Michelle Williams (singer)

Tenitra Michelle Williams, commonly known
as Michelle Williams, is an American singer, songwriter, model, record producer and actress. She previously owned WNBA basketball team
Chicago Sky until 2006. Williams rose to fame in the 2000s as a member
of R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling female groups of all time. Her work earned her several awards and accolades
including a Grammy Award and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Destiny’s Child, a solo
MOBO Award and nominations in the Stellar Awards and NAACP Theatre Awards. During the hiatus of Destiny’s Child, Williams
released her debut solo album Heart to Yours which topped the US gospel album chart and
became the best-selling gospel release of 2002. Also a critical success, the album won Williams
a MOBO Award for “Best Gospel Act”. Billboard ranked Williams as the fifth Top
Gospel Artist of 2002. In 2004, she released Do You Know which gained
Williams a second nomination for “Best Gospel Act” at the 2004 MOBO Awards. After Destiny’s Child’s disbanded in 2005,
Williams released her first pop album, Unexpected in 2008, which spawned the internationally-charting
single “We Break the Dawn” and the US Dance number-one “The Greatest”. In 2013, she made a return to inspirational
music with the lead single, “If We Had Your Eyes” from her upcoming fourth studio album
titled Journey to Freedom. Third single “Say Yes” featuring Destiny’s
Child bandmates Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland peaked at number-one on the US Hot Gospel
Songs chart whilst also charting in the UK, France and Belgium. Furthermore, Williams found success as a television,
Broadway and West End theatre actress, gaining a nomination for best “Lead Female Actress”
in 2008 at the 18th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards. Making her acting debut on Broadway in Aida
she has since starred in the sitcom series Half & Half and the productions; The Color
Purple, Chicago, What My Husband Doesn’t Know and Fela!. Furthermore, she was a featured judge on MTV’s
Top Pop Group and Gospel Dream and a contestant in series 8 of Strictly Come Dancing. Life and career
1980–99: Early life Williams was born in Rockford, Illinois. Her mother was a nurse and her father was
a car salesman; she became one of four children raised in a “stable, loving” household. She made her musical debut at the age of seven,
performing a rendition of the hymn “Blessed Assurance” at the St. Paul Church of God in
Christ. She later sang in the gospel groups United
Harmony and Chosen Expression. After attending Rockford Auburn High School
and being a part of the school’s Creative and Performing Arts magnet program, she pursued
a degree in criminal justice at Illinois State University, doubtful of her ability to make
a career as a professional singer. However, after two years of university, she
left to pursue a music career and began touring as a backing vocalist for Grammy-award winning
R&B artist Monica in October 1999, after successfully auditioning in May. 1999–02: Breakthrough with Destiny’s Child In late 1999, Williams met Destiny’s Child
band members Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland in the lobby of an Atlanta hotel. Months later Beyoncé asked an acquaintance
if she knew anyone who could sing for a possible spot with the group and was referred to Michelle. After the much-publicized turmoil, Williams—alongside
Farrah Franklin—officially joined the group in early 2000, replacing LeToya Luckett and
LaTavia Roberson without notice. Buoyed by the group’s breakout success, Luckett
and Roberson had both attempted to split with the group’s manager in late 1990s, claiming
that he kept a disproportionate share of the band’s profits and unfairly favored Knowles
and Rowland. The issue was heightened after Williams and
Franklin appeared in the video of “Say My Name”, implying that the original band members
were already replaced. Franklin, however, faded from the group after
five months, as evidenced by her absences during promotional appearances and concerts. Franklin attributed her departure to negative
vibes in the group resulting from the strife. After settling on this final lineup, the trio
recorded “Independent Women Part I”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2000 film
Charlie’s Angels. It became their best-charting single yet,
topping the official US singles chart for eleven consecutive weeks; the success cemented
