WildWritings.com February 2005 News:
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Kanye Steals The Show, But Ray Dominates Grammy Winners' Circle
Youth had hoped to be served at the 47th annual Grammy Awards — with artists like Kanye West, Usher, Alicia Keys and Green Day racking up more than 40 nominations between them — but in the end, no one could escape the shadow of a

Grammy voters smiled on Ray Charles, showering him with eight awards — including Record of the Year and Album of the Year — and musicians paid tribute to the late R&B artist's songs throughout the night. But Kanye West, who entered the night with 10 noms (more than any other artist), still managed to make a lasting impression with a fiery performance and impassioned speech that brought the crowd to its feet.

West had just lost the Best New Artist award to Maroon 5 when he let out any pent-up Grammy frustrations with a fierce performance of "Jesus Walks," which included a full gospel choir, an elaborate church backdrop, West's apparent death and his subsequent resurrection.

That was followed by Ludacris and Kevin Bacon presenting the Best Rap Album award to West for The College Dropout. Clad in a white suit (see "Celebs Keep It Down-To-Earth On Grammy Carpet (They Wore A Lot Of Brown, Anyway)"), the rapping producer gave a moving acceptance speech, telling audience members to appreciate every moment in life, and giving shout-outs to Jay-Z, his mother and God. He paused, wiped the sweat from his brow, and proclaimed, "I'm going to celebrate and scream and pop champagne, because I'm at the Grammys, baby!

"A lot of people were wondering what I was going to do if I didn't win any [awards]," West laughed. "I guess we'll never know."

His bravado may have earned him a standing ovation from the crowd, but he couldn't overtake Charles for the overall lead in golden gramophones. The R&B legend won five Grammys, including Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals and Record of the Year for "Here We Go Again," his duet with Norah Jones. His posthumously released album of duets, Genius Loves Company, also scored three technical awards for engineering and arrangement, bringing the LP's total wins to eight.

Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx also piled on the praise, covering one of Charles' most famous songs, "Georgia on My Mind," for an emotional tribute.

Keys took home four Grammys, including Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys, Best R&B Song for "You Don't Know My Name" and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "If I Ain't Got You."

In addition to Best Rap Album, West also won the Grammy for Best Rap Song for "Jesus Walks" and got a songwriting win for his work on Keys' "You Don't Know My Name."

Usher and U2 also each won three awards. John Mayer won Song of the Year for his tune "Daughters" (find out who was rooting for him: "Whose Outfit Fell Apart? Who Did Kanye Get Advice From? Grammy Moments You Didn't See"). In his acceptance speech Mayer gave a shout-out to his grandma "for having an awesome daughter named 'my mom.' "

The show began with numbers of a different sort: five bands performing on four stages. The Black Eyed Peas kicked things off with their ubiquitous hit "Let's Get It Started," before segueing to Gwen Stefani and Eve for a pirates-and-bling production of Stefani's "Rich Girl." They were followed by black-clad rockers Los Lonely Boys; Maroon 5 appeared next, frontman Adam Levine rocking what looked like one of his dad's suits from 1977. And finally, Franz Ferdinand ripped through a muscled-up version of their song "Take Me Out."

All five acts then sped through a sort of live "mash-up," trading licks and choruses of each other's hits.

John Travolta, Christina Milian and Steven Tyler then presented the first award of the live broadcast — for Best Pop Performance With Vocals — which went to Los Lonely Boys. Nelly and Adam Sandler — the stars of the upcoming film "The Longest Yard" — presented the award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, which went to Prince, for his song "Call My Name."

U2 took the stage clad in black and bathed in white light. Before beginning, a somber (and cowboy-hatted) Bono dedicated the song "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" to his late father, Bob Hewson.

The award for Best Rock Album went to Green Day for American Idiot, their first win of the evening. As they walked to the stage to accept their award, they received congratulatory handshakes from Aerosmith's Tyler. While wrapping up their acceptance speech, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong held his golden gramophone aloft and announced that "rock and roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time."

