Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Lesson in Discipline: Review of Janet's New CD

Miss Janet wields the power of anticipation like she might a whip on a naughty lover; undoubtedly, she's still in control and loving it. And now at long last... the wait is over; a new Janet era in music has finally arrived enclosed in wet latex, lace, and high-heeled shoes. I'm referring to the CD art people! Discipline hit stores the 26th and preliminary results say she's got another #1 on her list of 10 albums. Go 'head Miss Janet!

"It's classic Janet with a modern twist," is how she describes it. But don't call it a comeback, Janet's been here for years. And she credits discipline for keeping her so for more than 20 years. That's why the album bears the same name.

So what can you expect musically from the 41-years-old Janet? The same things you expected from the younger Janet. Age ain't nothing but a number and throwing down ain't nothing but a thang for the "nothing-to-prove" entertainer. So on this new CD she hits the dance floor running with opening tracks Feedback, Luv, Rollercoaster, and Rock With You.

No doubt, Janet loves the "kids" and Rock With You is a testament to that with it's 80s club vibe. It definitely gets a "rainbow" stamp of approval while the other opening tracks get their street approval from head nodding, bass thumping R&B. And since Rock With You is the next single, here's the performance from Good Morning Area that wasn't televised entirely. I love the choreography for this.


video



Leading you off the dance floor are the ballads midway through the album: Can't Be Good, Never Letchu Go, Greatest X. These are what define Janet's classic ballad sound--light almost whispery lead vocals combined with rich, full harmonies and flowing melodies. On Can't Be Good, my fav, you'll swear she vocally channeled Michael into that recording session.

Then it's back to the dance floor. So Much Betta is a funky throwback with vocal twists and tricks. A few beats in and I was reminded of ODB's fun groove, Got Your Money. Following it, The 1, featuring Myssi Elliott, hits you right in the seat of your pants with a beat and a rhyme that will definitely make your booty shake. After that What's Ur Name, a laid back groove, leads you to the bar to get cutie's info before taking things to the next level.

And last but not least, Discipline would not be a Janet album if she omitted baby making music. Play Robin Thicke's, Teach You a Lesson, followed by Janet's Discipline and you've set the scene for a little role playing that might earn you extra credit in the bedroom. That's where the sexy song Curtains takes place--in your room. Art imitates life as she heats up the fantasies of eager audience participants dreaming to be pulled on stage for that special interactive part of her show.


Overall, I think it's a great album. It's well balanced in pop and R&B with plenty of hit singles. Just put it in and let it play. Now for those critics who complain Janet's not singing her age, what do you want her to sing about? Self image, domestic violence, women's empowerment and other issues? Been there, done that. With possibly the exception of the moody Velvet Rope, Janet has always been synonymous with feel good, dance-able, visual, and yes, sexy music. She's 41-years-YOUNG at heart. You want soul searching, introspective, every day issues music then search elsewhere right now. Despite it serious title, Discipline musically provides a momentary escape from the heavies of life that we sometimes need. But even in fun, as Janet demonstrates, there must be some discipline.

WANT TO HEAR A PREVIEW? GO HERE. DOWNLOAD IT legally for less than you can buy it in the stores.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Black Hollywood History: Nina Mae McKinney

Before Halle, Dorothy, Lena, and even Hattie was Nina Mae McKinney (1912-1967), the first black actress to perform in a sound movie. Originally from Lancaster, SC, this singer, dancer, actress began her career at 16 when she performed in the chorus line of Blackbirds (1928), a Broadway play. That performance earned her a role as "Chick" in Hallelujah (1929), Hollywood's first all black musical.

After Hallelujah, she was offered a five year contract with MGM studios. But her budding career never really blossomed in the racist Hollywood system of the time; she received small roles in only two movies. Neither of which ever made it to the big screen. So Nina left Hollywood for Europe where she found true fame touring with pianist, Garland Wilson, acting opposite Paul Robeson in two films, and touring alone in the 30s and 40s. She also starred in several American Independent films, such as Pie, Pie Blackbird (1932). Her performances were so well received by audiences she was given the titles "Black Garbo" and the "Brown Clara Bow."

Here's a scene from Pie, Pie Blackbird. Featured also in this clip are the very young Nicolas Brothers and Eubie Blake and his Orchestra.



In the 40s she toured with her own jazz band after marrying Jazz musician, Jimmy Munroe. Her last film was Pinky (1949). The 50s and 60s found her living in Greece where she became known as the "Queen of Nightlife." She returned to the states in the late 60s and resided in New York, where she died.

