Ultra Naté (born March 20, 1968) is an American house music, dance-pop and sometimes R&B musician who has achieved success on the pop charts with songs such as "Free" and "If You Could Read My Mind", as part of Stars on 54 and Automatic.
Virtually all of her singles have reached the Top 10 of the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. Such singles include "Show Me", "Free", "Desire", "Get it Up (the Feeling)", "Love's the Only Drug", and her number-one hits "Automatic", "Give it All You Got" featuring Chris Willis, "Waiting On You" and "Everybody Loves the Night".
Born Ultra Naté in Maryland, she displayed her singing talent at an early age. Growing up, Naté enjoyed a wide variety of music; she enjoyed listening to artists such as Marvin Gaye and Boy George, whom Naté would later say helped her become more open to being more experimental with her style and production of music.
She is best known in her home country for her classic 1990s dance crossover track, "Free". She is also remembered in America for her team-up with Amber and Jocelyn Enriquez as Stars on 54 on a 1998 cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind", which was also a mainstream American hit. It reached #52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. Though she has had club success in America, she has found the majority of her singles and, especially, album sales success in Europe.
Ultra Naté is noted for taking the opposite path to that which most musicians take. She began her recording career on a major label, Warner Bros. Records., signed through its British offices. Through it, she released her first two albums. Her debut album, the house classic Blue Notes in the Basement (1991) was created along with the Basement Boys and it featured the singles "It's Over Now," "Deeper Love (Missing You)," "Is It Love," and the gospel-tinged "Rejoicing."
In 1993, the alternative dance/house One Woman's Insanity was released to much critical praise and recognition by the dance-music community. Although it still featured the Basement Boys' production on several tracks, this time Ultra found herself working with the likes of Nellee Hooper, and D-Influence. At a time when soulful House music performers such as Robin S and Crystal Waters were scoring cross-over Top Ten Pop singles, it was believed that Ultra Naté would score a similar level of commercial success. Mainstream sales however were not achieved even though "Show Me" received moderate mainstream pop radio airplay. Still, the performer's diva status was cemented by dance-floor classics like "How Long," "Show Me" (her first song to reach the top position on the U.S. Dance charts) and "Joy". However, neither release sold very well, and she was dropped from the label.
In 1995, Ultra Naté contributed the song "Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)" to the soundtrack to the similarly titled independent film starring Parker Posey. The single was commercially released by the King Street Sounds label and has become a hard to find collectors' item.
When Warner Bros. tried to push her in a more R&B, less house, direction, Ultra Naté left the major label and fled to the independent dance label, Strictly Rhythm. It was here that "Free", her biggest mainstream hit in America, was released in 1997. The song, produced by Katumother Records, enjoyed heavy airplay throughout the rest of the millennium, not only in clubs, but on rhythmic and mainstream radio stations across the country. "Free" peaked at number 75 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It became a substantial hit in the UK, where it peaked at number four, helping its parent album 'Situation: Critical' reach number seventeen on the album charts. It was also successful in Canada where it reached number 10 at the Canadian Singles Charts.
It was with this album that Ultra Naté's greatest commercial success was achieved, particularly in Europe, where singles such as "Found a Cure" (#6 in the UK), and "New Kind of Medicine" (#14 UK) became immediate dance classics.
In 1998, a new single "Pressure" was released internationally. Taken from the soundtrack to the film The 24 Hour Woman, it contained three club mixes. The original, funkier version of the track was found on 'Situation: Critical" but listed as "Release the Pressure."
Her follow-up album Stranger Than Fiction, which was released in 2001, featured the production work of artists such as Attica Blues, 4 Hero, and Mood II Swing. Four singles were released: "Desire," "Get It Up (The Feeling)," "Twisted," and "I Don't Understand It."
Naté contributed the song "Wonderful Place" to the AIDS benefit compilation Keep Hope Alive: A Lifebeat Benefit Compilation. Additionally, in 2004, she released the singles "Feel Love," "Brass in Pocket," "Time of Our Lives" (released as "Ultra Devoted featuring Ultra Naté and Gerry DeVeaux"), and a new version of "Free" that features twelve new mixes. In 2005, she collaborated with Gaudino and released the single "Bitter Sweet Melody". Later in the same year she found herself again on the charts, when her featured vocals on the Stonebridge single "Freak On" became a successful dance hit. She also performed on the British show Hit Me Baby One More Time.
Having become a mother for the first time in the fall of 2005, Naté released her fifth album Grime, Silk, & Thunder on her newly created imprint Blufire in partnership with Tommy Boy Records. The album was warmly received by the majority of critics and fans alike. The first single released was "Love's the Only Drug," which became available through the U.S. iTunes Store August 8, 2006 and reached number two on the American Hot Dance Club Play and made the Top 30 on the Hot Dance Airplay chart. The second single "Automatic" (a cover version of the Pointer Sisters hit) reached number one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart (the week ending April 28, 2007). It also received airplay in the Rhythmic/Dance format radio where it reached the Top 30 of most playlists in this radio format. Following Automatic, Ultra released "Give It All You Got" which features Chris Willis as a digital download since Dec. 05, 2007. The song hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Music/Club Play charts the week ending February 23, 2008.
In mid-2009 it was announced that U.S. R&B songstress Michelle Williams, previously of Destiny's Child has collaborated on a song with Ultra called "I'm Waiting On You", for use on both of their next studio albums. In 2010 Ultra has released a Bob Sinclar remix of her classic hit "Free" on Strictly Rhythm. "Give It 2 U" in collaboration with Quentin Harris for his album "Sacrifice" which is considered a preview of an upcoming duet project between Ultra and Quentin called "Black Stereo Faith". She also released "Destination" in collaboration with Tony Moran which peaked at #10 on the Billboard Dance Play chart. "Destination" was the second single off Tony's album, Mix Magic Music.
In 2010 she released an EP titled "Things Happen At Night" featuring Ultra's pop and soul melodies and vocal stylings over manic percussive club beats done by Unruly productions. January 2011 is slated for the release of Ultra's new single with Strictly Rhythm on her Deep Sugar label imprint called "Turn It Up" with a music video directed by Leo Herrara. "Turn It Up" is the first single to be released from her sixth studio album to be titled Hero Worship.
In September 2011 she submitted a song to represent Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, to be held in Azerbaijan.