the new lineup and skyrocketed them to fame. Following this success, in May 2001 Williams
and Destiny’s Child released the group’s third studio album Survivor. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard
200 with sales of 663,000 copies. Survivor has sold over ten million copies
worldwide, 4.1 million of which were sold in the US alone. The album’s other number-one hits are “Bootylicious”
and the title track “Survivor”, the latter earning the group a Grammy Award for Best
R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. After releasing their holiday album, 8 Days
of Christmas, the group announced their temporary break-up to pursue solo projects. 2002–03: Solo career and Aida While Williams was still with Destiny’s Child,
she intensified work on her debut solo album Heart to Yours. The album material included collaborations
with singers Carl Thomas, Shirley Caesar and the Mary Mary duo, taking the singer’s work
further into urban contemporary gospel and Christian music. “Some people will do gospel when their career
fails, but I chose to do it at the height of the popularity of Destiny’s Child,” Williams
explained during the album’s release. “And I didn’t want to do it because it was
a fad. I wanted to do it because it’s in me. It’s in my heart.” Released on April 16, 2002 in North America
to much critical acclaim, Williams became the first member of Destiny’s Child to release
solo material with Heart to Yours. The album sold 20,000 copies in its first
week, placing it at number fifty-seven on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Billboard
Gospel Albums chart, where it later rose to number one. It became the year’s best-selling gospel album,
selling over 200,000 units stateside. A music video for the album’s first and only
single, “Heard a Word,” was produced by film director Sylvain White. Heart to Yours won Williams a MOBO Award for
“Best Gospel Act” along with a raft of nominations including a Stellar Award nomination for “New
Artist of the Year”, a GMWA Excellence Award nomination for “Female Vocalist of the Year
Urban Contemporary” and a nomination for “Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year” from GMA
Dove Awards for her collaboration with Shirley Caesar on “Steal Away To Jesus” which was
first featured on Caesar’s Hymns album. Billboard listed Williams as the fifth Top
Gospel Artist of 2002. Following the release and promotion of Heart
to Yours, Williams made her on-stage acting debut in 2003, replacing fellow R&B singer
Toni Braxton in the title role of Aida, the hit Broadway musical with music by Elton John
and lyrics by Tim Rice. She was the first and remains the only Destiny’s
Child member to have acted on Broadway. 2004–05: Destiny Fulfilled, hiatus and Do
You Know During the release of her fellow Destiny’s
Child members’ debut albums, Williams spent time in the studio, recording her second album. The album saw her generally re-teaming with
the majority of the producers and songwriters from her previous effort, also including Solange
Knowles, Dawkins & Dawkins, and brother Erron Williams. However, released on January 26, 2004 in the
United States, Do You Know reached a disappointing number one-hundred-and-twenty on the Billboard
200 chart, selling 10,000 copies in its first week despite warm reception from critics who
lent praise to Williams’ songwriting ability. Once again, Williams scored more success on
the component charts, where the album debuted at number two on the Top Gospel Albums chart
and number three on the Top Christian Albums tally. The album was later re-released, including
previously unreleased songs, to find greater success but did not re-chart; its same-titled
lead single also failed to chart. As of March 2008, Do You Know has sold 350,000
copies domestically. After a three-year hiatus, Destiny’s Child
reunited for Destiny Fulfilled, released in November 2004. The album hit number two on the Billboard
200, and spawned the singles “Lose My Breath”, “Soldier”, “Girl” and “Cater 2 U”. In support of the album, Destiny’s Child embarked
on a 2005 Destiny Fulfilled … And Lovin’ It world tour, which started in April to September
of the same year. On the Barcelona, Spain visit, the group announced
their disbandment after their final North American leg would end. In October 2005, the group released a greatest
hits compilation album, entitled #1’s, including the their most successful singles alongside
three new tracks, including the band’s final single “Stand Up for Love”, penned by David
