Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Growing Up Sheik

On his 2002 album Daylight, musician Duncan Sheik proclaimed he was a genius. He may have been half-kidding, but he might not have been all wrong.

There are few breeds of pop star who rise to experience a well-rounded and complete evolution in the contemporary music industry. To begin as a one-hit-wonder, fade into the obscurity of niche markets and reemerge as a two-time Tony award winning composer – all while preserving true artistic integrity – is not a common career path.

You may remember Sheik solely as the radio pop prince who sang “Barely Breathing” back in 1996. Although his debut album heard Grammy buzz and his hit song proved its sustainability on the Billboard hot 100 for an impressive 55 weeks, his desires lay in territories that have now proven to possess a more non-fleeting nature. That is, he’s made an incredible musical crossover and a killing in the world of theatre.

“Spring Awakening,” Broadway’s eight Tony award winning gold-mine, is the brainchild of Sheik and cohort Steven Sater. The musical deals with teenagers floundering through sexual and social anxieties in a repressed community, and is uniquely set to a folk rock score. The contemporary “Spring Awakening” is based on Frank Wedekind’s 19th century German play of the same title. How could a German play about 14-year-olds finding themselves and their sexualities be relevant to our society in any way? History repeats itself.

“I do think that it’s important that these issues be dealt with in a way that is appropriate,” Sheik says. “[It] will effectively help young people make the transition from being an adolescent to a young adult. I think ‘Spring Awakening’ speaks to that issue and it shows that whether it’s 1891 or 2007, [things] still haven’t changed.”

While the old and new worlds of musical theatre have welcomed him with open arms, he confesses he was “reluctant to get involved in [a] musical.”

“I was worried about it being bad,” Sheik says.

In retrospect, Sheik would most definitely agree that deciding to do musical theatre was a brilliant career move. Yet, through his resurgence of notoriety, he has not lost his vision of purpose as an artist.

“At the end of the day, you just want to do good work and you want to do work that’s culturally relevant,” Sheik says. “And for me, I wanted to do work that was relevant to young people.”

Since his days doing of doing pop songs, Sheik has continued to connect with a young audience. Although he isn’t the radio star the public once saw him as, he hasn’t entirely abandoned performing.

Sheik came to South Florida for a rare performance – usually when he visits the area he’s spending time with his mother in Hobe Sound. “It’s nice to play shows and not golf, ’cause my Mom kicks my ass… on the golf course,” Sheik says.

For a couple of hours, Sheik performed old favorites such as “Barely Breathing” along with newer experimentations as if he had never left the stage. The crowd at West Palm Beach’s The Theatre warmly interacted with Sheik, and when he came out for his encore, the audience yelled songs at him hoping he would indulge their cravings. Although the performer offered a disclaimer that he wouldn’t fully remember the lyrics, he gave in and, with the help of a 20-something fan, got through all of the verses, choruses and the bridge of “On A High.”

After his mini-tour wraps, what will Sheik sink his teeth into next? With Sater, he is working on two more theatrical musicals, “Nero” and “The Nightingale.” They will also be developing a modern musical film revolving around “Twelfth Night,” an appropriate next step as other musical movies such as “Hairspray” and “Dreamgirls” have recently scored big at the box office.

If multiple new collaborations with Sater aren’t enough to focus on, add at least two brand new albums, including a self-described “second English new wave invasion” cover album and recordings with his fresh band, The I Love You, plus numerous other undertakings he’s hiding in his back pocket.

Sheik’s now extremely well-rounded career proves the importance of being versatile in the changing-at-the-speed-of-light music industry many artists call home. What advice did he have for young aspirants?

“Serve yourself,” Sheik says. “Find your own individual voice.”

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