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September 15, 2007

Marie' Digby's Residency Kickoff at The Hotel Cafe' in Hollywood, CA. September 11, 2007

Depending on who you talk to, the drama that was last week for Marie' Digby came at either the best or worst possible time. While most would love to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal like Digby was last week, the rising star was portrayed in an unfavorable light in the nationwide publication. On her end, Marie had only her MySpace page, live shows, and fans to defend herself from an article that filled the blogosphere (and even took over the comment section of my previous post as of late) this past week. The article made its way onto breakfast tables the week before the YouTube star was about to kickoff a month long residency at the famed SoCal music hot spot, The Hotel Cafe'. Coinciding with the release of Digby's new four-song EP to iTunes, for the first time in a while, there was some question as to whether Digby's positive momentum would continue after the article cast a shadow on her recent success. As I walked up to the venue an hour before the doors opened and saw a line already forming against the wall. It was clear that Digby's fans were still coming out to support her and they would continue to come out in a very big way. Perhaps surprisingly, Marie' was not about to shy away from addressing the events of the past week. But not surprisingly, Marie' continued to impress with her original music and stage presence, and ultimately left everyone excited about what the future holds for the up and coming star.


Much of last week's controversy centered around the fact that Marie' has been signed to Hollywood Records since 2005, when Marie' was yet another relative unknown artist who was signed by a major label, but was still waiting for a chance. However, part of the "story" seems to have gotten twisted in many casual readers' minds. Even though the article never said it, many have come away with the idea that Digby's YouTube videos and MySpace page are both clever marketing ploys by a record label trying to take advantage of the viral nature of online video and social networking. The reality is that while Marie' is signed to a label, her popular YouTube videos and interactive MySpace page, which both essentially gave her the popularity she enjoys today, have always been owned, updated, and managed by her - working as outlets for Marie' to not only gather an audience for herself, but spaces where she could prove herself to a label that manages some of today's biggest teen acts (Good luck, Vanessa Anne Hudgens).

After taking the stage to a huge ovation in front of yet another capacity crowd, Marie' was especially gracious on Tuesday night to all her fans for coming out. Even though she was amongst fans and really didn't have to explain anything that hadn't already been aired out, Marie' took a minute to speak very candidly on the past week. She admitted that the past week was a difficult one on her, but that it was extremely encouraging to see so many new and familiar faces come out for the first night of what will undoubtedly be a sold out residency at Hotel Cafe'.


When Marie' opened up with "Mistaken" and it seemed as though the past week had shaken her a bit. Rhythmically playing on the keyboard, Marie' made eye contact with fans in the crowd and smiled through what had to be one of the more challenging openings that she has performed in a while. From my front row seat, Marie' looked genuinely grateful to see that so many continued to support her, but she was perhaps the most surprised of anyone in attendance as every fan I spoke with was so in awe of her. I get the feeling that Digby's genuine feeling of gratitude is never going to leave her as she continues to rise in the music industry. At the core, Marie' is still an artist who is beginning to really get discovered after years in the industry playing at open mic nights in front of crowds the fraction of the size she enjoys today. After seeing many a superstar act this summer, it's honestly very exciting for me to get to witness the rise of an artist that is not only quickly establishing an audience, but an on-stage identity as well.

Though her Neutrogena commercial-worthy natural good looks (eat your heart out, Hayden Panettiere) and Pantene Pro-V commercial worthy hair (eat your heart out....attractive women with nice hair....) don't hurt the cause, because of the unique way that her audience discovered her online, it's hard not to feel like you are watching a friend perform when seeing Marie' on stage. With her warm demeanor that finds her literally having conversations with her fans both on and off stage, the audience immediately quieted at the outset of every song before erupting into applause after each performance. Not only did everyone want to hear her songs, but everyone wanted to hear her carefree banter as well. While Marie' is quietly becoming a household name in the LA area, it's very refreshing to see her on stage and realize that she's just a regular person at the end of the day (albeit a ridiculously good looking regular person).