Foster. Destiny’s Child was honored with a star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March 2006. They were also recognized as the world’s best-selling
female group of all time. 2006–07: Television debut and The Color
Purple Following Destiny’s Child’s disbandment in
early 2006 Williams made her television debut in the UPN comedy Half & Half, where she played
the role of Naomi, a record company executive who is HIV positive. Later that year, she appeared as one of the
celebrity singers on the FOX reality television show Celebrity Duets, duetting with actors
Alfonso Ribeiro and Jai Rodriguez. In April 2006, Williams performed “America
the Beautiful” at World Wrestling Entertainment’s event WrestleMania 22, which was in her hometown
of Chicago. Beginning in April 2007, Williams joined Oprah
Winfrey’s Chicago-based cast of the hit Broadway musical The Color Purple for its national
tour, starting with an extended run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Williams described the opportunity as “a dream
come true”, playing the part of blues singer Shug Avery, which earned her positive reception. 2008–09: Unexpected and Roxie Hart In March 2008, Columbia Records and Music
World Entertainment revealed that Williams would be releasing her third studio album
Unexpected on October 7, 2008 in the U.S. The album, her first secular release and first
release since the disbanding of Destiny’s Child, involves production by Stargate, Rico
Love, the Heavyweights, Wayne Wilkins, Andrew Frampton and Soulshock and Karlin, among others. In June 2008, Williams released lead single
“We Break the Dawn” to universal acclaim from critics who hailed it as “a terrific fusion
of European disco and American R&B”. The song became Williams’ most successful
single, peaking at number four on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, whilst also charting
internationally at number forty-seven on the UK Singles Chart and number thirty-eight on
the Hungarian Singles Chart before eventually being listed on Hungary’s year-end singles
chart. During the week of July 11, 2008 “We Break
the Dawn” hit number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart. After the album’s release date was delayed
from September 12, 2008 to October 7, 2008, “The Greatest” replaced “Stop This Car” as
the anticipated second single release, and was serviced to mainstream radio. Meanwhile, “Hello Heartbreak” was catered
to dance clubs. “The Greatest” – described as a “fantastic
pop ballad” – became Williams’ second hit on the Billboard dance charts when it peaked
at number-one the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart, thanks to its numerous remixes, before
being listed at number thirty-nine on the chart’s decade-end list – ironically, just
behind “Lose My Breath” which Williams recorded while a member of Destiny’s Child 5 years
prior. Gaining favorable reviews from critics, in
October 2008 Unexpected debuted on the US Billboard 200 albums chart at number forty-two
and number eleven on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, with first week
sales of 14,000 units. Speaking of her move from gospel music to
secular pop/R&B with Unexpected in August 2008, Williams told noted UK R&B writer Pete
Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul: “For me to sell the number of units that I did,
and to get the amount of love and reception that I got, from doing gospel was great. It’s just that, right now I’m ready to try
something different and to get my name and face out there in a different way.” In 2009, Williams confirmed in a video blog
that she and a production team were putting the finishing touches on a remix version of
the album due for release in North America and Asia. Williams also later confirmed via her Twitter
account that Unexpected would soon receive a full UK re-release with “Hello Heartbreak”
serving as its lead single. In July 2009, Williams elaborated further
on the re-release in an interview for Digital Spy, confirming that Sony Music was considering
a re-issue of the album for which some new songs could be recorded. Furthermore she revealed that the Unexpected
remix album was “completely done” and puts a hip-hop and/or jazz spin on some the album’s
original tracks. She also said that some of the new remixes
could also be released as part of the UK re-issue. However by November 1, 2009 no more confirmation
had been made on any Unexpected re-releases, suggesting that all plans had been scrapped. As of April 2013 the album has sold 34,000
