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Music Of The Presidential Inauguration: Beyonce, fun., Kelly Clarkson And More

Last night marked President Obama‘s second inauguration ceremony. Among the many celebrities and speeches of the day, we saw spectacular performances by Beyonce, fun.Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and James Taylor.

Five-time Grammy winner James Taylor was the first to take the stage, with an acoustic rendition of “America The Beautiful.” Kelly Clarkson followed the inaugural address and performed “My Country Tis Of Thee,” while Beyonce closed the performances with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

As the ceremony ended and the Inaugural Ball commenced, Alicia Keys sang her hit “Girl On Fire,” with the simultaneously sweet and awkward title change, “Obama’s On Fire.” Jennifer Hudson provided the soundtrack for the President and First Lady’s dance, as they swayed to a cover of Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together” (which the president himself ad-libbed at an event last year). The band fun. then closed the evening with their hit, “We Are Young.” You can view fun.’s performance right here and the rest of the performances after the jump. Continue reading ‘Music Of The Presidential Inauguration: Beyonce, fun., Kelly Clarkson And More’

Sound And Vision: Will Nicki Minaj Vs. Mariah Carey Hurt the Rapper While Helping “American Idol”?

“I’m gonna knock you out…. I told you I’m not f**kin’ putting up with her f**kin’ highness over there!”

It’s not exactly prose worthy of Bob Dylan, or even Eminem, her sometime partner in rhyme, but with those fighting words, rapper Nicki Minaj recently helped make American Idol hot for the first time in years. She hurled them directly at Mariah Carey on October 2 in Charlotte, N.C., during the audition rounds for season 12 of Idol, which kicks off in January of 2013. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Will Nicki Minaj Vs. Mariah Carey Hurt the Rapper While Helping “American Idol”?’

Rihanna to Play Whitney Houston in Upcoming Film?

Following the tragic death of pop icon Whitney Houston earlier this month, many sources are reporting that producer Clive Davis is now pushing for a movie about the singer’s life. Who is set to play the role if Whitney herself? Why, none other than Rihanna, who has been the subject of many a scandal these past few weeks. Other stars on the short list for the role are Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, and Brandy. Ironically, Rihanna previously rejected an offer to play Houston in the remake of the film The Bodyguard, and has also said she would rather challenge herself with an unfamiliar movie role instead of playing another performer.

Sound and Vision: Is Chris Brown’s Comeback and GRAMMY Honors Another Slap in the Face to Women?

With Whitney Houston’s tragic, untimely death and Adele’s big sweep grabbing our near-undivided attention, the 2012 GRAMMY Awards were, in some ways, a two-woman show.

But if any guy came close to upstaging them, it was Chris Brown. And not necessarily in a good way. Brown, who performed two songs on the telecast, did not emerge unscathed from what was foolishly touted as his GRAMMY “comeback”—as if he is a supernova among stars, and three years is such an eternity. Some viewers were outraged that he was invited to perform at the ceremony at all, after what he did to his ex, Rihanna, during GRAMMY season three years ago.

The unfortunate irony of Houston’s passing on GRAMMY weekend is that, like Rihanna, she had been the victim of domestic abuse by another Brown, her ex-husband Bobby. And the honor of paying tribute to her went to Jennifer Hudson, whose mother, brother and nephew were murdered, allegedly by the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, just a few years ago. If anyone knows that people often hurt the ones they claim to love, she does.

But that one display of good taste doesn’t let the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences off the hook. Brown’s inclusion in the ceremony almost felt like an unintentional f**k you to Houston, to Rihanna, to any woman who has suffered because of domestic abuse.

The big question, though, is this: Has Brown suffered enough? It has, after all, been three years since he pummeled Rihanna in a car. Is it time for us to move on as Brown and NARAS, apparently, both have.

