American singer/songwriter and self-confessed rock chick SONIA V is less than enamoured by the cult of celebrity. Clare Spencer reports.
One of the most powerful denouncements of this celebrity-fixated age of ours has come courtesy of a song by an American rock singer Sonia V. Her composition "Superstar" from her 2005 independent album 'A Thing Or 2' has already become something of a turntable hit on Cross Rhythms with its telling opening lines, "I don't wanna be your superstar/Reclining in a limo or a fancy car/Struttin' down the red carpet/I don't care about doing commercials." Ironically, considering Sonia Vannest's suspicion of the glittering prizes of the music industry, she picked up a Gospel Music Association award in 2002 for her song "You Are My Life" released on her debut EP 'Passion Of My Soul'. But as the lyrics of "Superstar" go, "I appreciate all of your affirmation/But I need a little less of your glorification."
She spoke about her attitude to the Fame Game. "You know, I must be in the wrong business because people who do music generally want the recognition, status, fame and fortune that comes along with it. I think with all artists, the battle for self-gratification with what we do and keeping things in perspective with our humility will always be an ongoing struggle." Despite the struggle, Sonia is in no doubt about why she is making music. "I consider it a gift from God and it should be used for his purposes, not mine. I feel that the music industry has distorted its true purpose these days and has made it about making superstars and loads of money."
Sonia isn't naturally inclined towards the life of an extrovert, fighting against stage fright from an early age. Traveling around with her family's gospel group as a child soon helped her get over the nerves. "When I was a kid, I'd invite the whole neighbourhood over and put on a show for them with singing and dancing and everything. I even sold popcorn."
However, her musical influences aren't limited to Gospel. She grew up in Detroit, which, she says, gives her the permission to have the personality and attitude towards music she now possesses. "Some of the world's most recognized artists like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Alice Cooper, Madonna, Bob Seger, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Four Tops, Eminem, Kid Rock and the White Stripes have come out of Detroit. I grew up singing gospel music, but being near Motown I was drawn to soul music. Add that with my love for rock and roll and you get one weird rock chick!"
That rock chick took a while to show her face, with the first CD being less Avril Lavigne, more Celine Dion. It wasn't only the style that changed. Her target audience and purpose also became clearer. While the first album was popular with the Church, Sonia realised her "heart of hearts was to reach a non-churched audience." After all, as she put it, "If I'm only singing to the Church, what good is that when it comes to 'going out and making disciples' in the world?"
As well as touring with bands and as a solo artist Sonia used to lead worship for about four years at a Detroit church before moving to Orlando, Florida. As if making music wasn't sufficient for this gifted singer and songwriter Sonia has also made a dent in radioland. She explained, "I now produce and host my own radio show, The Indie Rock Show which is syndicated internationally to showcase the hottest independent rock artists on the planet! I think it's important to give back, and letting people know about other people's ministries should be something every Christian does more of.it's all about the same bottom line - promoting Christ."
The growing public awareness of Sonia and her music is bearing more and more fruit. She spoke of a recent communication she had with a bisexual man. "He was drawn to my music on one of the music sites and we began a conversation about Christianity. By the end of the string of emails, he relayed that he was 'rethinking his thoughts about Christianity' and that because of my words to him, he now realised 'not all Christians are like the judgmental, holier than thou and even hypocritical examples' we have the unfortunate displeasure of seeing more of than the ones who are actually living and loving one another as Jesus showed us."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.