No Bad Attitudes Allowed
Des’ree is so upbeat it’s scary.
When the British singer-songwriter gets wound up, she sounds like a human motivational tape.
But that’s what you’d expect from the woman who recorded “You Gotta Be,” one of the biggest hits of the season.
The record is the most relentlessly positive hit single since Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” in 1988. To handle life’s stresses, “You Gotta Be” counsels, “You gotta be cool/You gotta be calm / You gotta stay together.”
In interviews, Des’ree can go on and on in that same vein, pushing all the New Age buttons.
“My album is mainly about spiritual love,” explains Des’ree, whose album “I Ain’t Movin’ ” (550/Sony Records) sounds like a self-help guide. “The spirit needs nurturing. It’s been neglected by most people. I’m saying that we should go back to the spirit.”
The singer, born Desiree Weekes 25 years ago in London, is a mesmerizing talker with a commanding stare. Much of what she says is based on the words of her inspirational mentor, Shakti Gawain, the self-help guru who wrote “Creative Visualization.”
“I like to inspire people spiritually through my music,” Des’ree says during a visit to Los Angeles. “I’d like to help them find the kind of inner peace that eases the weight of their burdens.”
What’s really remarkable is the way that Des’ree, who is also a devotee of vegetarianism and astrology, has been able to turn self-help manifestoes--backed by a soothing mixture of pop, soul, soft jazz and Caribbean rhythms--into a hit album.
It’s a more mature version of her 1992 debut album, “Mind Adventures,” which didn’t have the luxury of a blockbuster single like “You Gotta Be” to boost sales.
“I was younger on that first album,” Des’ree says. “I’ve been on a spiritual journey since then. Now I have more to say and the ability to say it in a way that makes more people want to listen.”
Since last year, Des’ree has been broadening that base of listeners through touring with Seal.
Des’ree, whose parents are from the West Indies, has had visions of being a performer since she was a teen-ager in London, when she was earnestly polishing her writing and singing skills while soaking in music from two of her primary influences, Bob Marley and Joan Armatrading. That persistence paid off with a record deal in 1991.
While acknowledging that she’d like to become a major force in the music business, she says that aspiration pales next to her primary goal, which sounds like a mantra: “To continue my spiritual journey and achieve inner peace.”
* Des’ree opens for Seal on Monday at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8 p.m. $22.50 - $27.50. (714) 855-4515. Also Tuesday at Open Air Theatre, San Diego, 8 p.m. $25-$42.50. (619) 594-6947. And Thursday-Friday at the Greek Theatre, 7:30 p.m. $17.50-$42.50. (213) 480-3232.