copies in the United States. On July 13, Williams began a limited six-week
engagement at the Cambridge Theatre in Chicago, making her the first African-American to be
cast in the West End production of the musical. On discussing Williams’ acquiring of the coveted
role of murderous chorus girl Roxie Hart, manager and Music World Entertainment executive
Matthew Knowles said, “She’s one of the greatest characters in the history of musical theater
and it’s both a challenge and a lot of fun to bring her to life on-stage. I hope that everyone who comes to the show
enjoys it as much as I do, Michelle is a prime example of an all-round entertainer, she has
enjoyed many successes as a music artist and now theater goers are going to experience
her far reaching talents once again” whilst Williams is quoted as saying, “It’s a real
thrill to be given the opportunity to play Roxie Hart in the West End’s spectacular production
of ‘Chicago’.” Her run was extended and Williams continued
appearing for three additional weeks for an extended engagement starting August 23 through
September 12, 2009. 2010: Chicago, Label Troubles and Strictly
Come Dancing On January 12, 2010, it was announced that
Michelle had parted ways with Mathew Knowles and Music World Entertainment. On February 8, 2010, Williams made a return
to Broadway by commencing a seven-week limited engagement in Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre,
replacing Ashlee Simpson. In April, producers Barry and Fran Weissler
announced that Williams would extend her limited engagement in Chicago. Originally slated to play her final performance
on Sunday, March 28, 2010, Williams played an additional 18 performances through Tuesday,
April 13, prior to joining the Los Angeles engagement of the Chicago national tour, Tuesday,
April 20 through Sunday, May 9 at the Pantages Theatre. In commenting on Williams’ engagements Barry
Weissler said, “Michelle has proven to be a tremendous asset to CHICAGO, first in London
last year and now on Broadway. In addition to being a fantastic performer,
she’s as delightful and genuine offstage as she is onstage. We’re thrilled that she’s not only able to
extend her Broadway run, but to join our national tour for its third return engagement in Los
Angeles.” In August, it was reported that Williams would
be appearing in series 8 of Strictly Come Dancing. On the launch show for the series it was revealed
that Williams had been paired with Brendan Cole, who ‘immediately described the pairing
as “perfection”‘. They remained in the competition for seven
weeks with variable results; on 23 October Ian Waite stood in as her professional partner
when Brendan Cole was unable to do so. Williams was eliminated on November 14. Strictly Come Dancing performances
In December 2010, Williams joined DJ Martin Jay to became a co-host on Choice FM’s Breakfast
Show in London for the month, replacing Lucy Ambache who was on maternity leave. 2011–2012: Music collaborations & What My
Husband Doesn’t Know Williams has stated on her Twitter account
multiple times that she will release a new album in 2011. In 2010, she started work on her fourth studio
album. Michelle stated on Twitter that her new album
will have a similar sound to Unexpected and might contain a dance track she has recorded
with Ultra Naté entitled “I’m Waiting on You”. The upcoming album has been stated to feature
production from Timbaland. In December 2010, Williams released a song
entitled “Stay for a Minute” for free digital download via Twitter to celebrate gaining
over 100,000 followers. “Stay for a Minute”, written by Keli Nicole
and produced by Jazz Nixon in 2006, was due for inclusion on the original version of Williams’
Unexpected, which she described as a “solid R&B album”, however when “the sound changed”,
the song was shelved and left unreleased. Furthermore, a track produced by Stargate
titled “If You Wanna Go”, leaked to the internet, believed to be an outtake from the Unexpected
sessions as Williams dismissed the song as “old” during a Twitter post. In January 2011, Williams appeared on BBC’s
popular comedy panel game show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. On February 4, 2011, Williams began a 28-city
tour starring in the David E. Talbert stage-play What My Husband Doesn’t Know along with Brian
J. White, Ann Nesby and Clifton Davis, playing the lead role of Lena Summer. Summer is described as “the envy of all her
