According to the 44-year-old vocalist, “bad boyfriends make for good songs,” and this is reflected in singles such as “Movin’ On” and “Keep On Walkin’”— which speak to the good, the bad and the fugly of past relationships (as witnessed in her trio of ’90s albums). Peniston credits her massive 1991 hit “Finally” for her longstanding success. “That song bought me a house, cars, clothes and a lifestyle that I love to live,” the Arizona-based artist says. “It’s on more than 4,000 compilations and a skin-care commercial. ‘Finally’ cheques keep rolling in!”
Her modus operandi
The Ohio-born vocalist has always maintained she’s a soul singer who dabbles in dance — like her hero, Patti LaBelle, who mastered the art of jumping across musical genres. “I’ve watched Patti backstage,” Peniston says. “Just seeing her [prepare] with her stylist was such a lesson.”
Peniston’s range (“five to seven octaves,” she says) has got her gigs performing in the Vatican for the Pope, at Aretha Franklin’s birthday party (the Queen of Soul requested it) and for Bill Clinton’s inaugurations.
On today’s dance scene
“People want to feel something real, and house gives them that rawness that you don’t get in pop,” she says, noting that she doesn’t love the rush of EDM and circuit that plagues the clubs. “Everything has gotten so robotic and technical.”
“Ever since I saw the way they used ‘Finally’ in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I began to respect drag culture. The effort put into creating a different vision of yourself is something all artists can connect to. I learned about the art of presentation from gay men and drag queens I’ve worked with. And, in this game, that’s half the battle.”
The former beauty queen (Miss Black Arizona in 1989) is now training for a bodybuilding competition while recording more “full-on house and dance-pop” songs, as well as neo-soul tracks with producer Paris Toon (she just released a down-tempo single called “Sick”). “I’m going back to where I started,” she says. “I have a new track called ‘Nothing Can Stop Me Now.’”
Check out how Crystal Waters measures up on our Divine Diva Meter.