First garnering attention as the powerhouse vocalist in the influential early 1980s synth-pop duo Yazoo, Alison Moyet became a mainstream pop star in her native England later that decade, scoring hits like "Love Resurrection" and "All Cried Out." Following a difficult period marked by ongoing litigation with her record label, Moyet matured into an eclectic artist who made her creative decisions without attempting to fit into commercial trends.
Geneviève Alison Jane Moyet, the daughter of a French father and English mother, was born and raised in Essex, northwest of London. Her hometown of Basildon was primarily a sleepy commuter suburb for people who worked in London; therefore, when punk hit the UK in 1976, bored Basildon teenagers like 15-year-old Alison Moyet were ready for the excitement. After leaving school at 16, Moyet delved into Basildon's post-punk music scene, fronting a number of short-lived local bands and developing a commanding, R&B-driven vocal style. During this period, the biggest band to come out of Basildon was a group of teenagers bearing synthesizers called Depeche Mode, whose debut album Speak and Spell (1981) spawned a number of chart hits. But the band's primary songwriter, Vince Clarke, was unhappy with their creative direction and left shortly after that album was released.
Clarke and Moyet quickly joined forces to form the duo Yazoo, named for the American blues reissue label whose records Moyet collected. (Due to that trademark infringement, the duo were known as Yaz in the United States.) Yazoo were a striking departure from most of their synth-pop peers, due in large part to Moyet's powerfully soulful voice, as heard on hit singles like tender ballad "Only You" and dance club favorite "Situation." Their debut Upstairs At Eric's (1982) reached #2 in the British album charts and was a word of mouth hit in the United States, but the personal relationship between Moyet and Clarke was always strained, and prior to the release of the follow-up You and Me Both (1983), Yazoo announced their split. (Clarke went on to form a short-lived duo, The Assembly, with Yazoo producer E.C. Radcliffe, for whom Upstairs At Eric's had been named, then teamed with singer Andy Bell in the chart-topping Erasure.)
Signing to CBS Records, Moyet left post-punk and synth-pop behind and became a mainstream pop star. Her debut solo album Alf (1984) was titled with her punk-era nickname, but it was a slickly-produced pop-soul record featuring a hit single, "Invisible," written by former Motown hitmaker Lamont Dozier, that reached the Billboard Top 40. The album spawned two other charting singles in Moyet's homeland, "Love Resurrection" and "All Cried Out." Her follow-up, Raindancing (1987), was equally successful in Britain but was less so in the United States, where Moyet became more of a cult favorite. Growing increasingly resistant to label demands that she work with big-name songwriters and producers to create hit records, Moyet's next release was Hoodoo (1991), a more stripped-down album influenced by the records of Kirsty MacColl, whose musical partner Pete Glenister produced the album and co-wrote most of the songs with Moyet. Though the album was well-reviewed, it didn't fare as well commercially as her earlier solo efforts.
Glenister returned for the follow-up album Essex (1994), although the label insisted that several tracks be re-recorded by Ian Broudie, who had recently scored several hit singles with his band The Lightning Seeds. When the album failed to perform commercially despite the interference, Moyet became entangled in an eight-year court battle with Sony Music to extricate herself from her contract. During this period, she released no new material of her own, but occasionally recorded and performed live with other artists. In 2001, she made her West End debut in a revival of the musical "Chicago," playing prison matron "Mama" Morton for a six-month stint.
Freed from her Sony contract at last, Moyet returned to the studio for Hometime (2002), a trip-hop influenced album that became one of the year's best-selling releases by a British artist and was nominated for both a BRIT Award and a Mercury Music Prize. Moyet followed this success with Voice (2004), an orchestral collection of covers arranged and produced by Moyet's friend and neighbor, Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley, that featured songs by composers ranging from Bizet to Elvis Costello. In 2006, Moyet returned to the stage to co-star with longtime friend Dawn French in a play called "Smaller." Three songs from that play appeared on The Turn (2007), a reunion with Glenister, who co-produced and co-wrote the entire album. Moyet briefly reunited with Vince Clarke for a series of live dates as Yazoo to celebrate the release of the retrospective box set In Your Room (2008). In 2013, Moyet returned from another extended layoff with The Minutes, a dark, moody collaboration with electronic producer Guy Sigsworth that received both the highest sales and best reviews she had received since the mid-1980s.