Sources:
African American Registry.com
Nina Mae Mckinney Fan site
Imdb.com

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Raisin in the Sun Message from P. Diddy

If you're a 70's kid or earlier and grew up in a black household then you might remember hearing this announcement: "Black People on television!"
Just think back to when Roots debuted. Hurriedly every one within earshot of the call came running to see who or what was on the family tv set other than bad news. Then suddenly the phone would ring. Mrs. Such and Such from church or next door was calling to tell your family what y'all already knew. Word-of-mouth then was the best form of promotion and that hasn't changed.

With that same anticipation we should set our channels to ABC, February 29th, at 8pm, for Lorraine Hansberry's award winning play, A Raisin In The Sun, television debut. The cast features the Tony Award winning members from the 2004 Broadway production: Phylicia Rashad, Audra Mcdonald, Sanaa Lathan, and Sean Combs aka "Diddy". Below watch his personal message about this special broadcast followed by a trailer.



To see cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage visit the A Raisin In The Sun's webpage on ABC.com by clicking HERE. Then spread the word, share the video, and email this blog entry to all you know. Let's blow the ratings through the roof!

And in the spirit of Black History Month here's a tidbit about the original play: A Raisin In The Sun was the first play written by an African-American to appear on Broadway. Premiering 1959, it ran successfully for 530 shows and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the Year, making the 29 year-old Hansberry the fifth woman and only African-American to receive the award in that category. At the age of 34, Hansberry died of lung cancer.

Source: Raisinonbroadway.com

The 1961 original film adaptation starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Diane Sands, and Claudia McNeil is a definite must-have. Click the DVD to get your copy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

NAACP Image Award After Party

After the show it's the after party, and after the party it's the hotel lobby, and after Belve then it's probably Cris...Let me stop right there. I know absolutely nothing about what drinks come before the other unless its Kool-Aid, and I ain't ashamed to say so. I do, however, know a little something about what makes a great after-party besides free booze and free food--GREAT MUSIC! See what I mean below:

video



And if that didn't make your head nod, then this certainly will! Press "play" on the far left and TURN THIS UP!



music player



And yes that's me singing off key! Partying with Stevie Wonder and Doug E. Fresh at the Beverly Hilton Hotel is how I ended my Image Award Experience. Not bad, huh! Not bad at all!

NAACP Image Award Interviews

Obviously the sun came out too to celebrate the 39th Annual Image Awards. But don't be fooled by what you see! The sun was accompanied by "the hawk", turning a lovely red carpet day into a chilly and windy Chicago style afternoon.

Yet, despite the sudden drop in temperature the presence of one individual seem to warm up the carpet for quite a while--Tyler Perry. With two films on the horizon and Image Award nominations for his work in television and film, he had a lot to talk about with press. I didn't get the chance to interview him, but I did talk to the next best thing--one of his HPIC (Head Producers In Charge) and some of the stars of both films, Meet the Browns and A Family That Prays.

Other hot topics of discussion on the carpet: The Great Debators and its cast's individual nominations; this month's television debut of A Raisin In The Sun which Audra Macdonald shares great insight about; independent film Dirty Laundry and Rockmond Dunbar's role in it; Ruby Dee; and Rick Fox shedding his "pretty boy" image and continuing his full court press into acting.






music player

Friday, February 15, 2008

NAACP Image Awards Experience Part 1

It's the morning after. I wake up to a beautiful L.A. day and memories of the best award show experience I've had to date. My 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards experience was simply wonderful. And though my feet are still swollen from standing all day and dancing all night, I won't complain about a thing.

I missed most of the show, but from the cold, windy red carpet to the cozy backstage I had a great time. The biggest highlight of the day...Drum Roll, Please!...was meeting the legendary Ruby Dee. We're about the same height, but her presence is larger than life to me. Just to have five minutes with her without interruption was simply amazing! But I'm kicking myself now 'cause I didn't have my copy of We Speak Your Name for her to autograph.

After my shy "hello", adoration poured out of me like an open faucet. Happens to the best of us! Yet, Ruby Dee is not a celebrity. She and Ossie represent an institution in culture and history. Ask any living relative of Martin and Malcolm and they'll tell you who was always "backstage" organizing so their parents could lead the movement.

While I talked she graciously listened, smiled, and thanked me. Before she left, we talked briefly about Countdown at Kusini, a film she and Ossie co-produced in the 70s along with Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated. No, I didn't ask for an interview or a picture. In that moment I stopped being an entertainment reporter/blogger and became merely a woman with a sincere desire to express her respect to a legend that paved the way. "I am somebody because...you share the Somebodiness of me" Ms. Ruby Dee.

