4th October 2003


Newsweek International
Updated: 11:13 p.m. ET Oct. 04, 2003


Hayley Westenra isn’t—and never was—your average teen. At 10, she busked on New Zealand’s streets to earn pocket money, later recording songs for family and friends with the proceeds. Now she’s 16, and “Pure,” her first international album, has become the world’s fastest-selling classical debut.

At first glimpse of the wide, winsome smile on her album cover, one would be forgiven for thinking of Westenra as just another classical-lite teen being groomed to spice up the biz. Global sales of classical music are rapidly eroding, and labels are desperate for new stars with sparkly styles to bring in a much-needed younger audience. But it’s worth repeating that Westenra isn’t your average teen—and she’s not your average classical popster. Her album includes sentimental ballads, but also two beautiful traditional Maori songs. The emotional range of “Pokarekare Ana” is simple, but Westenra’s rendition sends shivers down the spine. She’s even bravely tackled the tricky Kate Bush classic “Wuthering Heights.” Though she doesn’t quite get to the guts of the song’s deranged wildness, Westenra makes up for it with a piercing clarity and forcefulness. To be sure, “Pure” might not captivate the purists. But beyond the sugary pop there’s a ton of star quality in this teen’s outstanding voice. It makes us hope she’s here to stay.

—Tara Pepper

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Updated: 11:13 p.m. ET Oct. 04, 2003

Article thanks to Belinda H. Not for reproduction without prior permission



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