After Now United auditions, Emirati singer Alya is going solo: 'I haven’t looked back'

The Dubai artist has just released her debut single and signed with a major record label

Sometimes, defeat can pay off.

As well as being an early lesson on the competitive nature of the music industry, 15-year-old singer Alya Al Ali's unsuccessful attempt to join the global pop group Now United allowed her to shine in her own spotlight.

A month after finishing runner-up to Nour Ardakani in the final audition, the Emirati-British talent – who performs under the name Alya – hit back with a trio of achievements by releasing her debut single Hung Up, an accompanying music video and signing with major record label Universal.

Speaking to The National, Alya says being a solo artist is a much better fit for her career plans.

"It was amazing to be part of that whole Now United audition experience. It did give me a real look at the work that is done to create a successful group like that," she says. "But I was already working on my solo career way before that, and they contacted me to audition. So to be back doing my own thing is really where I am most comfortable."

Expert advice from mum

Just because Alya is calling the shots once again doesn’t mean she is not getting great advice.

While Now United is guided by Spice Girls mentor and manager Simon Fuller, Alya seeks the experienced help of her mother, Chloe Butler.

A seasoned British singer for more than three decades, Butler was a regular performer in UAE clubs and venues. It is her mother's tips in the studio booth that Alya credits for achieving the winning harmonies in Hung Up.

“She would tell me when I could do better,” she says. “She knows how things should go but, at the same time, she is supportive and allows me express myself in the way I need to.”

A music video for all ages

Part of which was coming up with the concept for the music video. With the song focusing on a teenage crush going sour, the production is set in a bowling alley where Alya and her former flame are coyly avoiding each other.

The singer says it was important the video, which features 90s-inspired hip-hop fashion and choreography, appeals to all ages.

“I don’t want to be viewed as some of kind of Disney act,” she says. “While I do act my age and talk about things we relate to, I want the song to be enjoyed by everyone.”

That said, Alya’s age means she still has school work to do. She describes how her days are packed with online classes and assignments as well as trips to music and dance studios.

That hard work and dedication is part of the pact she made with her father three years ago.

When nervously sharing her dream of pursuing a full-time career in music, her father agreed – if she gave it all she had.

"He was supportive, but said if you are really serious about it then you have to give 100 per cent or forget about it," she said. "Since then, I haven't looked back."