Nadia Ali (Urdu: نادیہ علی; born August 3, 1980) is a Pakistani American singer-songwriter, born in Libya and raised in Queens, New York. She gained attention as the frontwoman and songwriter of the band iiO, after their 2001 hit "Rapture" reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The song also charted across several countries in Europe. Their 2006 single, "Is It Love?", reached the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart.
After embarking on a solo career in 2005, Ali became successful as an oft-requested vocalist in electronic dance music. She released her debut album Embers in 2009. Critics praised her unique songwriting, which combined electronica with ballads, Eastern and acoustic music. Three singles from the album reached the top-ten of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart, including the No. 1 hit, "Love Story". The song was also nominated at the 25th International Dance Music Awards at the Winter Music Conference, while "Fantasy" was nominated for a Grammy award.
In 2010, she released a remix compilation titled Queen of Clubs Trilogy to mark her decade-long career as a singer-songwriter. "Rapture" was re-released as the only single from the compilation and the song was once again a chart success in Europe. Ali released the single "Pressure" with Starkillers and Alex Kenji in 2011, which became a club and festival anthem and received an International Dance Music Award. She has also collaborated with several notable producers and DJs, such as Armin van Buuren, Schiller, BT and John Creamer & Stephane K. Ali is currently working on her second studio album titled Phoenix, which is due to be released in 2012.
1980–2005: Early life and iiO
Nadia Ali was born in Libya to Pakistani parents in 1980. The family relocated when she was five years old and she was subsequently raised in Queens, New York. An eight year old Ali used any opportunity she could get to sing after a friend heard her humming a Madonna song at school and complimented her. While continuing singing as a hobby and for the thrill of performing and receiving no formal vocal training, she had also started writing poems and songs for her friends by the time she was 15. As a teenager her interest in dance music developed after visiting nightclubs in Manhattan and inspired her to dream that she would one day be featured on one of the records playing in the club.
Ali started working in the New York offices of Versace when she was 17, where she attracted attention by singing at the Christmas parties. A colleague from Versace introduced her to producer Markus Moser, who was looking for a female singer to collaborate on some of his original production for a girl group in Germany. The two teamed up with Moser working on production, while Ali wrote the lyrics and vocals for the songs. Her first song was the single "Rapture", which she wrote in 30 minutes based on an encounter with an Australian nightclub patron. A demo of the song was first played at the New York club Twilo in 2001 and received early support from influential DJ Pete Tong who played the demo on his show on BBC Radio 1. The song eventually became an Ibiza favourite after support from prominent DJ's such as Sasha, Danny Tenaglia and Sander Kleinenberg during the summer season. Released in late 2001 by Ministry of Sound, the single became a commercial success peaking at No. 2 on UK Singles Chart and Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play Chart, while charting in several countries in Europe. The success of "Rapture", Ali said, caused the formation of iiO as the music they were initially working on was quite different from dance music and were asked to come up with a project name to promote the single. They originally named themselves Vaiio after the Sony VAIO laptop Ali used to write the lyrics on. The duo toured internationally and released several more singles, including "At the End", "Runaway", "Smooth", and "Kiss You". Their first studio album, Poetica followed in 2005.
Ali left the group in 2005 to pursue a solo career, while Moser continued to release iiO material featuring her on vocals. Most notably, these releases include the 2006 single "Is It Love?", which reached No. 1 in America on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart, the 2007 remix album Reconstruction Time: The Best Of iiO Remixed and the 2011 studio album Exit 110. When asked about her decision to pursue a solo career, she said her time with iiO was a great learning experience but she decided to leave because she didn't want to restrict herself to one style of music but explore her creativity and also to have the freedom to collaborate with others artists.
Her decision to pursue a career as a singer was not initially encouraged by her Pakistani parents who were academically inclined and wanted her to pursue a more stable career. She has said since then they have evolved and are one of her biggest supporters. Speaking of her identity as a Pakistani and Muslim woman, she has said it is very important to her to set an example that they are able to contribute positively and capable of taking their career into their own hands. Explaining further, she said that she feels it as her responsibility to any women who are sometimes stereotyped to show that they can contribute to arts or any professional field. Her ethnicity, she has stated, has been an advantage and helped her stand out in the entertainment industry. She has said that over the years, she has met South Asian women who have told her that her story has inspired them to pursue something they loved.
As of November 2010, Ali had begum working on her second studio album. A music video for the lead single from the album, "When It Rains", was released on her YouTube channel on August 17 2011 with a release date to be announced. She attributed the delay in the release of the album once again on her busy touring schedule citing the demand to perform live particularly in the United States. However, beginning in February 2012 she took 40 days off to finalise the album, which she said would be titled Phoenix. She chose the name as an allusion to what she felt was a relaunch of her career. Explaining the creative process behind the album, she said she chose to work with a mix of international producers in an effort to combine the North American understanding of good songwriting with the European expertise in production to create a high energy dance album catered for her dance music fans. She said she had tried to bring together the DJs who she had released songs with in the last few years to make one cohesive compilation. The theme of the album, she elaborated, was trying to get the listener to understand the "artist personality" and the singer-songwriter behind the music.
Her first release in 2012 was "This Is Your Life", the fourth single from Swiss DJ EDX's album On The Edge. That was followed by "Carry Me", a collaboration with Morgan Page on his third studio album, In the Air. In addition, Ali also collaborated with BT on a track for his upcoming album.