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Author: "Jeremy Helligar"

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Mark Wahlberg’s Celebrity Challenge: Making Justin Bieber a Movie Star

If anyone can do it, it would be the pop artist formerly known as Marky Mark. The task at hand: transforming Justin Bieber from Canadian teen-pop idol into Hollywood matinee idol

Mark Wahlberg already knows a thing or three about reinvention. When he first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1991 as the leader of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunk—a two-hit wonder from whom nobody expected any kind of longevity, and afterwards as a Calvin Klein underwear model—few probably thought he’d be likely to succeed past the mid-decade mark.

Yet two decades later, he’s still here. He’s a movie star and a respected actor, a successful producer (of the TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and of last year’s Best Picture Oscar contender, The Fighter) and an Academy Award acting nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2006′s The Departed).

His next project: making Justin Bieber a film star. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it,” Wahlberg told MTV News last year, “and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”

Picture this (because Wahlberg already has): Bieber in a The Color of Money-type film, which Wahlberg is developing for Paramount Pictures, with basketball replacing pool. Bieber would take the Tom Cruise role, and Wahlberg would cast a formidable screen legend like Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall or Jack Nicholson as the grizzled vet, the Color of Money archetype that finally won Paul Newman an Oscar in 1987.

It sounds like a dream job—for someone else. If Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Wahlberg himself have taught us anything, when making the transition from music to movies, it’s best to start small. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera tried to fulfill their film-star fantasy by starring above the title the first time out (in Crossroads and Burlesque, respectively), and thus far, neither one’s Hollywood dream has come true.

Enimen has yet to find a follow-up worthy of his debut starring role in 2002′s 8 Mile; the Hollywood heat surrounding The Bodyguard star Whitney Houston, set to test the acting waters again in a 2012 remake of Sparkle, quickly cooled after three films; Beyoncé has gotten plenty of acting work, but her Hollywood career has yet to generate any kind of major excitement; and Evita aside, Madonna has been most successful onscreen in supporting roles (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own). Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar her first time out for Dreamgirls, but what has she done for us lately?

That Bieber’s 2011 documentary/concert film, Never Say Never, was a major box-office success ($73 million in North America) indicates that movie-ticket buyers will shell out bucks to see him on the big screen. And he’s already had a guest-starring role in C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. But pop stars are always booking cameos and story arcs in hit TV shows, and in Never Say Never, Bieber was literally playing himself. If Wahlberg is going to guide him through the Hollywood jungle, he’d be wise to pull out the map that he himself used.

For now, let somebody else drive. Don’t even let him ride shotgun just yet. Bieber would be better off in the backseat, cast in an ensemble movie where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting (see Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day—on second thought, don’t).

When Wahlberg landed his first major starring role, in 1997′s Boogie Nights, he was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and surrounded by highly esteemed talents like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and a soon-to-be-briefly resurgent (and Oscar-nominated for the first time) Burt Reynolds.

Even after Boogie Nights, Wahlberg’s most notable films—I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter—have featured plenty of Oscar-caliber talent. And in The Departed, it was Wahlberg, not costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson who walked away with the Oscar nod.

But Wahlberg seems to have other ideas for Bieber, whom he calls “really talented.” And if he exhibits no discernible talent for film acting once the cameras roll? “I will extract it,” Wahlberg said.

Good luck to them both. They’ll need it. Wahlberg may have proven that he’s a miracle worker by going from rapper to underwear hunk to Oscar nominee, but Bieber holding his own with a DeNiro or a Duvall or a Nicholson sounds like an almost-impossible dream.

10 Music Stars Who Deserve a Hollywood Big-Screen Test

1. Lady Gaga

Best Performance in a Video: “Paparazzi”

2. John Mayer

Best Performance in a Video: “Who Says”

3. Ke$ha

Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”

4. Mary J. Blige

Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”

5. Pink

Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)

6. Duffy

Best Performance in a Video: “Warwick Avenue”

7. Fiona Apple

Best Performance in a Video: “Fast As You Can”

8. Richard Ashcroft

Best Performance in a Video: “Break the Night with Colour”

9. Roisin Murphy

Best Performance in a Video: “Overpowered”

10. Brandon Flowers

Best Performance in a Video: The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”

Sound And Vision: What Will George Michael Do with His Second Chance at Life?

It’s been nearly eight years since George Michael released an entire album of new music, and three since he put out a single that wasn’t a cover of New Order’s “True Faith.” But in 2011, the singer-songwriter starred in what must have been one of the year’s most gripping YouTube videos, two minutes as gripping and heartfelt as anything on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, his essential 1990 album.

There was no music, and Michael didn’t sing a note. In the clip, which was posted on December 23, Michael gave a press conference in which he discussed his recent near-death experience that began on November 21 on the Vienna stop of his forty-eight-date European tour and which he described as “the worst month of my life.” The normally robust singer, who had contracted a chest infection that was later diagnosed as life-threatening pneumonia and spent a month in hospital in Vienna (including ten days in the intensive-care unit), appeared gaunt and gray, often struggling to catch his breath.