friends. Big house. Successful husband. It’s the perfect life… or so it seems. But with her husband’s demanding career, the
other side of her bed is too cold too often. When a handsome young foreman is hired to
work on their home, the spark she’s been missing quickly rages into a wildfire that could cost
her everything.” In June, Williams posted a series of tweets
and pictures documenting her time in Munich, Germany; including a visit to the BMW Museum. On June 5, she announced from Munich, Germany,
that the following day she would be going to Ibiza, Spain. She further detailed her plans on June 6,
announcing that she’d met with a “video director” for a 2-day shoot in Ibiza for a song titled
“On the Run”. On 6 July 2011, Williams released a buzz single
titled “Love Gun” produced by Druski, to precede the release of her upcoming fourth solo album. Describing the sound of the album, Williams
stated “My album will be ‘inspirational pop”. Think of Katy Perry’s “Firework” or Natasha
Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”. I want to give people a message of hope while
at the same time get them moving with dance inspired tracks.” The album is “slated to drop this winter with
an official single release in August/September”. In August 2011, during an interview for The
BoomBox she discussed collaborating with hip-hop artist Talib Kweli on a song produced by Hi-Tek
on which she sings a verse and the hook. Furthermore, she revealed the sound of her
upcoming album would include more “live instrumentation”, inspired by the gospel music she “grew up”
on. In August, Electronic Giant Beatz released
a press release, cover art and a music video teaser for a song featuring Williams titled
“On the Run”. “On the Run” was released in the UK on November
27, 2011. Furthermore, in December, Ultra Naté released
a joint collaboration with Williams titled “Waiting on You” which has thus far risen
to number eleven on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. 2013–present: Fela!, Journey to Freedom
and Jesus Christ Superstar On June 7, 2012 it was announced that Williams
had been signed to Light Records and is due to release her fourth studio album in 2013. On January 3, 2013, it was announced that
Williams will play Sandra in the national tour of the Tony-nominated musical Fela!,
beginning January 29 in Washington, D.C. and playing in a total of 16 cities. Destiny’s Child released a compilation album
titled Love Songs on January 29, which features the newly recorded song “Nuclear”, co-written
by Williams. On February 3, 2013, during Beyoncé’s performance
at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show, held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans,
Rowland and Williams joined Knowles on the stage, where the trio performed excerpts from
“Bootylicious”, “Independent Women”, and “Single Ladies”. Rowland and Williams then exited the stage
and Knowles ended her performance. On February 21, it was announced that Williams
will be starring in her own reality television show, titled My Sister’s Keeper produced by
E1 Television, to coincide with the release of her fourth studio album. Lead single “If We Had Your Eyes”, produced
by Harmony Samuels is due for release on June 24, 2013. On June 29, it was revealed in an interview
for Michigan Avenue magazine that Williams’ fourth album is titled Journey to Freedom. Williams appeared alongside Kelly Rowland
in Beyoncé’s “Superpower” music video, taken from her self-titled fifth studio album. In 2014, Williams became the spokesperson
for a Playtex campaign titled Play On Playbook. In April, it was announced that Williams would
join the 50-city North American arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus
Christ Superstar as Mary Magdalene. She will join Superstar winner Ben Forster
and other recording artists such as Incubus’ Brandon Boyd, ‘N Sync’s JC Chasez, and Public
Image Ltd’s John Lydon. In May 2014, the US version “Jesus Christ
Superstar” has abruptly cancelled its 54-city tour just days before its launch in New Orleans
due to poor ticket sales [1] Furthermore, it was announced that Williams is to star
as a mentor in an Oxygen reality TV competition titled Fix My Choir, alongside fellow contemporary
gospel recording artists Deitrick Haddon and Tye Tribbett. The third single “Say Yes” from the upcoming
album Journey To Freedom was released worldwide June 2, 2014 and became Williams’ first number-one
on the US Hot Gospel Songs, Gospel Digital Songs and Gospel Streaming charts; additionally
