KC: Making the record came from my desire to play live wherever I want hanging out. I didn’t see it translating into a tour. I found myself at golf tournaments and charity events, and I would be more comfortable onstage [performing] than standing out there signing autographs. I wanted to be part of the party instead of a prop. I have always loved performing and I love performing original music. There was no end game. This was not the idea, to tour. It was not the idea to make a record. Things unfold and I bent with the wind.
OS: And now you have this major record deal.
KC: I do not have a major record deal. I have to be very, very clear. There is no machine behind me, behind us. That has been the heart burn for the guys in the band. We could play 200 or 300 nights [a year], and that would change the lives of everyone in the band. I don’t want to do that. So one satisfaction has led to others’ dissatisfaction.
OS: So it seems everyone in the band writes?
KC: I write a lot of lyrics and occasionally I do a melody line. It all depends on how I’m feeling. More [of my] songs get tossed than are kept. Most often one of the guys [in the band] writes a song based on something I say. I might say “Hey, that is catchy,” and they’ll say “those first four lines are what you said.” Then we flesh the song out. That’s how our band operates.
There’s a scene”actually, several of them”in the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn in which an insecure Marilyn Monroe (exactingly detailed by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams) gets an ego boost from Susan Strasberg, her acting coach. You’re a great actress, Strasberg insists, on repeat, as if that makes it fact.
It’s hard to watch the movie now and not draw parallels between Monroe and Whitney Houston, both haunted by demons, both under-appreciated at the end. Over the last decade or so of Houston’s life, as her career and reputation nosedived, someone in her camp probably was doing the same thing for her.
There was a publicist at her record label, Arista Records, who downplayed Houston’s personal drama in the late ’90s when I asked if the drug rumors were true. “Yes,” the rep admitted. “But it’s not as bad as they say it is.” Then came the Strasberg moment: “She’s still amazing.”
During the week following Houston’s April 11 death, that’s what everyone said”only in past tense. As the tributes poured in, Houston wasn’t around to hear the thunderous praise. She had become yet another cautionary tale of what substance abuse can do to a sparkling image and red-hot career and how, sometimes, death is the only thing that can restore their luster.
We will always love her now, even if, in her final decade, many of us barely showed her any love. Some might say Houston got the coverage and reputation she deserved. Too bad it took her death to remind many of us how much she’d contributed to pop and to the soundtrack of the ˜80s and ˜90s.
Death becomes fallen stars. Michael Jackson’s singles and albums re-entered the charts in the weeks after he left us in 2010. Etta James saw significant chart action for the first time in decades after she passed away on January 20. And Houston finally had the hit single that had eluded her all of this century, as “I Will Always Love You,” which had spent 14 weeks at No. 1 in 1992 and 1993, re-entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 7, three notches above Madonna’s new single, before ascending upward to No. 3.
Before her death, I can’t recall the last time I’d read anything positive about Houston. Most of the articles focused on her drug issues and her shaky performances, accompanied by the most unflattering photos advertising and circulation revenue could buy. But once she was gone, the songbird’s wings were restored. Now that a few weeks have passed, and once the autopsy report is in, perhaps the media will tip the delicate balance and return to slamming her.
As I watched the outpouring of grief, I thought about all of the under-celebrated greats who are still with us, particularly the soul divas of Houston’s heyday, the Shirley Murdocks, the Miki Howards, the Stephanie Mills, the Angela Winbushes. If the deaths of Teena Marie, Vesta Williams and now Whitney Houston have taught us anything, it’s that great voices may live forever, but the bodies that contain them don’t. They sang the songs that make us think, “Those were the days.” Will Katy Perry’s latest single inspire that kind of reaction in 2037?
Unlike Murdock, Howard, Mills, Winbush, Marie, Williams, and too many others, Houston got her due, paid in full”for a time. One of the great tragedies of Teena Marie’s death in December of 2010 is that such a supremely gifted singer-songwriter was known to the masses for one song only, “Lovergirl,” a Top 5 hit from 1984. Vesta Williams never even got above No. 55 on the Hot 100. Can we get an Amen for the others while they’re still around to hear it?
Unsung, TV One’s Behind the Music-style series that pulls under-sung former soul stars out from mothballs, is a great start, but don’t ˜80s R&B hitmakers like Evelyn Champagne King, Ray Parker Jr. and Freddie Jackson”all of whom have been featured on Unsung”deserve the same mainstream coverage as Adam Ant, whose Australian comeback tour was recently featured on the front page of The Australian daily newspaper?
Yes, at least Houston had her day. I’ve been recalling anecdotes about her from my early years as a magazine writer and editor in New York City. At a listening release party for the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in 1995, Babyface, who’d written and produced most of the album, called Houston “the greatest singer of all time,” a sentiment that was seconded over and over after her passing.
