Latin Conference & Awards

Gia Farrell

"I've always wanted to be a household name," gushes 17-year-old Gia Farrell to Billboard.com when asked about her goals for the future. And judging by the way things are going, that's exactly what she

"I've always wanted to be a household name," gushes 17-year-old Gia Farrell to Billboard.com when asked about her goals for the future. And judging by the way things are going, that's exactly what she will be -- perhaps sooner than anyone expected.

Farrell's record label intended her debut single "Hit Me Up" to be, in the words of Atlantic's senior VP of marketing Livia Tortella, a "low-key introduction" of the up-and-comer to the market. But Farrell has the makings of a breakthrough song on her hands, entering Radio & Records' CHR/Top 40 chart at No. 40 with the effervescent cut, which appears on the soundtrack to the Warner Brothers animated feature film "Happy Feet."

Tortella says Atlantic planned to take its time with Farrell, having put together a "very organic rollout" for the artist that wasn't expected to generate a lot of noise until April 2007, when Farrell's first album and second single are due.

"A single tie-in is the best way to launch a pop artist because there's no pressure of introducing a whole album," Tortella says. But the "surprise" early success of "Hit Me Up" means the pressure is on now: "We want it to go all the way."

Farrell, however, doesn't seem to be feeling any of the stress that might come with breaking big at radio. "I just want to show the whole world I can do it. I'm very excited," declares the bubbly, happy-go-lucky teen. "I know it's going to get a lot busier, but I've been waiting for this my whole life."

If 17 years doesn't seem like too long a wait, it's worth noting that the New York native got started early — very early. "I was singing before I was talking," Farrell shares. As a youngster, she was crooning along to "real singers" such as "Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and, growing up a little more, Christina Aguilera" and by the tender age of 13 had appeared on "Star Search" and "Showtime at the Apollo" — experiences which Farrell feels helped prepare her for what she's doing today: performing non-stop. "I've had to fly every single day for the last five weeks, but I love going to all the different cities and the different radio stations. Performing is what it's all about for me."

When asked, Farrell says, "Mariah Carey is the vocalist I most look up to," and Tortella compares her young songster to the superstar: "She's got a lot in common with Mariah Carey in terms of her scope. She makes such a strong impression just walking into a room and singing with no back-up, with no production. She's a natural talent."

Farrell's vocal chops show on "Hit Me Up," which is in many ways reminiscent of Rihanna's Hot 100 topper "SOS," save for an incredibly amped-up tempo. Synth sweeps slice through a crisp, insistent four-on-the-floor beat while Farrell's voice struts flirtatiously around the verse and soars through the come-on chorus.

"I would like to see myself marketed as a lasting power," Farrell reveals. "I love to sing, I've been singing my whole life and I want to sing my whole life. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder."

If her label has anything to do with it, "Hit Me Up" won't be the first and last taste of success for Farrell: "We started the development process for Gia early, setting her up strategically. We're taking a long-term approach; she's a long-term talent."