Aldo Nova

Aldo Nova didn't rack up many hits -- just two, in fact, both housed on his eponymous debut album from 1982. Neither "Fantasy" nor "Foolin' Yourself" cracked the Top Ten -- the latter peaked at 23, the former didn't make it into the Top 40 -- but they, along with the rest of the record, provided a blueprint for the hard rock of the '80s. Nova melded the powerful thrust of arena rock with sharp pop hooks, thickening his music with layers of guitars while also embracing the futuristic textures of synths. This blend could be heard on "Fantasy," which hinted at the hair metal that would dominate the pop charts a few years later, while "Foolin' Yourself" channeled all this energy into a trailblazing power ballad. Nova didn't come close to matching his creative or commercial success as a recording artist, but that was partially due to his decision to retreat from the spotlight and work in the studio. During the '80s and '90s, he worked with fellow hard rockers Lita Ford and Jon Bon Jovi -- he contributed heavily to the latter's 1990 solo debut Blaze of Glory -- as mainstream rock began to adapt his innovations. But Nova found his greatest commercial success as a songwriter and producer for Celine Dion, earning a Grammy for her 1996 album Falling Into You. This success allowed Nova to be picky with his projects, but he eventually returned to his own recording career in 2018 with the release of 2.0. Born Aldo Caporuscio in Montreal, Canada, Nova learned guitar when he was 15 years old, inspired equally by Jimi Hendrix and jazz. There wasn't an aspect of the music business he ignored. While he cut his teeth in local clubs, he also played George Harrison in a production of Beatlemania, spending his extra hours working as a studio engineer. Eventually, he landed a publishing deal, which led to a 1982 contract with Portrait Records. Portrait allowed Nova to produce his own 1982 debut, which resulted in the album sounding unlike most other hard rock on the radio at that time. "Fantasy" hit at precisely the right moment, burning up the AOR rock charts but also receiving heavy play on MTV. This helped "Fantasy" reach the Billboard Top 40, climbing to number 23 while making it all the way to three on their Mainstream Rock chart. The album's second single, the power ballad "Fooling Yourself," reached 65 on the Hot 100, but Aldo Nova had legs, earning its first platinum certification in 1989 and a second in 1994. Nova had a difficult time capitalizing on this success. On his 1983 sequel Subject…Aldo Nova, the guitarist ratcheted up the synthesizers and tied together the songs with a vague concept, conceits that made the album feel vaguely New Wave. "Monkey on Your Back," the album's lead single, went to 12 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, but "Always Be Mine" couldn't get past 107. The album nevertheless managed to earn Gold certification in 1994. The record label intervened during the recording of 1985's Twitch to help steer him back onto the charts but it didn't help: the album stiffed upon its release. After its commercial failure, Nova asked to be let out of his contract with Portrait; his time with the label would be wrapped up with the release of the 1991 compilation, A Portrait of Aldo Nova. At that point, Nova decided to recede from the spotlight. He chose to work as a session musician, producer, and professional songwriter, areas where he was experienced. During his ascent on the charts, he appeared on records by Michael Bolton and Blue Oyster Cult, but by 1984, he also was working on records by Lita Ford and Bon Jovi. The latter proved to be a crucial connection. In 1990, he played on Jon Bon Jovi's solo debut, Blaze of Glory, where he helped come up with the title track's lead riff. Bon Jovi had a history with Nova -- Nova appears on the 1984 debut by Jon's band -- and the rocker paid it forward six years later, signing Nova to his Jambco imprint and releasing Blood on the Bricks, but the record didn't go anywhere commercially, nor did the 1997 album Nova's Dream. Of greater importance to Nova in the late 1990s was his collaboration with Celine Dion. He worked with the singer on some of her first albums, co-writing the song "A New Day Has Come," and the collaboration continued through her 1996 album Falling Into You. He produced part of the album, taking home a Grammy Award when it won Album of the Year in 1996. Another Grammy arrived when he worked with Latin rock group La Ley on Uno, which won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album in 2001. In 2003, he co-wrote "This Is the Night," which became a hit for Clay Aiken after he won American Idol. Nova was firmly a behind-the-scenes artist by the 2000s, working as a producer and songwriter, toiling away on a rock opera called The Life and Times of Eddie Gage for the better part of a decade. Instead of releasing that, Nova mounted a comeback in 2018 with 2.0, an album where he offered new versions of his old hits. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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