For Irina Shapiro, creating slick, sexy, supercharged dance music means tapping into the fierceness and passion of three distinct musical styles she’s long cherished.
“When I was younger and first started going out clubbing, I discovered house music and electro—but at the same time I was very passionate about pop music and rock and roll,” says the Moscow-born, Miami-based singer/dancer/songwriter. “The thing that unites those three genres—electronic music, pop, and rock—is energy. That’s what I strive to bring to my own music. I want people to hear it and feel this full stream of positive energy just flowing through them.”
Equally inspired by the rock mysticism of Stevie Nicks, the splendor of pop superstars like Madonna and Michael Jackson, and the dancefloor-ruling sound stylings of electro pioneers like David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Erick Morillo, Irina is set to release her debut album in summer 2012. Her production and songwriting team, for instance, consists of Xandy Barry and Wally Gagel (who’ve previously worked with artists like Rihanna, Norah Jones, Jessica Simpson, Gorillaz, and the Rolling Stones). And to whip her vocals into killer shape for the recording sessions, Irina joined forces with vocal coach Ron Anderson (who began working with her immediately after training Tom Cruise for his upcoming role in the film adaptation of jukebox musical Rock of Ages). “He’s a legend and very dear to me,” she says of Anderson, who’s also coached Axl Rose, Gwen Stefani, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Thanks to Irina’s tightly honed chops and razor-sharp pop instincts, her music emerges as a dance-music powerhouse packed with tracks that lift the listener to a more blissed-out dimension. Deftly embodying the album’s seductive spirit, the lead single “Something About You” pairs throbbing beats with brain-bending synth that’s both hypnotic and irresistibly dizzying. And with her taut, sensually charged vocals, she reveals both a dreamy pop sensibility and a dance-icon-worthy command of vocal texture and rhythm.
“I want everyone to turn it up as loud as possible when they’re driving down the freeway and just feel that amazing energy,” says Irina. “It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of my whole life.” Growing up in Moscow, Irina first moved toward capturing that dream by studying dance and music from a very young age. But despite her formidable talents and boundless support from her “very cultured, very intellectual” family, she ended up pursuing a career in psychotherapy. Though her work as a therapist partly fulfilled her lifelong desire to “bring happiness to people, even when they’re broken,” Irina ultimately took to the “dance-music mecca” of Miami to follow through with her long-simmering pop ambitions. “I just opened all my windows and screamed, ‘I wanna be there, I wanna get up on that stage like all my icons,’” she recalls. “I wanted to live out my own vision.”
That vision not only includes making music, but creating a stage show that combines stunning choreography with ravishing costumes (a must for the fashion-crazed singer, who regards designers like Lanvin, Tom Ford, Jitrois, and Fendi, with unwavering reverence). Irina has teamed up with groundbreaking choreographer Mikey Minden (known for his work with the Pussycat Dolls). “Working with Mikey and his team, has shown me that you can express yourself with that wild essence of your body and your being—but you’ve still got to be incredibly disciplined,” says Irina, who’s assembled a team of American dancers to back her on stage and in front of the camera. “The dance elements will be cool and sexy and really intense. It’ll be a spectacle.”
With country wide tour dates in the foreseeable future, the stage show will also allow audiences to join in the reverie. “Life’s a party—sometimes it’s a sad party, but you still have to way to give sunshine, crazy positive emotions to everyone,” says Irina, whose future plans also include honoring her Russian heritage by blending traditional Russian symphonic sounds into her music. “Dance music is a really beautiful way to do that—it’s universal and it lets you get to this very pure place, to break down the walls and let your true soul shine through.”