Brandy, whom I interviewed for People magazine in 1994, when she was fifteen and still on her first single, stood firm in her admiration to the end. All those years ago, when I asked her whom she most wanted to meet, she told me how disappointed she had been with her one encounter with Houston. “She just shook my hand and said, ‘Nice to meet you. Good luck. Keep reaching for your dreams. It wasn’t anything personal, so in my mind, I haven’t met her yet.”
Eventually, she’d not only get the meeting she wanted, she’d work with her, too, in the 1997 TV movie Cinderella. One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen on YouTube all year is a video interview with Brandy, Monica and Arista titan Clive Davis, who’d guided Houston to stardom, taped two days before her death.
In the clip, the singers talked about their upcoming performance at Davis’s annual pre-GRAMMY party, and about Houston, her talent and her supportive nature. They had no way of knowing how terribly wrong things would turn out, but, unlike much of the press”which, in recent years, had been more focused on Houston’s vices than her voice, unless it was to slam it for no longer being the powerful instrument it had once been”Brandy and Monica hadn’t wavered in their appreciation.
Neither, to hear him tell it, did Kevin Costner, who spoke at Houston’s funeral at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ. As I watched, though, I couldn’t help but wonder, what he had done for her lately. Perhaps Costner and Houston had maintained a tight friendship in the years after they costarred in The Bodyguard, but considering how infrequently they’d publicly acknowledged each other in the last twenty years, his final testimonial came out of nowhere. He’d saved her in The Bodyguard, he said. Why didn’t he do the same in real life?
It would have been a lofty aspiration for sure, but I’m sure he’s not the only one wishing he’d appreciated Houston more in her later years, even after her voice had become a show-stopper for all the wrong reasons. The moral of this story: You really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. So celebrate life”and talent”today, while it’s still with us. You never know what loss tomorrow might bring.
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.
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 like Run 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.
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.
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”
Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”
4. Mary J. Blige
Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”
Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)
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”
Every decade lives twice. Each one seems to get a second shot about twenty years after the fact. The ’50s were hot again in the ’70s (which might be why Happy Days was one of TV’s biggest hits). The ’60s resurfaced in the ’80s (as did tie-dye t-shirts and the British invasion), and Saturday night fever flared up one more time in the ’90s (though that didn’t stop the film 54 from flopping).
We’ve been stuck in the ’80s for a while now, but the ’90s are coming around again. I recently attended a ’90s party at a nightclub in Sydney, Australia, and the dance floor was packed with the retro-obsessed. The beats were technotronic indeed, but thanks to the varied playlist, I remembered that there was so much more to the decade in music than grunge and Europop. (Bell Biv DeVoe‘s “Do Me” and Elastica‘s “Connection” provided particularly pleasing trips down memory lane.) Here are five reasons why the ’90s rocked even harder than you might recall.
1. Sisters with voices ruled. And I’m not just talking about Sisters with Voices (otherwise known as SWV). TLC was arguably the most unique multi-platinum girl group ever, while En Vogue was the most glamorous one since the Supremes. Solo stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan joined the hit parade, and Whitney Houston could still raise the roof”and she did with the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Aside from Adele and Beyoncé (when she’s not huffing, puffing and trying way too hard to bring the house down), none of today’s female hitmakers can match the fierce ruling divas of the ’90s for sheer vocal power.
2. Rock & roll was king. Grunge may have been a relatively short-lived turning point, but for a moment there, the music was actually more important than the marketing. Thanks to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Radiohead (all of whose platinum success seemed more accidental than calculated), Britpop (Blur vs. Oasis was so much better than Kings of Leon vs. Glee or the lead singers of Coldplay and Muse being married to Hollywood), and the grrrl power of female and female-driven acts like Bjí¶rk, P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, Hole, Belly, the Breeders and L7, rock and alternative music was both popular and interesting.
3. Stars were born, not manufactured on television and YouTube. This year, Rebecca Black went viral on YouTube and became a “star” without ever actually having a hit. (“Friday” topped out on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 58, 24 notches lower than the Glee remake.) And nothing against American Idol” it’s given us some bona fide, hit-making talents (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, among them)”but it’s also gave us William Hung! When music stars are created instantly (in Hung’s case, due to an extreme lack of talent) or groomed in front of our very eyes, pop stardom starts to lose its mystique. Clarkson’s fame will never seem as hard-won as Celine Dion‘s; Carrie Underwood will never be as good a story as Shania Twain; and I’d trade soulful, one-hit wonders like Dionne Farris and Des’ree for Fantasia every day of the week. At least we never had to watch them almost self-destruct in public. Which brings us to…
4. Less was more. Before Twitter, YouTube and tabloid media overload, pop stars always left us wanting more. Now they reveal every thought and all of the minutiae of their lives via endless Twitter updates. (Sean Kingston recently tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by medical equipment while recovering from a jet-ski accident in Miami that nearly cost him his life. Too much?) The tabloids give us 24/7 access, showing them doing just about everything except going to the bathroom (including having sex!). And we can catch them whenever we want to on YouTube (and make them seem more popular than they actually are by continuously pressing play in order to increase their “views”) and watch them falling and bombing onstage, tangling with the paparazzi, and getting prickly with TV interviewers before doffing their shirts and hitting the streets of New York City.
