If you don't like kid singers who sound like kids (Donny Osmond used to sound like one, and Michael Jackson still does) then maybe you can handle kid singers who sound like adults. There aren't a lot of those, but LeAnn Rimes, who hit the big time on the country charts at age 13, has formed an enduring career as an adult despite being a teen sensation.
Rimes (who spells her name LeAnn, even if you spell it Leeann) was Mississippi-born and Texas-raised, which accounts for her country leanings but does not explain her early success. What got her a toehold in music was a set of motivated parents, who could tell early on that LeAnn was bound for stardom. From talent contests to recording an album at age 11, LeAnn Rimes was putting it all together early on.
When a Dallas DJ heard her album, he decided to help groom her for a major career. A song he had written, 'Blue,' seemed like the perfect vehicle for Rimes. Soon Mack had found her a string of gigs, and she was selling tickets across Texas. The exposure enabled Mack to get his protege a contract with Curb Records, and 'Blue' became the title song of her first major album.
The mystique that led to huge initial sales of Blue stemmed from Mack's assertion that he had written 'Blue' for Patsy Cline in the early 1960s. Logic would state that LeAnn Rimes was going to be the next Patsy Cline, and indeed the styling of Blue owed a lot to Cline's work. While some critics said that the straightforward traditional country of the album would not have sold in 1996 if LeAnn were not 13, it did indeed sell, including more than 120,000 copies in its first week of release, a record number.
Since the music was solidly produced (by LeAnn's father, Wilbur Rimes) and the voice was angelic, no one really minded that her age was a selling point. An interesting juxtaposition had 78-year-old Eddy Arnold performing a duet with LeAnn of his legendary hit, 'Cattle Call,' on the album. Her yodeling ability made the song work, and the overall feel of the album earned Rimes the 1996 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. It was no surprise that she also took home the Grammy for Best New Artist that year, as Blue dominated the pop album chart as well as the country chart.
In her later teens, LeAnn Rimes experienced some of the growing pains associated with getting famous fast. Her parents divorced, and LeAnn became somewhat sulky about meeting the press and her fans. Eventually she sued her father, who was in charge of her production company, for $7 million. They settled the lawsuit amicably, and everything is back on track for LeAnn's career.
After a string of successful country albums and tours that led to enormous sales of tickets, LeAnn Rimes explored the pop scene on her 2002 album, Twisted Angel. Without giving up any of the country power of her voice, she bridged the same divide that Shania Twain did, to delight her fans with a new, crisp sound. Now, at her shows, you get to hear her best country work and her new groove, so your tickets are twice as valuable.