For Brown’s many GRAMMY-night detractors (which included singers Miranda Lambert and Michelle Branch as well as actors Wil Wheaton and Eric Stonestreet), it might be hard to move on when Brown has never acknowledged the gravity of the situation in any meaningful way that didn’t seem like a public-relations pose. Whether he’s onstage, in videos, plugging his music on the morning talk-show circuit, or ranting on Twitter, he never seems sorry enough.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Is Chris Brown’s Comeback and GRAMMY Honors Another Slap in the Face to Women?’

Soundcheck: Grammy Rap-Up: Whitney, Nicki, and Adele

This year’s usual GRAMMY festivities were obviously overshadowed by the shocking passing of Whitney Houston. Unable to ignore the noticeably solemn sense in the room, LL Cool J opened the night with a heartfelt prayer for the fallen superstar, saying, “We’ve had a death in our family.”

Adele took home the first televised award of the night for Best Pop Performance for her smash hit,“Someone Like You”.  Later in the night, she gave a jaw-dropping performance of her hit, “Rolling In The Deep” just weeks after having surgery on her vocal chords.   She went on to win all six awards she was nominated for, including Album Of The Year. Other big winners were The Foo Fighters who nabbed four trophies.

Although the performances are usually the highlight of the evening, this year’s showings seemed to be miss their usual spark. Bruno Mars performed in his usual 50’s du-wop style, with a big bag of new dance moves and the same old-school costumes.  Alicia Keys and Bonnie Rait paid tribute to the legendary Etta James with a duet of her song, “ Sunday Kind Of Love”, after also acknowledging their love of Whitney. Chris Brown graced the GRAMMY stage for the first time since the 2009 incident, after Clive’s Davis’ annual dinner, that left Rihanna bruised and bloodied.  Dressed in all white, he performed “Beautiful People” and showcased his signature dance skills by climbing up an elaborate stage set complete with lasers and back-flipping back-up dancers.

Rihanna performed a slowed down version of “We Found Love” in a sexy skin-tight outfit andbleached blonde hair and black lipstick. .  The laser-filled set featured dozens of dancers storming that stage and creating a club right inside the GRAMMYs. She quickly switched gears and joined Chris Martin for their hit, “Coulda Been” before Coldplay closed their set with their hit, “Paradise”.

In one of the night’s most touching moments, Jennifer Hudson gave a powerful tribute to her idol with a performance of Whitney Houston’s hit “I Will Always Love You” to a tearful crowd.  She ended by saying, “Whitney, we’ll always love you.”

Fergie and Marc Anthony presented and accepted the award for Best Rap Performance to Kanye West and Jay-Z for “Otis”.  Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s four collective nominations weren’t enough to pull them away from baby ‘Blue’, as neither of the new parents were present.  Hova nabbed only one of his two nominations of the night and Beyoncé nabbed none.  Kanye West was also a no-show for the night, even though he finally got his GRAMMY glitz; winning four awards out of his seven nominations including Best Rap Song for “All Of The Lights” and Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Common and Taraji Henson saluted the late Gill Scot-Heron, calling him a great poet and saying, “Thanks to him, the revolution is now being televised.“ They presented the award for Best R&B Album to Chris Brown for F.A.M.E., leading the ever-remorseful and famously-flustered crooner to deliver a kind of uncomfortable acceptance speech.   “I don’t know what to say. I’m nervous,” he admitted before quickly thanking his camp and fans and hurrying off the stage.

After spending half the night in her seat holding hands with friend, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift performed her single, “Mean” with a banjo in hand and an elaborate down-home stage set.

Drake was proud to introduce his friend and label mate, Nicki Minaj, calling her “one of the most intelligent, beautiful, driven women I’ve ever met in my life. “ He said, “She went from sleeping in the bunk under mine on the tour bus, and now she’s one of the biggest stars in the world.”  After kicking off her extremely theatrical performance from a set in the crowd, she segued into a pre-recorded mini-movie called “The Exorcism of Roman”, an elaborate introduction to her most vicious alter ego. Then, she hit the stage for a spectacle of a show that featured her stellar rhyming skills as well as her certifiable singing and over the top acting abilities. While I have a feeling her set may have gone over some fans’ heads; no one can deny the guts and the gifts she displayed on the GRAMMY stage.