Lauryn Hill was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s yet she always managed to sidestep overexposure. Where is she now? God only knows (though it recently was revealed that she’s pregnant with her sixth child). If only Amy Winehouse, her critically acclaimed late-’00s equivalent, had been able to fall apart in the privacy of her own home.
5. Courtney Love was far more daring than Lady Gaga. I’ll admit it: I miss Courtney Love. Whatever you thought about her music, the lead singer of Hole was never boring. Take away Lady Gaga’s freaky-creepy visuals, though, and all you’re left with is a talented but over-earnest, politically correct pop star. She’s says all the right things, but listen closely”none of it is even slightly provocative. Her carefully considered soundbites are intended to be up with underdogs and offensive to no one. Even her pro-gay agenda is as respectful as possible to the political right. Just once, I’d like to see Gaga get naked and sexy (for someone who wears so little clothing, she’s remarkably, and safely, asexual), or totally lose it, throwing good intentions out the window and engaging in a public bitchfest. Isn’t the moral majority asking for it?
20 Essential ’90s Albums
Annie Lennox – Diva
Babyface – For the Cool in You
Belly – Star
Bjí¶rk – Post
The Cardigans - Gran Turismo
Dolly Parton – The Grass Is Blue
Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach – Painted from Memory
John Anderson – Seminole Wind
Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
k.d. lange - Ingenue
Mary J. Blige – My Life
Morrissey - Vauxhaull and I (or Your Arsenal)
Neil Young – Harvest Moon
Neneh Cherry – Homebrew
Portishead - Dummy
Radiohead - The Bends
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (or Out of Time or New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Suede – Coming Up
Ah, the soundtrack. The personal heavy-rotation staple or the CD that’s keeping company with unlabeled mystery CD-Rs, the free magazine compilations or your friend’s band’s terrible demo”all filed somewhere after Misc. ˜Z’. You’d like to sell or toss them, but it was an awesome movie. And it does have that one great song you can’t find on any other album.
Whether gold or garbage, if you have a couple of soundtracks in your collection, you are not alone. Film and television soundtracks have been a constant in a market that has seen many ups and downs, but which now seems to be on a steady decline. Record sales overall have now slipped beyond the point of reasonably being termed flagging and are really in full cardiac arrest. Yet music consumers continue to boost soundtracks into the solid sales stratosphere. At press time, there are six soundtrack albums among Billboard’s Top 50 albums. This is a historical trend. Certainly, not all soundtracks sell. In fact, many fail dismally. But every generation has a few landmark, bona fide blockbuster soundtracks that top the charts, regardless of their contemporary sales trends. Since the ’20s and ’30s, when Charlie Chaplin began composing the scores to his hugely popular films, soundtracks have been in demand. In the last few decades, soundtracks to Hair, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Back To The Future, Purple Rain, The Big Chill, Top Gun, Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Reservoir Dogs, Forrest Gump, Titanic, 8 Mile, and the biggest selling soundtrack ever, The Bodyguard, have sold millions of units each. Some have been so successful as to spawn sequels (Dirty Dancing, Trainspotting, Dazed and Confused, Juno). A sequel to a soundtrack, what will they think of next?
These albums and the films they accompany are truly cultural moments, for better or worse. Multiple and diverse factors have contributed to their success, but in any case, they struck a chord in the cultural consciousness. For the fan, the soundtrack to a film or show has always been a way to extend the positive emotional charge they got from the overall experience. The best of these albums offer that emotional connection, along with exclusivity (unavailable material), and a cohesive flow that makes them worth revisiting. But how do we account for their continued sales power in a time when the public is not just tightening the collective belt, but in fact being weaned off the concept of having to pay for music at all?
A look at some recent best-selling soundtracks gives a hint: Glee, Twilight, High School Musical¦ yes, indeed, the answer lies with the tweens. This crowd not only feels the emotional connection to their favorite movies and shows more intensely than other demographics might, but they also remain blissfully, crucially unconcerned with cost. All they have to spend money on in this world are CDs, books, posters, etc. These are not luxury buys for them. They are the important things, and they are all purchased for them. Thus they have no need or interest in pirated material.
In our increasingly media-saturated and obsessed culture, it will go on like this. The greatest media successes will be those that achieve¦wait for it¦synergy. The book, the movie, the soundtrack, the lunchbox and the bath towel” the combination of these things builds interest into passion into phenomenon. The comparatively measly CD of (yawn) a band’s songs just can’t compete. The big studios and record companies are catching on.