charting internationally in the UK, France and Belgium. Artistry
Voice Williams is a soprano, although she assumed
the alto role within Destiny’s Child. William Ruhlmann of AllMusic commented that
she has a “warm, kittenish voice” with the ability to “transform” from “kitten to tiger”,
belting “with absolute conviction”. GospelMusicCity.com praised her “delicate
vocals” and described her “sopralto stylings” as “inimitable”, writing that on “Heard a
Word” she “demonstrates further versatility in Ella-like fashion”. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine also compared
her to other singers writing; “Williams’s warm vocal recalls both the playful wisps
of her R&B contemporaries and the breathy timbre of Diana Ross” while Emily Sogn of
PopMatters wrote “Williams singing style is pleasingly slow paced…that owes a lot to
her pop contemporaries like Ashanti and Janet Jackson.” Similarly, Mike Rimmer of Cross Rhythms described
her voice as “soulful” and Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian wrote that “Williams’s strength
is a shimmery jazz lilt”. Honors and awards Williams has earned an array of awards and
honors as both a solo artist and member of Destiny’s Child. These include; 5 American Music Awards, 17
Billboard Music Awards, 1 BRIT Award, 3 Grammy Award, 1 MOBO Award, 2 MTV Video Music Awards,
3 Soul Train Music Awards and 7 World Music Awards. Billboard ranked Williams as the fifth Top
Gospel Artist of 2002 due to the success of her debut release Heart to Yours which was
one of the best-selling gospel releases of the year. In 2013, Williams was honored in her hometown
of Rockford, Illinois at the 2013 I Love Gospel Music honors luncheon, which featured musical
tributes, including one by Sunday Best winner Amber Bullock. Philanthropy
In 2001, Williams made a “bountiful” donation of $148,900 to her church, St. Paul Church
of God in Christ in Rockford, Illinois – to which she has been a member since birth – to
finish construction of the church’s school, St. Paul Academy. The church is pastored by her uncle, Bishop
James E. Washington. In 2005, music producer David Foster, his
daughter Amy Foster-Gillies, and Knowles wrote “Stand Up for Love”, which would serve as
the anthem of World Children’s Day, an event which takes place annually around the world
on November 20 to raise awareness and funds for children’s causes worldwide. Destiny’s Child lent their voices and support
as global ambassadors for the 2005 World Children’s Day program. In this role, Knowles, Rowland and Williams
visited Ronald McDonald Houses around the world during their Destiny Fulfilled… and
Lovin’ It World Tour and donated a portion of their North American ticket sales to Ronald
McDonald House Charities. On September 19, 2006, Williams jump-started
the Chicago PepsiCo S.M.A.R.T. – which stands for five simple steps that encourage active
living and better food choices – program to promote active, healthy lifestyles by building
a new “Smart Spot” playground in Chicago. Williams, along with friend Lance Bass, was
on hand to sing to and greet kids at the opening of Camp Heartland, a camp dedicated to helping
kids suffering from HIV/AIDS enjoy life and take their mind off their illness. Furthermore, in 2006, the Chicago Sky, a team
in the Women’s National Basketball Association, announced that Williams, along with Mathew
Knowles, is part of a group of minority shareholder owners in the team. In 2012, she became an ambassador for the
American Heart Association’s Power to End Stroke campaign. In speaking of her role she said “I am honored
to partner with the campaign […] my father had a stroke in 2005 due to smoking, diabetes
and an unhealthy diet, and my grandmother was diagnosed with having a stroke in 2006
when she went to her doctor for a simple outpatient procedure. I am bringing awareness to people so that
strokes can be prevented. Let’s take care of ourselves…the first step
is knowledge about your health.” In 2014, Williams partnered with Hyundai’s
non-profit organisation, Hope on Wheels, ‘committed to finding a cure for childhood cancer’; which
has raised over $74,000,000 for the cause since its inception in 1998. Discography Heart to Yours
Do You Know Unexpected
Journey to Freedom Acting and television appearances
References External links
Michelle Williams – official website Michelle Williams at AllMusic
Michelle Williams at the Internet Broadway Database
Michelle Williams at the Internet Movie Database

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