"Ivan Diller writes a monthly column, "Ivan's Den," for the
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Corina1.jpg (13322 bytes)           When you think of how Freestyle music charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, there isn’t much to ponder. Very few true Freestyle songs cracked the Hot 100, let alone the top 50. Sure, the ballads of girl-groups Sweet Sensation and the Cover Girls placed high on the charts, but it was one Freestyle song that made a real impact on mainstream America. The year was 1991, and it was Corina’s "Temptation" that landed itself in the Top Ten. Already considered a Freestyle diva with three prior singles under her belt, it was "Temptation" that catapulted the young singer to greater heights.

Born to Puerto Rican parents in the late 1960s and raised on the streets of the Bronx and Spanish Harlem, the gorgeous, raven-haired Corina had an early knack for entertaining. "When I was little, like five or six-years-old, I was really shy, extremely shy," explains Corina, "and I would lock myself in my room and play my mother’s records. I would perform in front of the mirror for hours." Noticing her daughter’s abilities, Corina’s mother enrolled her in voice lessons and ballet classes and entered her into many different talent contests. When she was a pre-teen, Corina began working in the recording studio with different producers, but without any real progress. Not sure which direction her career would take, Corina’s father insisted that she continue her formal education while pursuing her singing career. "I’m also good with details and I’m big on defending people," Corina says. "The only other thing I could’ve been is a lawyer."

While studying criminal law in college, Corina was still pounding the pavement trying to get a break. "I was having a really tough time breaking into the business as a Latina who basically sounded white," Corina remembers. In 1987 her luck started to change. Through mutual friends, Corina met Pepper Negron who became her manager. It was an introduction by Pepper to Carlos Berrios that really got the ball rolling. "Carlos played a song for me that I didn’t particularly care for at the time," explains Corina. "I said to him, ‘If I can write on it and fix it so that it fits me, then I’ll do it,’ and it turned into ‘Out of Control.’" Signed to Cutting Records, "Out of Control" became Corina’s first Freestyle hit. The song can still be found today on any number of Freestyle compilations, as it is considered an old school classic.

In 1988, Corina recorded and released "Give Me Back My Heart," offering many listeners a first look at the singer. "Out of Control" was released as a picture-less 12"-single, while "Give Me Back My Heart" offered a glam photo of the singer, donned in a black wig and thigh-high boots, standing in an abandoned church. Produced by T.K. Rodriguez, "Give Me Back My Heart," coincidentally, could be the sequel to "Out of Control." If "Out of Control" is about the desperation of a woman whose relationship has ended, then "Give Me Back My Heart" is the response, with Corina as the heroine demanding to be set free from an abusive situation. Equally, if not more successful as her debut single, "Give Me Back My Heart" offered Corina an appearance on the long-lost freestyle television show "Latin Connection," and a starring role in the never-released film Street Dreams, alongside Marc Anthony and the legendary Iris Chacon.

After the success of "Give Me Back My Heart," Freestylers were clamoring for Corina’s next release. Unfortunately, it was a long wait before Cutting Records released another Corina song. In 1990 the wait was over as "Loving You Like Crazy" was released. Produced by Aldo Marin, "Loving You Like Crazy" became Corina’s third consecutive hit, and like "Give Me Back My Heart," spawned its own separate 12-inch house remix.

While her first three singles were hugely successful in markets such as New York and Miami, it wasn’t until Corina re-teamed with Carlos Berrios that she achieved her greatest commercial success. "Carlos and I fought after ‘Out of Control,’" Corina recalls with a smile, "and then four years later, he called and said, ‘Let’s do a song together.’" Continuing, she says, "‘Temptation’ was a song I played for him before "Out of Control" and he liked it but didn’t know what to do with it. We put it away and he still had it four years later." Still unsure about pulling the song from her archives, Corina needed some prodding before she agreed. "Carlos said to me, ‘If you don’t do it, can I have it for Lisette [Melendez],’" Corina offers. "I said, well let me see what you’re doing with it first, and I went in and he was coming up with this sound called "new school." He played Lisette’s "Together Forever" for me, which hadn’t been released yet, and said "Temptation" was going to be in that vein."

Corina agreed to record "Temptation," but soon after, she and Berrios were, once again, at odds. "The best stuff I’ve ever done was with Carlos," she explains. "It’s material that no one has ever heard because either he has it, or I have it, and we’ve never released it because we can’t seem to get along outside of working. It’s funny because it’s from the deep anger that the wonderful work comes out, but outside of that the records are never released because we want to kill each other, yet we have this intense love for each other," Corina muses about their tempestuous relationship.

