In her heart – and in her teen bedroom – Loren Allred (shown here) was the next Mariah Carey.
And in real life? For a while, she was the next Marni Nixon … or Kasey Cisyk … or someone else we keep hearing and liking, without knowing her name.
Now that’s changing, one continent at a time, as people recognize her as the soaring voice doing “Never Enough,” in the 2017 film, “The Greatest Showman.” First, she reached the finals of “Britain’s Got Talent”; now she’ll sing in “A Capitol Fourth,” PBS’ annual mega-concert, at 8 and 9:30 p.m. July 4.
Other top talent will be there, including Yolanda Adams, Darren Criss, Gloria Gaynor, Andy Grammer, Emily Bear, Keb’ Mo’ and a 65th-anniversary tribute to “West Side Story”; few, however, can match Allred’s mixture of triumph and obscurity.
That sort of started when she was a teen. “One of my cousins loved Mariah Carey and I heard her for the first time …. I thought, ‘Where did this voice come from?’”
It came from almost the same place as Allred’s – someone who grew up in a pop-music world, but had a mother with a classical voice. Carey’s mom was an opera singer; Allred’s was a classical soprano.
So Allred performed – but rarely in public. “I just locked myself in my room and sang.”
Her dad conducted choirs – first in Pittsburgh (where she was born) and then in Utah, where she went to high school and started college, before switching to Berklee in Boston.
At times, she was on the edge of being noticed. Adam Levine chose her for “The Voice,” but she was ousted in the first round. Ne-Yo liked her video, leading to a record deal that went nowhere.
Then a friend was doing “reference recordings,” the sort that movie stars listen to, while preparing their own renditions. “She wasn’t able to do one, so she suggested me.”
That job led to another, preparing the “Greatest Showman” songs. Allred recorded several, including “Never Enough,” which was supposed to be sung by Rebecca Ferguson. After hearing the spectacular vocals, Ferguson said she would simply lip-sync that version. “She changed my life,” Allred said.
In the old days, that might have been the end of it; “ghost singers” were uncredited and unnoticed:
— Nixon sang the lead roles in the original “West Side Story” movie and in “My Fair Lady,” “The King and I” and more. She’s listed five times in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movie songs … but had to fight for credit and compensation.
— Cisyk did the singing (lip-synced by Didi Conn) for the “You Light Up My Life” movie, but was ignored by the producer/songwriter. His production of the title-song single, sung by Debby Boone, was No. 1 on Billboard’s chart for 10 weeks; Cisyk’s single was No. 80.
That could have happened to Allred, who was still partly that teen locked in her room. “It took me a.’ while to be my own self – to figure out why I was so shy.”
Fortunately, others nudged her along. “I got this call, ‘Hey, it’s Michael Buble.’ He sounded exactly like you would expect him to.”
He wanted to record a duet of “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” a Kris Kristofferson classic she was unaware of. “I asked when and he said, ‘Well, tomorrow.’ I dropped everything and flew there.”
Buble raved about Allred afterward, calling her “my vocal crush” and saying this helped him “remember why I love making music.” Others soon joined in. David Foster included her in his tour and his PBS special; Andrea Bocelli did duets with her in concert – after some nudges. “His 12-year-old daughter said, ‘You need to get the girl who sang it in the movie.’”
Now Allred is ready for the next phase. On July 4, she sings “Never Enough” on the Capitol lawn; the next day, she’ll release her single of “The Last Thing I’ll Ever Need,” a powerhouse song she wrote.
That’s from an album, already out, called “Late Bloomer.” Except Allred, 32, is only late by Britney Spears/Debbie Gibson standards. By Marni Nixon/Kasey Cisyk standards, she’s blooming quickly.