The first time I stumbled onto Orianthi Panagaris was in 2007 when I found her NAMM performance of “Little Miss Lonely” on YouTube.
I actually thought she was a Playboy bunny turned singer. I didn’t believe the young blonde woman walking across the stage with a top of the line guitar could possibly know how to play it.
Yep. I judged her right off the bat. Not because I was jealous of her looks or age. Nothing like that. Years ago my first writing assignments were all about female guitar players. I felt very protective of them and still do. That’s a scarce and important position to occupy in the music world. I don’t want anyone trivializing it or disrespecting it.
The minute she opened the song I knew I was wrong about her. By the second guitar solo my eyes were bugged out and my jaw was on the floor. I realized she's able to express an intimacy with her guitar that only first rate lead guitar players can express.
I felt the same way when I saw another NAMM video of her singing “Here On Earth”, a song from the self-released "Violet Journey". The draw of it is simple: a girl, her guitar, a great song with a lot of heart, and a little backup from a few friends. I was sold on this artist and her amazing talent.
When I finally heard “According To You” and a few other songs from her major label debut “Believe” it was a different story. I thought she was Avril Lavigne or some other pop princess who floated in from the pop newbie sea.
I barely recognized the wonderful talent I had stumbled onto a few years earlier. The sad part is I didn’t hear or feel the heart of the music. It felt formulaic, manufactured for the masses. I know, I know. It’s all part of the design. It’s how major labels work. I get that.
I’m still sold on the young Aussie Santana protégé who blew NAMM audiences away with her style of shredding. If her next album showcases the heart and soul of songs like “Here On Earth” and “Little Miss Lonely” I’ll run right out and buy the record.
Until then, I’ll stick to watching old school Orianthi on YouTube. Nothing wrong with wanting a little heart and soul in my rock and roll.
- Renée Westbrook