In one of the funnier moments on the night, Marie' told the audience that we had to warn her if anything started "falling out," or if she was having any kind of wardrobe malfunction courtesy of the top she was wearing. One of the most vocal fans on the night, a fan by the name of T2 (Marie' smiled and asked, "Is that your real name?" after he announced his name) loudly responded "WE WON'T!!" Digby and the audience shared a good laugh and  she handled it well - and she continued to handle friendly Tourettes-like exclamations with grace from fans (or fan) would yell out things like "MAN, YOU'RE HOT!!!", "Damn, you're cute!!!", and "RIHANNA WHO?!?!" between performances. I'm not going to lie, it really gave the show character to see the incredibly humble Digby smile in the face of such bold compliments that are generally reserved for "sexy time" that some people have with their doors locked in the friendly company of a glowing computer screen.

By her second performance, "Stupid for You," Marie' had settled in and seemed to put all the drama behind her. She hit her stride just in time for one of my personal favorites, "Beauty Walking Away."  "Beauty..." is a smooth moving ballad that shows off not only Digby's talents as a vocalist, but as a songwriter as well. It is one of those rare songs that you just never get tired of, joining Carrie Underwood's "So Small" and Rascal Flatts' "God Bless the Broken Road" on my version of that rather exclusive list.

Later, Marie' dedicated her second ever live performance of "Traffic," which features Marie' on a reaching chorus accompanied by a rhythmic electric guitar courtesy of her friend Lance, to a first time Marie' concert goer named Chris, who was sitting next to me. Over the course of four minutes that would have made most guys in the audience need to go shopping for new pants, with her eyes locked in and jealousy becoming the emotion of choice for the males in attendance, Marie' sang the song right to him in a little bit of a gender reversal of an Usher concert when he performs "Nice and Slow" for a member of the audience - just without the gyrating, sunglasses, bulging muscles, and occasional dry-humping. Though Usher puts on a good show, Marie' went a bit less aggressive and just sat and sang. For me, it was probably more enjoyable (not that Usher isn't a good looking guy, and yes, I do appreciate a good microphone stand hump every now and again).


Of course, Marie' performed "Umbrella," much to the delight of the crowd. What is interesting is that while most of her fans got to know her for her cover of the summer anthem, her original music is quickly becoming the reason to see her live. While the arrangements of her songs are generally pretty simple with straightforward melodies, its their simplicity that makes them not only good, but a perfect fit with Digby's emotion filled vocals. From her performance of "Voice on the Radio," which she performed with a different arrangement on the first chorus than I was used to hearing (and actually liked more), to the closing out of her show with "Unfold," Marie' is deservedly being recognized for being so much more than "that 'Umbrella' girl."

As I mentioned in my previous write up on Marie', "Unfold" is an extremely personal track with some powerful lyrics that are probably what the writers of "I'm not a Girl, not yet a Woman" were hoping to achieve years ago before Britney stopped being hot and/or cool, all before she decided she wanted to rock awkwardly side to side on stage at award shows (What happened to the hot Brit Brit with the snake?? The "I'm a Slave 4 U" OMFG that snake is hugeeee Brit Brit?? I miss her...). "Unfold" really shows off Marie's control over the lower register of her voice, but it's the emotional live performance of the song that truly sets it apart.


With all the controversy of last week now a distant memory, I'm looking forward to the focus on Marie' getting back to her music. One of the things that makes Marie' unique is that her fans take so much ownership of her success - much like Carrie Underwood's fans take pride in watching her succeed since voting for her on American Idol. Marie' made herself accessible to her fans, via YouTube, email, and MySpace, and as a result, her fans keep coming back, selling out her shows, and spreading her music to their friends because they want to see her succeed.


After seeing her videos on YouTube and seeing her perform two weeks ago, it was actually a very proud moment for me to see Marie' bounce back and pull off a great set in the face of a less than perfect week that will inevitably rear its ugly head for most any rising star in the entertainment industry. Now that the focus can finally get back to Marie' and her music, it is exciting to watch Marie' to shed her identity as the "YouTube Cover Girl" by the strength of her original music. There is indeed life beyond "Umbrella," and it's only a matter of time until she makes Marie' Digby a name that first time listeners won't soon forget.

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Awesome. another great review! she is so hot! sounds like she well on the way to super stardom.


DA, I like her man! Never would have known her if it wasn't for you. I really dig her stuff and wish I could be in LA to check her out. I used to think the umbrella song was "singing in the rain." You def got me out of my usual genre's to try something new and I'm glad I did. Great review, funny, witty, charming as always. p.s. love sexy time

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