Immediately after "Temptation’s" release, which was five months later than "Together Forever" due to delays in paperwork by Cutting, Corina took a lot of heat about the similarities between the two songs. "Beside the fact that we don’t sound at all the same, and we’re completely different, there were all the comparisons," Corina notes of that period. "What people don’t understand is that it was Carlos’s sound, not mine, nor Lisette’s." Still, with 285 radio stations across the country adding the song, "Temptation" peaked at number six on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1991. Even with all the negative comparisons, Corina notes, "I wound up with what I thought was a great song. It was the highest-charting song I ever had, and it supposedly was one of the dance records that went the furthest from that genre of music."

With an album in the can for Cutting Records, the major labels came knocking to sign the "unknown" with the Top Ten hit. Corina’s self-titled debut album was released by Cutting and Atco Records in 1991. A video for "Temptation" was produced that remains one of Corina’s proudest achievements. "Whispers" and "Now That You’re Gone" were, respectively, the second and third singles released from Corina, and although they didn’t chart as high as "Temptation" were still widely successful. Success wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be for the young and somewhat naive Corina. "I’ve suffered immensely over the years, even while I had success," she proclaims. "During the most success I’ve had, I cried all the time because I was really unhappy. To everyone else I was having all this success, but it wasn’t in the direction I wanted to be in." Continuing, Corina admits, "Atco didn’t have a clue who I was. To them I was just another Latin girl from the South Bronx who got lucky. They were used to dealing with "artists" who didn’t know anything about business, and refused to accept that I wasn’t one of them."

The video for "Whispers" was considered "big-budget" at the time, being filmed in a castle with elaborate sets and costumes. A video wasn’t produced for "Now That You’re Gone" as that single was released just as Atco Records was undergoing major management changes. The redirection of the label to R&B and changing its name to East/West Records forced Corina to reevaluate whether she wanted to stay on and possibly be made to record music she didn’t feel comfortable singing. Opting not to do that, Corina asked to be released from her contract.

As radio stations began dropping freestyle music from their playlists, Corina and many other freestyle artists found themselves label-less, and without an outlet for their music to be heard. Fortunately, though, for fans, a call from former Latin Rascal Albert Cabrera led to Corina recording "Constant Craving (I Need You)" for his compilation album entitled Trip Hop Dance 2000.

Soon after, Corina was offered the opportunity to remake Nocera’s popular classic, "Summertime Summertime" to appear on Def Jam’s So So Def Bass AllStars Volume II, an offer she accepted, but not without hesitation. "At first I didn’t want to do it," says Corina, "because all these years I’ve been trying to make my music grow with me." Agreeing only on the condition that she’d be able to record a Spanish version, Corina grew disappointed with how the song was going to be marketed. Adamant that she didn’t want to do a "booty" video, Corina insisted on including all races in the video as to not alienate any of her fans. Unhappy with the way it was shot, Corina asked Columbia Records not to release the video for which they replied, "Honey, we spent a lot of money on this, it’s coming out." Clips from the Corina shoot were mixed in with leftover clips from the "My Boo" video to create the video for "Summertime Summertime." Laughs Corina, "The video came out, a huge old pool party going on, and none of my Latin and white friends are at the party. And I love all people, but it couldn’t be a one-sided party." Continuing, Corina notes, "A lot of the dance sequences we did on the beach were cut out because I had ‘gay dancers.’ I fought fiercely with So So Def about it. I was honest and told them that I am a proud Latin female with a large Latino and Caucasian following. I reminded them that I did the single because they wanted to expose themselves to that."

Not a total fiasco, "Summertime Summertime" allowed longtime fans to see and hear the singer again after a break that lasted a couple of years. And for Corina, singing the song in Spanish was a tribute to her roots, but she won’t be following in the footsteps of many former freestyle artists by recording a Latin album. "I had the opportunity to do a Salsa album in 1989," she recalls fondly, "but I said ‘no’ because at the time I held onto memories of my mother playing it really loud on Saturday mornings, waking me up and annoying me as I tried to sleep." All kidding aside, she adds, "The truth is, I wasn’t going to do it just because I needed the money, and at the time, it would’ve been the only reason I would’ve done it."

In 1999, Corina, under the moniker Corina Katt, will be featured in the Tim Robbins film Cradle Will Rock, where she portrays artist Frida Kahlo in an all-star cast that includes Ruben Blades, Susan Sarandon, Vanessa Redgrave, Bill Murray and sibling actors John and Joan Cusack.

Being the hard-working entertainer she is, Corina has also been busy laying down tracks for an upcoming top-secret recording project that she refuses to divulge any information about. No longer the young, starry-eyed girl from the inner city, Corina has grown into a powerful woman, with strong beliefs in Karma. "When you get older, things change," Corina says. "I’ve learned some hard lessons, but I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Ivncora.jpg (13789 bytes)
Ivan Diller & Corina

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