About Mica Paris
Mica Paris scored her biggest hit out of the gate as a teenager with the Top Ten U.K. single "My One Temptation," but the maturity and versatility of her church-honed voice, showcased throughout her platinum debut album So Good (1988), has proven to be more indicative of her longevity than the pop success. Whether working with pop-oriented R&B, hip-hop soul, house, quiet storm, or traditional gospel material, Paris' full-flavored alto has remained unwavering through a three-decade career. Since her trilogy of charting '90s albums, Contribution (1990), Whisper a Prayer (1993), and Black Angel (1998), Paris has changed direction for each successive release with natural finesse. Among these disparate projects are Soul Classics (2005), interpretations of '60s and '70s favorites; Born Again (2009), with sources ranging from George and Ira Gershwin to Keyshia Cole; and Gospel (2020), an affirmation of her church roots, issued the year she was appointed MBE.
Born Michelle Antoinette Wallen, Mica Paris is a London native. Originally from Islington, she grew up in Lewisham and was raised by her grandparents. Part of a devout Pentecostal family -- her grandfather was a minister -- Paris started performing as a youngster, and at the age of ten won a gospel singing convention. She learned about jazz, blues, and soul through her father, and eventually ventured into singing secular material. In 1988, by which point she had performed and/or recorded with the Spirit of Watts, Hollywood Beyond, and Annabel Lamb, she debuted as a lead artist with "My One Temptation," a number six U.K. pop hit. Paris arranged and produced a version of "God Bless the Child" for the B-side. Three further singles, including collaborations with Courtney Pine and Will Downing -- the latter on a cover of "Where Is the Love," popularized by Robert Flack and Donny Hathaway -- went Top 40 in Paris' home country. So Good, the number six hit album containing all four singles, consequently went platinum. "My One Temptation" is likewise Paris' most popular single in the U.S., where she was supported by 4th & Broadway parent label Island. In the States, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked on the R&B/hip-hop chart at number 29.
Paris recorded two more albums for 4th & Broadway and Island. Contribution, issued in 1990, was led by the title song, featuring a guest verse from Rakim. Follow-up single "South of the River" missed becoming Paris' sixth U.K. Top 40 hit, but its B-side, a collaboration with the emergent Omar titled "I Should've Known Better," was tightly embraced by club DJs and dancers. Paris then paired with veteran hitmakers Rod Temperton (Heatwave, Michael Jackson) and Narada Michael Walden (Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey), who separately produced the majority of the 1992 LP Whisper a Prayer. The Walden collaborations "I Never Felt Like This Before" and "I Wanna Hold on to You" went Top 40, and the album also included the original recording of Temperton's "You Put a Move on My Heart," re-recorded by Tamia years later for Quincy Jones' Q's Jook Joint. Between albums, Paris acted in West End productions of Mama I Want to Sing and Sweet Lorraine, and moved to Cooltempo, the label for her last '90s album, Black Angel. The varied set included a duet with James Ingram, along with a version of U2's "One" and covers of Isley Brothers and Sly & the Family Stone ballads. Paris entered the U.K. Top 40 the last time with Sly's "If You Want Me to Stay," retitled "Stay."
During another lengthy break between albums, Paris took a number of television and radio gigs -- including the narration of a few documentaries -- and continued with occasional acting work. The singer returned in 2005 with two LPs, the originals-oriented If You Could Love Me and the descriptively titled Soul Classics, studio sets on different labels with Andreas Neumann credited as either executive producer or co-executive producer. The second of those full-lengths also kindled Paris' long-term studio affiliation with producer Brian Rawling. After Paris published the book Beautiful Within: Finding Happiness and Confidence in Your Own Skin, Born Again followed in 2009 with a mix of re-recordings, covers, and original material, such as "Baby Come Back Now," written by James Morrison. A decade later, Paris signed with Warner's East West sub-label and in 2020 released Gospel, which included traditional gospel songs and hymns along with updates of gospel-flavored material such as Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" and U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." In the same year, Paris joined the cast of EastEnders, and her work as an artist, entertainer, and humanitarian was formally recognized when she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire. ~ Andy Kellman
BORNApril 27, 1969