In a year that took so many of music’s greats (R.I.P., Amy Winehouse, Nikolas Ashford, Phoebe Snow, Vesta Williams, Clarence Clemons, Dobie Gray, Billie Jo Spears), Michael is truly lucky to be alive —and he knows it. So what’s next? First, as he said in the interview, he will reschedule the cancelled dates on the Symphonica Tour that he was staging throughout Europe and the UK when his illness struck. The shows featured Michael performing his own hits and non-hits as well as select covers (including Winehouse’s “Love Is a Losing Game”) with a symphonic orchestra.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: What Will George Michael Do with His Second Chance at Life?’

Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)

A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling—again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:

1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin’” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008.  “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.

2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded—and as tough to call—as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)’

Sound And Vision: The Year in Review — What Was Hot and Not in Pop (and Beyond) in 2011?

No discussion of the last twelve months in music would be complete without a proper shout out to Adele, the blue-eyed, soulful Brit who ruled 2011 with one album (the multiply GRAMMY-nominated 21) and two No. 1 singles (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”), so here we go.

Girl!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what was hot and not about the rest.

HOT

1. Drake: Last year, he called his debut album Thank Me Later, so now feels like the right time to express our genuine appreciation for the Canadian rapper who balances tough and tender so perfectly. With his second album, Take Care, and two of its key cuts, in particular—the fantastic first single “Headlines” and the title track (featuring Rihanna)—he brought sexy back to rap for the first time since ladies loved (LL) Cool J.

2. Girls on film: From Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Into You” to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” it was an excellent year for women in pop videos. But it was Ke$ha in “Blow,” Kelly Rowland in “Motivation” and Rihanna in “We Found Love” that injected new energy into a decades-old art form and elevated it above and beyond promotional tool to indispensable companion piece.

3. Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams “Moanin’” on American Idol: I didn’t love the bulk of their solo performances during the 10th season of Idol, but when Reinhart and Abrams came together on the Top 8 results show for the vocalese version of Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’,” the unexpected result was the best musical moment I saw all season.

4. Diana DeGarmo on The Young and the Restless: Speaking of Idol losers, season three’s runner-up’s stint as Angelina on daytime’s No. 1 soap hasn’t been so well-received by critics or fans, but I dissent. There’s both artistry and comedic gold in DeGarmo’s portrayal of a tone-deaf “singer” and daughter of a New Jersey mob boss, and I’m looking forward to being as wowed by her Pygmalion-style makeover as I was by her Idol rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” all those years ago.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: The Year in Review — What Was Hot and Not in Pop (and Beyond) in 2011?’

Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations’

Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?

Susan Boyle is underperforming on the charts with her recently released third album, Someone to Watch Over Me. American Idol‘s Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery missed a cue and was caught lip-syncing his single “The Trouble with Girls” at the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Speaking of trouble and girls, on the same day, 10th season runner-up Lauren Alaina flubbed the words to the National Anthem Christina Aguilera-style before an NLF game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

November was cruel to the stars of TV’s talent searches. Frankly, though, they were already in danger of becoming an endangered chart phenomenon before the month kicked in. As of last season, Idol still brought in gargantuan ratings, but though McCreery is selling considerably better than his two Idol predecessors, the show hasn’t launched a runaway success since Adam Lambert three seasons ago. And despite decent ratings and a spin-off hit for two of its judges with Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera‘s “Moves Like Jagger,” The Voice failed to produce a single chart sensation in its first season.

The jury is still out on the US version of The X Factor, but with viewership well below half of Idol‘s 10th-season average (and an erosion of some 4 million viewers between its September debut and November), it’s hard to imagine that Simon Cowell and company will be able to create a star bigger than Idol has in recent years.

Continue reading ‘Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?’

Sound And Vision: Foster the People’s Chart Challenge — Is There Life After “Pumped Up Kicks”?

Foster the People just might be the pop anomaly of 2011.

The trio of Los Angeles-based twentysomethings led by founder and namesake Mark Foster looks like a boy band (only cuter), plays instruments like rockers and produces music with beats that thump as hard as any backing up those fierce divas currently ruling every dance floor in clubland. And then there’s FTP’s breakthrough single, an insanely catchy song called “Pumped Up Kicks” about cool shoes and a youth with homicidal tendencies.

I mean, really?

Even more surprising than the song’s smash status despite its decidedly un-poppy protagonist—that troubled kid contemplating a shooting spree—is the fact that it’s created barely a ripple of controversy throughout its lengthy chart run. Did the clever lyrics fly over the heads of the country’s guardians of morality and decency in songwriting? Were we all just too lost in the beat to notice the finger on the trigger?

Or perhaps for the first time since the second British invasion of the 1980s brought such alternative pop acts as Duran Duran,
Depeche Mode and indie-pop pioneers the Smiths into and around the mainstream, both the masses and the pop-music establishment (radio and retail) are ready to support music that touches on more complex subject matters than “dance music sex romance”—to quote a track on pop iconoclast supreme Prince’s 1982 album, 1999, one of the records that launched the censorship wars of the early ’80s that would hardly raise an eyebrow today.)

