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Born in Sydney, Australia on February 4, 1975, Natalie Imbruglia first studied dance as a teenager, but she soon turned toward acting, appearing in commercials for Coca-Cola and Twisties before she turned 16. She landed her starring role on Neighbours in 1992 and she stayed with the show until 1994, after which she relocated to London with the intention of pursuing a singing career. After recording a four-song demo at the behest of her manager that included an early version of "Torn," RCA/BMG signed Imbruglia in 1996. The label released "Torn" in November 1997 and it became an immediate hit in the U.K., peaking at two and selling over a million copies. The song soon turned into an international sensation, reaching the Top Ten throughout Europe and Australia; although it only reached 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. (partially due to the lack of a CD single being released in the States), it topped the Billboard Airplay chart and stayed on that chart for weeks. Over the years, "Torn" remained a radio staple worldwide, breaking records in Australia and the U.K. in particular. The later singles "Big Mistake" reached the Top Ten in both the U.K. and Australia, while "Wishing I Was There" reached 19 and 24 in the U.K. and Australia, respectively.
Driven by the success of "Torn," Imbruglia's November 1997 full-length debut Left of the Middle was also hugely popular, topping the chart in Australia and becoming a Top 10 hit in the U.K. (where it was certified platinum) and the U.S. (where it was certified double platinum). Selling over seven million copies worldwide, it became the best-selling debut album from a female Australian singer. Imbruglia won several ARIA awards, including Best Female Artist, while "Torn" won the Single of the Year award and Left of the Middle won Best Pop Release. She also won the Brit Awards for International Newcomer and International Female Solo Artist, and earned Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Torn," and Best New Artist.
After recording a cover of INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart" with Tom Jones for his 1999 album Reload, Imbruglia returned with her second album, White Lilies Island, in November 2001. Named for the singer's home in Windsor, it featured her as a co-writer on every track and offered a slightly moodier style than Left of the Middle. Supported by the singles "That Day" (a top 20 hit in the U.K.) and "Wrong Impression" (a top 10 hit in the U.K. and the U.S.), White Lilies Island was certified gold in Australia and the U.K., it was a commercial disappointment in the U.S. Imbruglia recorded a third album for BMG in 2003 but the label chose not to release it. After she appeared in the film Johnny English, Imbruglia and BMG parted ways in 2004. She then signed with Brightside Recordings, which released Counting Down the Days in April 2005. A more traditional pop album than its predecessor, it featured production and songwriting contributions from Gary Clark, Eg White, Ben Hillier, Ash Howes, and Daniel Johns. The album topped the U.K. Albums Chart and was certified gold, while its first single, "Shiver," was a number eight hit there, becoming her biggest single in the U.K. since "Torn."
The compilation Glorious: The Singles 97-07 followed in 2007 and was another U.K. hit, debuting at number five. Imbruglia then separated from Brightside, signing with Island for the October 2009 album Come to Life. With contributions from Coldplay's Chris Martin, Brian Eno, and Daniel Johns, it was a splashy, ambitious affair but its commercial performance was poor, and Imbruglia took a break from music. In 2010, Imbruglia joined the Australian version of The X Factor as a judge; she also appeared in the U.K. version in a guest capacity. She performed in several films, including 2013's Underdogs and the following year's Among Ravens. Also in 2014, she appeared in a U.K. production of the Alan Ayckbourn play Things We Do for Love.
Imbruglia returned to music in July 2015 with Male. Her first album in six years and her first to be released in the U.S. since White Lilies Island, it was a collection of covers by male singer/songwriters that marked her first album for Sony Masterworks. The album reached number 20 in the U.K. and number 25 in Australia, and Imbruglia supported Male with tours in 2017 and 2018. During this time, she appeared on the television shows First Contact and Who Do You Think You Are?, and in 2019 she gave birth to her son. That year, she signed with her original label BMG and headed to the studio with collaborators including the Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr. and the band's frequent producer Gus Oberg, as well as Romeo Stodart, KT Tunstall, and White. Arriving in September 2021, Firebird was an eclectic set that featured the optimistic single "Build It Better." ~ Heather Phares & Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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