Whitney Houston: An Icon Remembered

The music industry suffered a devastating loss on Saturday, when Whitney Houston died at age forty-eight in Beverly Hills, California.

Still reeling from the loss of Don Cornelius, the music community was struck again on the eve of its biggest night. The tragic news surfaced hours before Whitney was scheduled to attend Clive Davis’ annual Pre-GRAMMY gala.  Sources say she was found in the bathtub of her hotel room at the famed Beverly Hilton.

Although her recent years were full of turbulent times—merciless public scrutiny, addiction, and a painful divorce—Whitney led a lifetime of glory prior to her pitfalls. Her voice remains one of the most beloved of our time, and her beauty and grace made her an icon.  This weekend, the world lost a true music legend, long before her time.

Music was in Whitney’s blood from the beginning.  Her mother, Cissy Houston, was a gospel singer  while her cousin Dionne Warwick is an R&B star in her own right. By age fifteen, Whitney was singing back-up vocals for Chaka Khan.

Her breakout year was 1985, when she debuted her album, Whitney Houston and became the only artist to have seven consecutive No.1 Billboard hits. Single after single soared to the top, and Whitney quickly became one of the biggest stars in the world. “Saving All My Love For You”, “How Will I Know”, “So Emotional”, “Greatest Love Of All”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, “I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Love Me)” made her one of the most successful singers in the industry.

Her 1992 blockbuster hit, The Bodyguard, shot her to international crossover success and launched one of the biggest albums of her career. The movie, co-starring Kevin Costner, and subsequent soundtrack spurred hits likeRun To You” and “I Have Nothing“ and led to her 1998 GRAMMY win for Album Of The Year.

She later starred in a string of successful films including Waiting To Exhale, Cinderella,and The Preacher’s Wife, alongside Denzel Washington. In 1998, she debuted her album, My Love Is Your Love after eight years off the charts; sparking another rise to the top. In 2001, she signed the biggest record deal ever; a whopping $100 million for six albums.

Whitney Houston is the most-awarded female act of all time and the best-selling female artist of all time. She has sold old 170 million albums and broken countless records for singles sales, chart placement and award wins.

Her tumultuous and highly publicized marriage to Bobby Brown ended in divorce in 2007.  After years of suspiciousbehavior and a virtual disappearance from the music scene, Whitney admitted to a serious cocaine addiction in 2009 during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. She sought help for her issues and released her album, I Look To You later that year.  The album and subsequent singles shot straight to No. 1 and it seemed Houston was on the mend.  She gave numerous performances and prompted her highly-anticipated but ultimately ill-fated The Nothing But Love World Tour in 2010,  which ended abruptly after fans complained Whitney wasn’t ready.

Without an official cause of death, it’s unclear whether Whitney’s demons led to her untimely demise.  Reports of odd behavior in the days leading up to her death have surfaced, and authorities say it may be weeks before a clear cause of death could be determined.

Only one day after the tragic news was announced, Sunday’s GRAMMY Awards were noticeably somber, with many of the attendees and organizers mourning the unexpected loss of a legend.

The evening was full of tributes and reflections on the sudden loss, and prompted host LL Cool J to open the event with a heartfelt prayer for her after acknowledging, “We’ve had a death in the family.”

Jennifer Hudson performed Houston’s biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You” during the show, prompting tears from friends and fans in the crowd.

Although her life was cut too short, her time here was spent sharing amazing music with millions of people around the world.  Her spirit and legacy of strength, resilience and talent will live on forever.  The industry has truly lost one of the greatest singers who ever lived.

 

Soundcheck: Re-Introducing: Keith Robinson

“The eyes are more skeptical, but the eyes are looking.”