Also backstage was the beautiful, tropical Eco Lux Gifting Experience designed by Detra Palmore 's idesigns Events Services. "Going green" was the theme. Celebrity visitors were introduced to environmentally friendly art, organic health and beauty products, organic drinks, jewelry, artificial grass, and furniture. Visit idesigns HERE to see wonderful examples of Palmore's work. Jordin Sparks, India Irie, and Blair Underwood are just a few of the celebs and notables that rolled through.


India Irie


Jordin Sparks


NAACP Chairperson, Clayola Brown


And here are my pictures from the red carpet. Check back soon for interviews with Denzel Whitaker, Taraji P. Henson, Journee Smollett, Rick Fox, and more.

Journee Smollett

Brian White

Denzel Whitaker


Wendy Rachel-Robinson


Loretta Devine

Rockmond Dunbar


Jimmy Jean Louis

Keisha Knight Pulliam


Nicki Micheaux


Rick Fox


Stevie Wonder

And last but not least, HUGE shout out to Mikki Turner and Jocelyn Coleman of Favor PR! THANK Y'ALL!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Strike Is Over!

It's official!  The WGA and the Alliance for Motion Picture and Television Producers have finally reached an agreement.  Show me the internet money!  Under the tentative contract, writers get a maximum $1,200 flat fee for streamed programs for the first two years, then get 2% of the distributors gross year three. Residual payments have also been increased for downloaded movies and tv shows.

What does this mean for dear old Oscar?  Well, the show will go on as planned without worry of picket lines, boycotting actors, or other strike related drama. But after the Academy Awards, more drama may be coming to a screen near you.  Just because the writers have gotten a deal, it doesn't mean the Screen  Actors Guild won't follow their example and strike too this Spring.  The contract between SAG and the studios will expire in June.  So stay tuned.  There's more to see...


Source: AP

Monday, February 11, 2008

Live From The 50th Grammy Award Press Room

I almost titled this entry, "Grammy Got Your Tongue?". Despite all the thrill and ceremony of becoming a Grammy winner, most of the artists at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards chose not to express it to the press. "Where is everybody?," we kept asking press room organizers backstage. With all the winners, nominees, and performers floating around the Staples Center, we expected plenty of visitors to our tv/ radio press room. Unfortunately, few came. Still, here are a few highlights from the 50th Annual Grammy Awards press room floor:

Appearing as if he'd just auditioned for an urban low budget Alice in Wonderland flick, T-Pain with a huge multi-colored top hat, denim suit, and cane proudly announced he had $17,000 worth of jewels in his mouth. "And that's cheap," he informed us. Despite the fact that he is currently one of the hottest producer/artists in Hip Hop and a first time Grammy winner, not much was asked about his music. Plenty was asked about his clothes and the bling in his mouth.

Now three-time-winner, Jill Scott, informed us she would like to win her next Grammy in the classical music category and possibly in country music. WHAT! Yes, Ms. Jill liked fellow Grammy winner, Brad Paisley's, performance so much, she said she would like to work with him. Of course when Brad heard the news from a reporter, he was quite flattered stating, "Wow, that's a big compliment coming from her." Interesting....

Vince Gill told us don't get it twisted, he has no beef with Kanye. But since Kanye said only he and Amy Winehouse were worthy of Album of the Year despite Gill's and the Foo Fighter's nomination, he was compelled to give the sometimes I-speak-before-I-think rapper a small attitude check. During the show when Gill received his award from Ringo Starr, he questioned whether Kanye could say that he'd ever been given an award by a Beatle.

After all the years of blessing us with beautiful gospel music, this was the first win for the legendary Clark sisters. They received three awards. When asked what was there response to hearing that they were nominated, the sisters confessed to becoming a mess: make-up running, crying, and of course shouting. They were especially happy to make their mother proud. And when Aretha Franklin was mentioned, Karen confessed to being a huge fan.

The big winners of the evening were Amy Winehouse with 5 awards including Song and Record of the Year for Rehab and Kanye West who received 4 awards including Best Rap Album for Graduation.

West's sincere thank you to fans for their support after his mother's death was somewhat expected. But his directing the show from the stage by saying, "it would be in good taste if you stopped the music, then," instantly made heads bowed to computer screens pop up.

Later, Winehouse's stunned response to her Record of the Year win and shout out to jailed husband, "Blake Incarcerated!" received a collective round of laughter as writers furiously typed away to recap the surprising moment for the following morning's news headlines.

Outside of the dynamic duos of Beyonce and the nearly 70 year-old, energetic Tina Turner, and Rihanna's Umbrella  with The Time, Winehouse and West were the hot topics of on the press room floor. Unfortunately, none of them made it back to us to share their Grammy experiences themselves.


Here's some pics:

Hmmm...which way do I go?

Press save then send! Hope you meet your deadline!


This is how the stage looked most of the night, empty.