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Foster the People’s Chart Challenge — Is There Life After “Pumped Up Kicks”?’

Sound And Vision: Britney Spears At 30 — Where Does She Go From Here?

It seems like just yesterday: She was invading the dreams of pedophiles and lusty teenage boys everywhere. But that was 1998, the year Britney Spears, then sixteen, broke with her No. 1 debut single, “…Baby One More Time,” and its accompanying video, in which the singer made an unforgettable first impression as Lolita-lite, a sexy school girl who was up for just about anything.

At the time, Britney seemed destined for the cut-out bin in two years flat. Her synthetic pop sound didn’t sound built for longevity. And didn’t the name Britney Spears, which was too close for comfort to that of ’80s hair metal heads Britny Fox, have one-hit wonder written all over it?

Boy, was I wrong! Thirteen years later, she’s still with us. Her albums may no longer be as huge as they were at the dawn of the century, but she’s still one of the leading ladies of pop. Super-stardom, however, isn’t everything. Even an act with a hit list that’s as thematically shallow as Britney’s must crave a little artistic growth. She’ll turn thirty on Dec. 2, but to me, she’s still seventeen—partly because I don’t want to admit that I’m getting so old, but mostly because Britney herself still doesn’t sound as if she’s a day over twenty.

Sure she’s lived a lot. There have been two marriages, two divorces (actually, one divorce, one annulment), two children and countless scandals. I interviewed Britney for Teen People right after the release of her second album, Oops!… I Did It Again, in 2000, back when she still hearted Justin Timberlake. She struck me as a sweet teenage girl with a maturity level that matched her age. I don’t know what she’s like today, but her music doesn’t make her sound much older.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Britney Spears At 30 — Where Does She Go From Here?’

Sound And Vision: Why I’m Seriously Considering Boycotting Music Award Shows

On November 9, Nashville celebrated itself (again!) with the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. For the fourth consecutive year, the event was hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, but the masters of ceremonies weren’t the only thing that gave me that old deja vu feeling. Hadn’t these accolades already been handed out just a few months ago?

Wait, those were the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards in June. And before that, there were the Academy of Country Music Awards. And, just in case that’s not enough Music City honors for you, there are the 2nd annual American Country Awards coming up on December 5.

Pop and R&B are just as self-congratulatory, offering the MTV Video Music Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the American Music Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the BET Awards, the BET Hip Hop Awards, the NAACP Image Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards.

Then, of course, there are the GRAMMYs, which following so many other back-slapping fests, have been losing their lustre for years now—though that’s hardly the only reason. Winning one used to be the musical equivalent of snagging an Oscar, but now its just more clutter for the awards shelf.

In a few weeks (November 30, to be exact), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2012 GRAMMY Awards (to be held on February 12). Doesn’t it already feel like we’ve been there and done that over and over and over already this year? Am I the only one who doesn’t doubt that we’re in for another repeat of The Adele Show, with a very special appearance by Lady Gaga. Good as it is, like Christmas, I only need to sit through it once a year.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Why I’m Seriously Considering Boycotting Music Award Shows’

Sound And Vision: Why Bieber Fever Can’t Touch Beatlemania?

Don’t believe everything you read.

No matter what the media say—and for more than a year now, they’ve been declaring Justin Bieber as big as, if not bigger than, the Beatles—Bieber Fever is no match for Beatlemania. Even if Bieber’s new holiday album, Under the Mistletoe, which was released November 1, ends up being the biggest one ever (the first single, “Mistletoe,” just debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 11, immediately making it the seventeen-year-old’s biggest solo hit yet), remember this: The Beatles never released a Christmas album. (Thank God!)

Obviously, Bieber Fever does have one thing in common with Beatlemania, a movement launched by The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 that continued long after the Beatles broke up in 1970: girls, girls, girls (all screaming at the top of their lungs). They are the cornerstone of Bieber’s success, but Beatlemania involved so much more than overzealous female fans caught up in the rapture of hot musical act.

Thanks to his largely underage female following, Bieber does reasonably well commercially, though he lacks the opening-week clout of Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne or even Coldplay (to name the artists behind the Top 3 debuts of 2011). In the US, he’s sold some 5 million copies of one full-length studio album, three compilations and one EP. That may barely be on par with the sales standards set by pop’s top divas, but it would put him in the running for modern pop’s most commercially viable male star.

Still, Bieber is no chart phenomenon. For all of the hysteria he spawned in his first two and a half years in circulation, he only hit the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 twice in his first eight tries. The highest-peaking of those was “Baby” (No. 5 in 2010), and both were collaborations with rappers (Ludacris on “Baby,” Jaden Smith on “Never Say Never”), which means Bieber has yet to score a massive hit based on his star power alone.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Why Bieber Fever Can’t Touch Beatlemania?’

 


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