YUNA at Tattoo (567 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, January 30), doors 8 pm. $17. INK, PDR, RT, SS, TM.
In Kuala Lampur, Yuna can't really walk around her beloved night markets any more.
That's because in the singer/songwriter's native Malaysia, she's a massive star. In her second home in L.A. (she splits her time between the two continents), that's not the case quite yet, but the relaxing setting does provide the artist with a good sanctuary in which to reflect on fame.
On the song Lights And Camera from her latest album, October's Nocturnal (Verve), she examines the lonelier side of the spotlight.
"I wanted to write about fame," she says over the phone from her California home. "I think a lot of famous people are struggling with themselves, caught between reality and fantasy."
Yuna has worked with her share of big-name producers (that guy Pharrell Williams, for one), but this particular song was one of two Nocturnal collaborations with Robin Hannibal, the producer and songwriter who makes up one half of both Rhye (with Toronto-born Mike Milosh) and Quadron (with whom Yuna has toured).
"If you were to give that music to another artist, they would probably write about dancing in the club. But it's different with me and Robin. When you work with someone, you have to inspire each other. He brings out the writer in me."
Hannibal's deft hand with electronica and R&B appealed to Yuna, and those influences flow freely throughout the record. But she also subtly weaves traditional Malaysian sounds into what becomes a sparkling collection of soulful pop-folk. It's hard to categorize, but sonically and thematically, it represents an artistic progression.
"I'm cool with any critique about my music, but it's weird how people think it's really pop. To me, this album showcased my maturity in that I grew as an artist - not to say that it's polished, but everything is there. I took my time. I'm really happy that I get to bring a little bit of my identity into it."