Up next were a couple of big-time performances, one of them featuring an actual couple. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony duetted in Spanish in an elaborate number that featured moody lighting, a gilded bedroom and at least two wardrobe changes from J. Lo. That was followed by a tribute to Southern rock, highlighted by nominee Gretchen Wilson and Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Johnny Van Zant duetting on the band's classic tune "Free Bird."

A gangsta-fied Quentin Tarantino — wearing a stocking cap and parka — introduced Green Day, who blasted through a pyro-and-American-flag-backed performance of "American Idiot," Armstrong chicken-walking his way across the stage and thrusting his guitar triumphantly in the air. Keys then picked up her fourth award of the night, for Best R&B Album.

British soul diva Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge ran through throaty covers of the Janis Joplin standards "Cry Baby" and "Piece of My Heart," paying tribute to the woman who had just been honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. That was followed by Tim McGraw, who performed "Live Like You Were Dying," the tune that won him the Best Country Song award earlier in the ceremony.

But McGraw was edged out in the Best Country Album category by Loretta Lynn and her Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose. It was the second Grammy Lynn took home for the LP, having already won earlier in the night for the track "Portland Oregon," her duet with the White Stripes frontman.

The award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals went to U2 for "Vertigo," and a somewhat stunned Bono thanked the crowd before turning the mic over to Larry Mullen Jr., who apologized to U2's fans for their Internet ticket presale snafu.

Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Keys, Velvet Revolver, Armstrong and Brian Wilson all took the stage for a cover of the Beatles' "Across the Universe." Viewers can go to CBS.com to download the live performance of the song for 99 cents. All proceeds will go to tsunami-relief efforts benefiting survivors and their families.

Earlier on, during the pre-televised ceremony, the first batch of Grammy Award winners were announced. And for some Grammy favorites, the ceremony got off to a golden start right then.

Jay-Z won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance for his Rick Rubin-produced track "99 Problems." And show starters the Black Eyed Peas nabbed the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy for their song "Let's Get It Started."

In the pop music category, Charles took top honors, winning for Best Vocal Album. Norah Jones won Best Female Performance for "Sunrise," while John Mayer won the Best Male Performance for his song "Daughters."

U2's "Vertigo" walked off with the award for Best Rock Song, and it was also tops in Best Short Form Music Video category. The clip, directed by the tandem of Alex & Martin, bested videos from Green Day (for "American Idiot") and Franz Ferdinand ("Take Me Out"), among others.
Usher To Release Music Videos, Concert Footage On DVD
LOS ANGELES — Usher's devoting 2005 to the big screen, but he's giving a little love to the small screen as well.

Along with shooting multiple movies, the R&B star is releasing two DVDs and filming a live special for Showtime.

Release dates have yet to be set for either DVD, but the first will likely be "Rhythm City: Volume 1," a collection of videos that will include the full-length version of "Caught Up" featuring P. Diddy, Naomi Campbell, Joy Bryant and Clifton Powell.

"Little X and myself directed it, so it's a personal project, it's very personal," Usher said recently on the set of the upcoming movie "Dying for Dolly" (see "Set Visit: Dying for Dolly"). "We worked many years on so many different videos and I've just been looking for that opportunity to do a really cool story that was theatrical and musical at the same time. So this is it."

"Rhythm City" was supposed to be issued this month but was delayed due to clearance issues with the Lil Jon-produced "Red Light," according to a source close to the project.

The second DVD will be titled "Usher Live: The Truth Tour" and will feature performance footage from his 2004 tour. The Showtime special, "One Night One Star Usher Live," will air live from San Juan's Coliseo de Puerto Rico on March 5, during the channel's free-preview weekend. "It's gonna be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Usher said.

In the meantime, fans can catch Usher performing at Sunday's Grammy Awards, where he's nominated for eight awards (see "Kanye Scores 10 Grammy Nominations; Usher And Alicia Keys Land Eight").

Usher said if there's one trophy he's hoping for most, it's Album of the Year for Confessions (see "Road To The Grammys: The Making Of Usher's Confessions").

