“Yo Kat, I heard you can do that opera thing!” In the spring of 2007, a new pop singer named Kat DeLuna burst onto the scene with her debut single “Whine Up.”
Thanks to Def Jam’s smash success two years prior with a little track called “Pon De Replay” by a then-unknown Barbadian singer by the name of Rihanna, every other label in the industry was looking to replicate the dancehall-pop-R&B success formula. DeLuna was Epic Records’ answer to the sudden money-making machine that was Rihanna.
With her sun-kissed style, Caribbean heritage and ability to both sing and rap, there’s no denying DeLuna checked a whole lot of boxes for Epic. The 19-year-old New Jersey native was more than just a voice, too. She wrote her own music! Plus, as demonstrated by the impressive snippet of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana heard at the beginning of the “Whine Up” music video, DeLuna really could do that opera thing, and do it well.
“Whine Up” also seemed scientifically primed to be a song of the summer — what with its dancehall-inflected sound, club-ready beat and even a guest assist from Jamaican singer Elephant Man.
With everything working in her favor, DeLuna appeared to be on the precipice of pop stardom. But just as quickly as she arrived, the Dominican singer fell off the radar and 14 years later, we’re all left thinking, “Whatever happened to Kat DeLuna?”
Read on to discover what we found out…
Her Debut Single Didn’t Quite Live Up to Expectations
As stated above, “Whine Up” is kind of a bop. But when it dropped, the track didn’t exactly skyrocket to the top of the charts. Well, wait a second. That’s not entirely true. It did earn DeLuna a No. 1 hit on Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart, which meant people all across the country were dancing to it in the clubs. But that didn’t necessarily translate to mainstream radio success.
At first, “Whine Up” didn’t even land on the Hot 100 — when it was released, the track first debuted at No. 24 on Billboard‘s Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. (For the record, this isn’t shade, just a fact. It’s perfectly normal for a song by a brand-new artist to start off on Bubbling Under!)
However, while the track did eventually make the leap to the big leagues, it stalled out at No. 29 on the Hot 100, barely notching DeLuna a Top 30 hit. Oddly, it charted even lower on the genre-specific Hot Latin Songs chart, capping off at a middling No. 43.
Her Debut Album Didn’t Build Any Momentum
Just three months after “Whine Up,” DeLuna unveiled her debut album 9 Lives, the majority of which was helmed by RedOne, who was a virtually unknown producer at the time. (Just one year later, he would find massive success with another then-new star by the name of Lady Gaga. Maybe you’ve heard of her?)
A mix of dancehall, pop, R&B and Latin music, 9 Lives landed at No. 29 on the Billboard 200 upon its August 2007 release, selling a disappointing 11,000 copies in the U.S. Sophomore single “Run the Show” failed to make any impression on the Hot 100 whatsoever, even with a guest feature by Busta Rhymes. Third single “In the End” wasn’t even promoted in the U.S. Soon enough, Epic dropped DeLuna from its roster.
Her “Star-Spangled Banner” Was Memorable for All the Wrong Reasons
Aside from “Whine Up,” the song DeLuna is perhaps best remembered for is the good ol’ national anthem… but not for the reasons she probably hoped. In September 2008, the budding pop star was selected to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off a Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
Sure, it wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it was still a big moment for the singer — a major honor in front of a huge crowd, not to mention the millions of viewers watching at home. Long story short, the number was an unmitigated disaster.
From her very first “Oh say can you see…” DeLuna was noticeably flat, and it didn’t get any better from there. She tried to power through the ballad with an amount of vocal runs, riffs and melisma that would put Christina Aguilera to shame — the problem being that no one can do Xtina except for Xtina. In the end, DeLuna was booed throughout the entire stadium, and her performance eventually made the top (bottom?) spot on Billboard‘s 2010 list of the “10 Worst National Anthem Performances Ever.” Since then, it’s arguably a moment that’s only ever been outdone by Fergie at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
Her Music Eventually Went International… and She Even Feuded With J.Lo
After being dropped by Epic, the singer signed a new deal for her 2010 sophomore album Inside Out with Universal Music Belgium. So while she got to make a follow-up to her debut, it was only ever released in Belgium, France, Poland and Japan.
Unfortunately, a minor controversy erupted surrounding the album’s second single, “Party O’Clock,” when Jennifer Lopez released her smash hit “On the Floor” in February 2011. The latter was produced by RedOne, who also served as executive producer on Inside Out, and many fans thought the two tracks sounded suspiciously similar… to the point that they began accusing J.Lo of plagiarism.
“I’ve seen this before,” DeLuna said at the time in a statement to the New York Daily News, “where the more established artist tries to take the vision and artistic ideas away from an emerging artist, and assumes no one will notice because of their bigger shadow… Luckily, my loyal fans and the power of the internet have let the ‘Kat’ out of the bag.”
This Kat’s Still Got Some Lives Left
Since 2012, DeLuna as been an entirely independent artist, steadily releasing music without the support of a major label.
She’s dabbled in Spanish (201’s El Cata-assisted “Sobredosis”), dropped a third album (2016’s Loading) and collaborated with the likes of Trey Songz (2015’s “Bum Bum”) and Jeremih (2016’s “What a Night).”
Her most recent singles, titled “Last Night in Miami” and “Only One,” were released in 2019.