Cure the blues with Vitamin C
By Michelle J. Mills
"Citrus Diva" Vitamin C is breaking the boundaries of pop. Don't look here for whining songs of teen angst- she has attitude. Vitamin C grabs reality and puts it to intelligent lyrics with upbeat music and makes listeners smile.
"I like music that's larger than life," she says. "And I set out to make an intelligent pop record. I want people to look twice, think twice and - well, smile."
Perky Colleen Fitzpatrick aka Vitamin C, is a New Jersey native. She selected her moniker based on first initial and then found a positive sounding name that was easily identifiable. The songstress got her start as a dancer. At age two, Vitamin C was suffering from some orthopedic problems and the recommended therapy was dance. She took to it like a fish to water, studying ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, folk and everything in between. This "step" not only helped her to find her talent, but was a great confidence booster.
"It (dancing) was important in my life because it made me feel attractive," explains Vitamin C.
Throughout high school, Vitamin C kept dancing, but she also tried her hand at writing music.
"I would write songs for some of the guys in bands at school, though no one would want to play with a girl," she states.
Vitamin C also captured some acting roles, among them, she played a "bratty girl" in the film "Hairspray." She kept busy working with many bands in college, including Pure Liquid, and went on to join Eve's Plumb. The local group worked very hard to achieve national status, touring and releasing two albums before parting ways.
The "Sunshine Girl" and I discussed the local scenes in L.A. and New York and how they have changed over the years. Vitamin C remarked that in her college days, there were many pay-to-play venues in New York, but that this actually created a camaraderie between local bands which continues to this day. Although, unlike L.A., the pay-to-play gigs have definitely decreased. Another explanation for this band unification, according to VC, is that "in New York, there's only so many good places to play."
Vitamin C contends, and I agree, that the Los Angeles local scene is a lot harsher, bands are more competitive and many of the "good" venues are pay-to-play or require ticket sales, which amounts to the same thing.
Like many musicians, Vitamin C says she plays "a little bit of everything well enough to write." But her writing isn't created by one set pattern, she starts out with a sound, a sentence or even a personal event.
"There's no set way I write," says Vitamin C. "If I have a title, I'm better off. A title helps me focus... Writing is actually very selfish, you write a song for yourself or about yourself."
Selfish or not, Vitamin C has struck a chord with many teens and other pop fans. Her single, "Graduation," was flying off record store shelves earlier this year on the wake of the nation's high school's commencement exercises.
Johnny Delgado, singles buyer for Tower Records, Videos and Books in West Covina, Ca., said in June, "We can't keep it on the shelves and its only available as a single on import. Some guy just came in and bought five copies."
I asked Delgado what he thought of the release.
"I like it. It's a cute song, what I would call a 'novelty' song," replied Delgado. "You will probably buy it for graduation and keep it on your shelf for the rest of your life. We all have a song like that, that we pull out every once in a while. Mine is 'You and Me Against the World,' for me and my mom."
When I spoke with Delgado, he hadn't seen the video of "Graduation" yet, but I'm sure he would have appreciated this peek into the "Citrus Diva's" world.
"The video is about my life," Vitamin C says. "In high school I had a huge crush on this guy forever. He didn't know; he couldn't tell. Time was running out, not like in the video, we weren't seniors yet, but I told him at the end of one school year."
What became of her bold move? The two hooked up, dating for several years, but they didn't stay "friends forever."
"We lost touch," says Vitamin C with a touch less sunshine.
She talks from the heart about her top-selling tune.
"It's about moving on. I used graduation as the setting because it is such a universal and pivotal point in people's lives. For so many of us it's both a beginning and an end. We used a real high school choir, New York City's All City Chorus, to enhance the spirit of the song. When I was talking to the kids in the choir their outlook was inspiring. So many of them believe that they will be 'friends forever.' I wanted to keep a touch of idealism as part of this album."
Members of the media, fans and many others are calling the smart, sassy singer a "perfect role model." Delgado also brought up this theme in conversation.
"Her message is very positive for kids and, unlike Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilera, she's not selling sex," Delgado said. He added that Vitamin C is an excellent role model. But Vitamin C doesn't agree.
"I don't consider myself a role model because it's a terrible thing. A role model should be a parent or a teacher. The (entertainment) business is dangerous, it's fake. No one looks like they do on their album cover or in their video when they walk down the street."
Vitamin C speaks strongly on how she doesn't want young girls to feel unattractive or unworthy because they don't look like a star. She also brings up a good point- whether an artist is performing in a small club or a huge amphitheater, they are still "spending the vast majority of their time in a bar. What kind of example is that?" She doesn't hold out anything when it comes to sports figures, stating that they are poor role models as well and reiterating that children should look up to their parents and teachers.
Now nesting in Manhattan, New York, Vitamin C enjoys yelling for the Yankees, surfing the Internet, listening to music and watching films.
"I'm a big movie buff and music fan. I like older movies," says VC warmly. "I love escaping into fantasy."
I doubt that "High C" has much time to catch any flicks right now, as she's busy touring in support of her self-titled release and recording cuts for a new effort due out this fall. In her free time (yeah, right) Vitamin C is on location in Canada filming "Wes Craven's Dracula 2000." Watch for her in the part of the lead's best friend.
"I would like to do more,'' says Vitamin C to my amazement. "I really enjoy songwriting."
She tells me that in the future, she wants to write music and produce other artists in the pop and rock genres. But for now, she seems restless, yet nicely satisfied. For a closing comment, the "Sunshine Girl" thought hard and then gushed on how much she enjoys hearing from her fans.
"Tell my fans to keep writing and communicating; thanks for listening - it's really exciting."
As for the rest of you who haven't caught on -- take a minute and listen, really listen, to Vitamin C. I'm sure you'll agree that she's "all that and brains too."
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