Taking Chaka's pic almost go me in trouble. No personal photos were allowed in this press room!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Party

This is THE industry party. Yes, there's a party going on this weekend in every corner of Hollywood, but Clive's party is an absolute must! Last night's event was attended by some of everybody in the biz. Whitney, Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, Gladys Knight, Nia Long, Anthony Hamilton, JD....and the list goes on and on and on...

Celebrity carpet arrivals are always a media mad house!

Clive Girls, Alicia and Whitney. Looking good, Whitney! Any possibilities of a duet?

Rihanna the haircut on YOU is fabulous! "Luv" the earrings and the golden sash, J.!

Chris Brown...Lawd, boy you're so cute! I'm not a kid anymore. How old are you again?

Hey ladies! Y'all just might find The Best Man tonight! Any movies in the works for either of you?



NC REPRESENT! Eli (left) I'm still waiting on my Anthony Hamilton t-shirt.

Homegirl, Fantasia! People are still raving about your Color Purple performances.


Don Cornelius, is the Soul Train still running?




3 Producers, 1 album, February 26th. Hey Rodney Jerkins! What's your next single? And Jermaine, you're rocking the Berry Gordy beard perfectly!


To see the entire Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Party event just click HERE!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Janet's Discipline Listening Party Interview

New York City


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Jill Scott: Live In Paris DVD

Bonjour, tout le monde! Je m'apelle Ellenoir1 et j'aime Jill Scott!

I literally just returned from a screening of the Jill Scott: Live in Paris DVD. The amazing show opened with a brief documentary introducing us to French musicians and fans expressing their love for Jill and her music. Then the Paris concert began at what appeared to be a French version of our House of Blues, called the Elysee Monmartre.

As Fatback Taffy, the band, rocked out to Is it the Way Jill simply stepped on stage dressed in a funky white jacket, a brown t-shirt decorated by a woman's large, sparkling 'fro, and casual dark pants and shoes. With her natural hair pulled back and up into one large afro puff, she appeared like a very young woman at the start of her career. But once the first note spilled past her lips, all childish notions were put away.

The adoring crowd was an interesting mix of Paris' cultural diversity. Just as we do here, they sang the words to Jill's songs enthusiastically even when she stopped briefly. And just like in American crowds, there's always that one shouting instructions to the performer between songs. Yet, ironically the moments that really captured the essence of Jill, not just as an artist but as a woman and a poet, happened when she wasn't singing at all.

After performing Rasool, a song about a young man whose bad choices led to his death, she delivered a heartfelt message to brothers caught up in the game. Then when fan favorite, Lyzel in E Flat, was performed, tears fell again. This time, the reason not so obvious. I guessed that maybe the muse for that special love song was gone and the pain of that loss was still present. As most know, Jill is now divorced. Yet, she smiled through it, wiping away tears as she performed an upbeat version of the love song that has become the signature close of her show. Beautifully Human, that indeed you are Ms. Jill.

Overall the show was great and the sound quality amazing. Different camera angles and creative editing gave it good pacing--not that you need to rush when Jill's singing! However, to some the various graphic edits may appear overdone. Interestingly, the more I watched the show, the more I was reminded of Sade's last concert DVD, Lovers Live.

After the screening I asked Co-Executive Producer, Thianar Gomis, how the Jill Scott: Live In Paris came about and what the R&B scene was like in Paris.

video

To see a preview of the DVD visit Hidden Beach online HERE. It hit stores February 5th.

Black Entertainment History: Florence Mills

Florence Mills (1896-1927). Originally from Washington, D.C. this talented daughter of former slaves is noted as the first black international superstar of the 20th century. Performing in talent shows since the age of 4, Mills early career really began after her family moved to Harlem in 1905. There she began performing professionally in Harlem's Vaudeville circuit.

1910, she and her older sisters form the Mills Sisters and tour widely. Once the trio breaks up, Mills then performs for several years with other girl groups until her big break in 1921. That's when she is cast as the lead in Shuffle Along, a black musical that does very well on Broadway. 1924, Mills unique voice and dancing talents lead her to success again on The Great White Way in Dixie to Broadway, another black musical. From the show I'm a Litte Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird becomes her trademark song and earns her the nickname, "Blackbird".

When her new show, titled Blackbirds takes Europe by storm in 1926, Florence Mills becomes an international superstar officially with top billing every where it plays. But a year later health issues began to slow her down and Mills is warned to get medical attention. Unfortunately, by the time she does her tuberculosis-related illness is untreatable. 1927 she dies in Harlem and her funeral draws the biggest crowd of mourners the city had ever seen. Black Beauty, is composed by Duke Ellington in her honor.




Photo:




Sources:

Florencemills.com
Drop Me Off In Harlem

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