Orianthi

Orianthi-03BOrianthi is an Australian-born (of Greek heritage) solo rock guitarist and pop/rock singer/songwriter. She was born Orianthi Panagaris in Adelaide on January 22, 1985. She is, perhaps, best known for being the lead guitarist chosen by Michael Jackson for his This Is It concert tour scheduled for 2009-2010. He contacted the young virtuoso after seeing her perform on stage with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards. She killed “Beat It” at her rehearsal and Michael hired her that day.Orianthi-02 But, sadly, Jackson died three weeks before the tour’s first show on June 25, 2009. Orianthi sang at his televised memorial and appeared in the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2009). She has shared the stage with many artists including her biggest inspiration Santana, Steve Vai, Prince, ZZ Top, and others; and, since 2011, she has been touring as the lead guitarist for Alice Cooper‘s band. Recently, she backed the Top 7 contestants on guitar during Rock Week on season 12 of American Idol, and joined Chris Brown on his song “Fine China” at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. But, in addition to working as a well-respected guitarist for hire, Orianthi has released 3 excellent solo albums, to date, on which she writes, sings and, obviously, plays guitar. All the greatest rock guitarists are gods (Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Page, Eric Clapton, etc), but, Orianthi stands proudly with those gods as a true rock guitar goddess. If you doubt her skills, then, watch Orianthi have “guitar sex” with Steve Vai in the video for their instrumental duet “Highly Strung” here:

Orianthi-01BOrianthi‘s debut album, Violet Journey, was independently-released, in Australia, in 2005, but, more widely distributed in 2007. Her guitar work, on this album, is most obviously influenced by Carlos Santana, particularly on tracks like the heartbreaking “Out of Reach” and the soulful “Here On Earth”, both ballads, and “Lights of Manos”, an instrumental.Orianthi-05 But, “Right Now” and the instrumental title track are riff-heavy hard rockers. My favorite track, however, is “Anybody Else”, Orianthi‘s intense declaration of undying love. The song begins with a Santana-esque guitar line, and a tribal-ish drum beat joins in. The beat never changes as Orianthi sings the verses, but pounds harder as a fuzzy guitar riff drives the anthemic chorus: “Cuz I don’t want anybody else but you / I know what to say but I don’t know how / I don’t wanna go thru the rest of my life without / You, my baby, no.” Then, the second verse begins with these great lines: “So what am I about to do? / Put my heart out on the line for you / So what’s the point of keepin’ it / If it already belongs to you.” Where was this song when I was in high school so I could’ve added it to a mixtape for Tracy or Mary Louise or Vickie or whoever I thought I was in love with at the time?!

Orianthi-04BOrianthi was signed by Geffen and, in 2007, re-located to L.A. to record her second solo album, Believe, which was eventually released in 2009. The first single, “According To You”, is the only original track not written or co-written by Orianthi,Orianthi-06 and its tweeny pop/rock sound is a little out of place. However, it is undeniably catchy, and not bad for what it is. At the other end of the pop/rock spectrum, “What’s It Gonna Be”, “Bad News” and “Highly Strung” are excellent harder rockers. And, in between, are awesome originals like “Untogether” and “Drive Away”, and cool covers like “Suffocated”, originally recorded by PA pop/rockers Sound the Alarm. The poppy title track, too, is a cover of a song originally by popular Danish singer Niels Brinck. But, like her debut, one song, for me, stands out above the rest. “Feels Like Home” is a heartfelt account of Orianthi‘s move from Australia to L.A, and it has made many mix discs and playlists of mine since 2009. It’s an amazing song, but it wasn’t even a single! So, watch her perform “Feels Like Home” live here:

And, watch the video for “According To You” here:

Believe was re-released in 2010 as Believe (II) with four new tracks replacing three (“Untogether”, “Drive Away” and another favorite, “God Only Knows”) from the original. But, the new tracks are all good. “Shut Up & Kiss Me”, the second single, is similar to “According To You”Orianthi-07 except that Orianthi co-wrote it, so it seems more genuine. “Courage”, which features Lacey from Flyleaf, is an uplifting pop/rocker (perfect for Lacey’s Christian values), while “Addicted To Love” is a hard rocker with a “Beat It”-like groove. She learns from the people she admires or works with like Michael Jackson, Carlos Santana, and even Carrie Underwood (more on that later). The last new track is a cool cover of John Waite‘s 1984 hit “Missing You”. Purchase Believe (II) from iTunes to get the bonus track, “Find It”, then, download the 3 missing tracks on Believe. Oh, and don’t forget “Now or Never” from the Bratz soundtrack (2007). Perfect. Now, watch the videos for “Shut Up & Kiss Me” and “Courage (feat. Lacey of Flyleaf)” here:


Orianthi‘s latest album, Heaven In This Hell, was released in 2013 with production courtesy of Dave Stewart (ex-Eurhythmics) who also co-wrote most of the songs with Orianthi. According to an interview in Guitar World magazine, her main inspirations for this release were modern country and blues. And, this album is split down the middle between those two genres, but, mixed with rock, of course.Orianthi-08 On the blues rock side, the first two singles, “Frozen” and “Heaven In This Hell”, are riff-heavy Led Zeppelin-ish hard rockers that recall the sound of Dead Sara. “Fire” and “Filthy Blues” are similar in style, while “How Do You Sleep?” is a bluesier blues rocker, and “How Does That Feel?” is kind of like soul. On the country-ish pop/rock side, “If U Think U Know Me” is a favorite that seems to have been written just to be played in concert: “So if you think that you know me / Put your hands up and show me / So I don’t feel so alone babe / While I sing my song” she sings, as the crowd raises their hands, swaying. “If U Were Here With Me”, “Another You” and “Rock” are some of those heartbreaking ballads that country artists do so well, while “Better With You” is twangy upbeat country pop. Finally, “You Don’t Wanna Know” is a mix of blues and country that recalls Carrie Underwood‘s “Before He Cheats”, sort of.

Watch Orianthi perform “Frozen” live here:

And, watch the video for “Heaven In This Hell” here:

Orianthi-09Orianthi (Solo) Discography
2007.06.04 – Violet Journey [Album]
2009.10.26 – Believe (Geffen) [Album]
2010.06.08 – Believe (II) (Geffen) [Album]
2013.03.12 – Heaven In This Hell (Robo Records) [Album]

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4 responses to “Orianthi

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