Af­ter tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties... please stand by for Maria

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - KEVIN PROKOSH

THIS was sup­posed to be the year that Win­nipeg pre­teen singer Maria Aragon was launched into pop star­dom.

But the same In­ter­net tech­nol­ogy that made her a YouTube sen­sa­tion in 2011 — when Lady Gaga saw her home­made video of Born This Way and trig­gered an­other 50 mil­lion views — thwarted her in 2012. Her Toronto man­ager, Steven Nowack, had plot­ted to in­tro­duce Aragon’s first song, You Are Enough, and other new tunes like the Whit­ney Hous­ton-es­que When I Dance With You on his new free web­site, welove­freemu­, last July but it crashed af­ter about 138,000 down­loads from 33 coun­tries.

No mu­sic meant no buzz… meant no mak­ing the 12-year-old Aragon the next Justin Bieber or Carly Ray Jep­son.

“The dig­i­tal plat­form had tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, and when that oc­curred we made the de­ci­sion not to re­lease the mu­sic to the world,” says Nowack this week, a few days short of a year since he came to Win­nipeg to sign Aragon to his la­bel, S Records. “Am I dis­ap­pointed per­son­ally? I’m very frus­trated.”

While Nowack works the bugs out of his mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar web­site, Aragon fans can go to YouTube to check out her new video per­for­mance of My Spe­cial Christ­mas Present Is You, a duet with Cana­dian gui­tar vir­tu­oso Liona Boyd. An al­ter­nate ver­sion features the rap­ping of hip-hop artist Fin-S.

Boyd wrote the song and, af­ter shoot­ing the video, said she thinks that Aragon is des­tined for in­ter­na­tional star­dom.

Next month Aragon is re­turn­ing to the San Fran­cisco stu­dio of Narada Michael Walden — the Grammy-win­ning pro­ducer of hits by Whit­ney Hous­ton, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin — to co-write and record more songs for the re-launch of welove­freemu­sic. com in Fe­bru­ary. If that makes her name “pop,” a con­cert tour will fol­low im­me­di­ately.

“We’re look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to po­si­tion her in a ma­jor way,” says Nowack. “The ca­reer of the mag­ni­tude we are pre­dict­ing for her does not hap­pen overnight. Lady Gaga’s dis­cov­ery of her threw Maria into the lime­light but we’re try­ing to craft an artist.”

De­spite the set­back, Aragon re­mains up­beat about her hurry-up-and-wait year and her long-range prospects.

“I had so many new ex­pe­ri­ences in 2012,” says Aragon, who in­ter­rupted some Christ­mas gift-wrap­ping for an in­ter­view this week. “Def­i­nitely the high­light of my year was go­ing into the stu­dio to record my first-ever song. It was a spe­cial moment for me.”

Although 2012 was in­tended as her break­out year, it be­came more of a base-build­ing year, dur­ing which she per­formed at char­ity events and made pub­lic ap­pear­ances across the coun­try.

“She really grew as an artist this year,” Nowack says. “She wrote her first song. She per­formed for the first time with a live band in Lon­don for Google. Her stage pres­ence has grown. I think she’s ready.”

The Christ­mas song grew out of Aragon singing on Boyd’s 2013 CD The Re­turn… To Canada With Love last sum­mer. She be­lieves that the Juno Award-win­ning Boyd wrote My Spe­cial Christ­mas Present Is You with her in mind.

“It’s a really great song,” Aragon says of her first Christ­mas tune. “It’s very joy­ful. To sing it, you just have to be in a Christ­mas mood.

“We sing in very dif­fer­ent gen­res. She’s a clas­si­cal artist and I’m more pop and soul/R&B singer. It was a new ex­pe­ri­ence and I’m glad I got to do it.”

Her hope for 2013 is that she can con­tinue hav­ing fun with her mu­sic, which has been an in­te­gral part of her life. Find­ing in­spi­ra­tion for writ­ing new songs is not easy, she says, but knows it is part of her mat­u­ra­tion as an artist.

“One of the things I really hope will hap­pen in 2013 is hear­ing my songs re­peat­edly on the ra­dio and tour to meet my fans world­wide,” she says. “That’s ba­si­cally my dream for 2013.”

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