight years (not counting Holiday) and many of you have asked why it’s taken me so long.
I grew up in the music industry during a time when the allure of an “artist” was the mystique. While signed to my first record deal, I went to media training just like the politicians do, and I learned that you can always change the subject when faced with an uncomfortable question, or one that doesn’t serve your needs — most times, without anyone even noticing. So I marched on, stuck to the story and sold some records. Over the years, the less important the labels became and the more confident I grew in myself, the more I began to speak up and share my views on life and music. But it’s taken me a long time to break those rules I learned so early on — “keep it light, smile, don’t over share, be strong, never show weakness, tell them how they can buy the record.” BAM — mission accomplished.
So there have been times of disconnect — happy faces but overwhelming grief and uncertainty. In 2008, I hit my breaking point when my Mom passed away from pulmonary hypertension. Two weeks later, my Dad had a heart attack and died. They had been my rock through pop fame and without them there to cheer me on, I couldn’t find my strength. I couldn’t fake a smile, and I lost the will to create music for myself.
I slogged on, writing songs for other artists and projects that required a certain skill but no personal emotion. “We need a song about coffee. Cool?” And off I would go to write about coffee. Happily so — it got me through those hard times. Music began to heal my heart in the way that only it could.
But when it rains, it pours. And it did. In 2010, my parents house was washed away with the Nashville flood. We had sold their estate and it was the last thing left. It re-opened the wound that was trying to heal and kept me distracted again. Removing rubble, repairing floors, hiring labor men. Rebuilding.
Then, the unthinkable happened when I went to the dermatologist to check a spot on my cheek which turned out to be Melanoma cancer. I spent the year in and out of doctors and surgeons, praying for a full recovery which eventually came.
I had never been so raw. Built up so high to fall so low. No amount of success would have made a difference. I had nothing to give. Until one day, I did.
I began to have the desire to make an album. I received a surprise royalty check in the mail and decided to use it for my first true “indie” album. No one to answer to, just me and music. Making Holiday restored my love of music and reminded me how great it feels to simply SING. Not for record deals. Not for royalties. Not for the press. But for the love of it. Because God gave me this gift for a reason. So when I say I believe in the healing power of music, I know first hand it’s true.
I’m writing about the hard times because I never have before. It’s a part of my story that I’ve held too closely in order to follow a protocol I don’t even believe in. I’ve been blessed throughout the years with true friendships, a husband who has picked me up when I’ve been knocked down and an angel baby (my 1 year old), Stella. I’ve also been able to make a living doing what I love. So please don’t feel badly for me. Just know that I’ve been busy with other things — things that I believe have made me a better songwriter and singer.
If I’ve learned anything at all in my life, it’s that life is short. Fame is fleeting. And, the only thing that really matters anyway is that we do what we know we were created to do — no matter what.
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