For Keith Robinson, fame is a gift and a curse.  For most actors, a big role in an even bigger film is the Holy Grail.  In 2005, Robinson co-starred in the mega musical, Dreamgirls alongside then newbie, Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. Hudson scored a Best Supporting Actress win at the Oscars for her portrayal of Effie White and Keith delivered a powerful performance as her piano-playing brother, C.C.. Since then, he has starred in a string of successful films like Dear John and This Christmas.

“People ask me if I was lip-synching in Dreamgirls,” he says, unable to mask the insult such a question undoubtedly hurls.  “It’s not that I’m frustrated, just more eager to establish myself in this realm,” he says.  “When I step onstage, half the people in the audience know I’m about to sing, and half have no idea that I can.  It’s a blessing to have two platforms, but it’s just ironic,” he says. “I’m a singer.  I’ve always been a singer.  Acting was an accident. I came to LA for music.”

In fact, his first acting class was just an attempt to improve his stage presence after he and his group, State of Mind was signed to Motown Records. An instructor took notice of the natural talent and suggested he audition for a little show called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Keith was cast as the “Green Power Ranger”, and was instantly thrown into the other “business”.  Eventually, Keith’s acting became a priority, and he landed roles in major films like Fat Albert and eventually, Dreamgirls.

Now, the singer-turned-actor faces an ironic fete; convincing the world that he’s an authentic vocalist.  “I still feel like a starving artist,” he says.  “My mindset hasn’t changed at all in that way.  It’s about proving to people that don’t know me that this music thing is not a gimmick.  They see me one way, and it’s hard for [the public] to see me in another way.”

His latest film, My Dysfunctional Friends, hits select AMC theatres on Friday and stars Megan Good, Terrell Owens, Stacy Dash and Persia White.  Aside from starring in the indie film, Keith oversaw all the music in the movie through his scoring company, TKtitle. The film’s title track, “Same Rules” will serve as the first single for his full-length project, due out later this year.

“I’m excited and relieved. I’m anxious to see how it is received, “ he admits.  If the single is any indication, Keith’s got nothing to worry about.  The smooth crooning of a bonafide hottie isn’t hard to hear. And the fact that Robinson’s R&B roots and writing style are a throwback of sorts is a refreshing retreat from the status quo.

“I think there’s a timeless quality to my music,” he says.  “I came up on the cusp of real singing and auto-tune.  I bridge the gap. “ Heavily influenced by classic crooners like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sade and Babyface, Keith hopes to create songs people can truly connect to.  “I’m a real music fan,” he says.  “Music is supposed to be sincere and heartfelt.  It should evoke emotion and make people relate to where it’s coming from, and what they’re going through.  It becomes the soundtrack to people’s lives.” 

The yet-to-be titled project is pointed toward relationships and how men and women relate to each other.  “It’s my point of view as a man.  An honest explanation of the vulnerability and strength that comes along with an earnest search for love.”

Like all aspiring artists, he has at times been discouraged by the many pitfalls of the industry. Being determined to release his first full-length project himself has got Keith feeling the same pressure that so many up and comers experience.

“The grind is constant, tedious and time-consuming.  To truly be an independent artist, you still have to be dependent on someone for money.  The reality is it costs a lot of money to break an artist.”

According to Keith, his next single, “Just Kissed My Baby”, totally defines who he is  as an artist.  “As far as sound goes, I love the heavy 808s, strings and a beautiful chorus,” he says.

“I love performing and I love recording,” he says.   “It’s the funnest part of the process.  I love incorporating live instruments like strings, drums and piano.  Soul is the through line.”

Next up for Keith will be the release of his movie, Divorce Invitation, out this fall.  In the meantime, Keith will be releasing new material, touring, and hopes to direct a film in the future.  Despite the occasional frustrations that come from “the crossover” it doesn’t seem he has any plans of slowing down his double-life.

“I’m an actor and a singer.  I do it every day. Love me or leave me. “

I’m gonna go with love.

 

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”

 


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