It was while Melissa Tkautz played Nikki Spencer in the popular TV show E Street in the early 1990s that her road to Aussie Pop Diva status began.
Her debut single Read My Lips, released in June 1991 by Laser Label and distributed by Polygram, shot to the top of the ARIA Charts and reached platinum sales in weeks. Her second hit single Sexy is the Word, released in September 1991 also by Laser, peaked at No. 3 on the ARIA Charts and reached gold sales.
Her musical success and Pop Diva status skyrocketed when she won two ARIA Awards for 1991 – the Most Popular New Talent and Most Popular Music Video.
She was soon on the cover of just about every major magazine including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, TV Week, Smash Hits, Dolly and TV Hits. She was even voted the Hottest Woman on Earth by TV Hits.
She was one of a few Australian Pop Divas to successfully make the transition from soap opera star to pop singer, as did Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia, Alyssa-Jane Cook and Toni Pearen. Tkautz was just 17 when she rose to success in E Street. It was at the beginning of an era where soap-opera stars, like Minogue, were also being groomed into pop stars.
Gene Pierson, head of Laser Labels (a pop record offshoot of Kerry Packer’s Channel 9 Living Sound Label) gained E Street creator and producer Forrest Relich’s support to launch Tkautz’s singing career. Pierson commissioned songwriter Roy Nicolson, who wrote Read My Lips.
It was a massive hit, shooting to the top of the ARIA Charts and reaching platinum sales in weeks. Her second hit single Sexy is the Word, also commissioned by Pierson and written by Roy Nicolson, peaked at No. 3 on the ARIA Charts and reached gold sales. The video for Read My Lips, which won an ARIA Music Award in 1992, marked the start of a whole new era in music videos. “Read My Lips was made just when video clips were starting,” Pierson said in 2011 in an interview with a journalist from The Cairns Post.
“Kylie (Minogue) had done one or two, but no one put so much effort and money into a production before we did.
“After recording the song, the video clip was made with Simon Baker dancing and appeared on all the popular TV shows at the time.
“Within a week, the song was No. 1 across Australia, thanks to the video, which was also promoted on E Street.
“The video was a massive production involving costumes, choreography, location shots and dancers,” Pierson added.
“It cost $80,000, which was a lot of money in those days to invest.”
Thautz left the Laser Label after her second hit and signed with Polygram (now Universal) and, while she continued recording, she never had a top 10 hit again.
Her third single Skin to Skin, released in April 1992 peaked at No. 16 and her debut album Fresh, released in June 1992, climbed to No.15.
A number of her other songs charted, but not in the top 30. Is It…? went to No. 39 Glamorous Life No. 31, All I Want No. 72, Easily Affected No. 86 and I Want Your Love No. 60.
She has since appeared in many Australian popular TV dramas including Home & Away, Medivac, Richmond Hill, Paradise Beach, Pacific Drive, Echo Point, Beast Master, The Girl From Tomorrow, All Saints, Swift & Shift Couriers and Housos. She continues to sing as well as act and model. In January 2012 she sang in comedian Sam Kekovich’s music ad Barbie Girl, a promotional ad for Australian lamb meat, and in August 2013 she released the album Melissa Tkautz: The Hits & More.
Thautz lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.