"I would celebrate with all of the people who were a part of it, all the writers, all the producers, everybody behind the scenes that made it happen," he explained. "[Last year] was a good year not just because of the hard work I put in, but it was also a good year because of everybody that was associated with me."
Kanye West, Other Artists Meet To Tackle File-Sharing Issues
HOLLYWOOD — As an intern at Island/ Def Jam in the summer of 2003, Matthew Annerino witnessed dozens of coworkers losing their jobs to cutbacks.

While he watched them pack up their offices, he thought about one of his  responsibilities in the new media department, monitoring the file-trading Web sites as millions downloaded Island/ Def Jam music for free.

"I just thought that something had to be done," recalled Annerino, a 22-year-old student from Chicago. "People that work at record labels, unless they're at the top, don't make a lot of money anyway. They're doing it because they love music and now they're losing their jobs."

After writing a paper about the experience, Annerino was told the Recording Academy was creating a digital music advisory board of 18- to 24-year-olds. A rigorous national selection process later, he was welcomed onto the board and will participate in its first roundtable discussion Saturday at the Staples Center, where the Grammys will be held the following night.

Sitting next to Annerino will be 11 other committee members as well as honorary members Kanye West, Mark McGrath, Earth, Wind & Fire and newcomer JD Natasha.

Called the What's the Download Interactive Advisory Board, the collective is named after the research-based public-education campaign the Recording Academy launched a year ago to open up dialogue about downloading, specifically at WhatsTheDownload.com (see "NARAS To Kick Off Pay-For-Play Campaign At Grammy Awards").

"The online discussions are great, but we decided real life would be better," Ron Roecker, the Recording Academy's vice president of communications, said Wednesday. "And it's not a publicity stunt. It's a real board, and on Saturday we plan to lay out our agenda."

The What's the Download Interactive Advisory Board's goals will be to gather feedback from young people about their digital music needs and educate them about the consequences of illegal downloading (such as record label layoffs) and other options.

"And we definitely need to get the labels up to speed on what they should be doing," Annerino said.

Board members will be active contributors to WhatsTheDownload.com as well as "The Download" quarterly e-newsletter and music-related events throughout the year. "We also hope they will be ambassadors of information to music fans in their states," Roecker said.

Some of the board members confessed to having downloaded thousands of songs before changing their opinions on file-trading, according to Roecker.

One member who went years without thinking about the issue was Kanye West. "He didn't think much of it until his record leaked online and thousands were downloading it for free," Roecker said. "It affects SoundScan, it affects their royalties. And now Kanye has said, 'Sign me up. I'll do whatever it takes.' "

"I'm really interested to get his thoughts and ideas," Annerino added. "And he's from Chicago, so that's a bonus."
JoJo Unfazed By Trappings Of Fame (In New Video, Anyway)
JoJo might play a superstar in her next video, which shoots this week in Los Angeles, but she's not the kinda girl to be impressed by the trappings of fame or money.

So as JoJo's limo rolls by, according to the treatment of the video for her third single, "Not That Kinda Girl," she eyeballs people chattering on their cell phones and showing off their convertibles and customized Scions and "2 Fast 2 Furious"-style imported cars. None of this fazes JoJo; neither does the sound of her song being played on the car stereos, nor the sight of her face on billboards behind the cars and her name in lights on the marquee of the venue, her destination.

"It just says, 'You are not impressing me with all the things that you have,' " JoJo said recently about the song, "and I am not that kind of girl that's into those kinds of things."

Surrounded by a throng of exploding flashbulbs and jostling paparazzi, JoJo heads inside the venue, where she sits alone in the empty seats, gets ready in her dressing room, walks around backstage, and then finally gives her performance to the sold-out crowd. The video concludes with JoJo wiping off the glamour and just wearing a hoodie and playing with her iPod as she walks past the paparazzi, who no longer recognize her.

After shooting the video with director Fat Cats (who last helmed T.I.'s "Bring 'Em Out"), JoJo is scheduled to fly to Australia to film her movie debut, "Aquamarine" (see "JoJo Says She's 'Not That Kind Of Girl,' Wants Dr. Dre For Next Album").
Jackson Case: First phase of jury seclection wraps a day early
The first phase of jury selection in the Michael Jackson child-molestation trial was wrapped a day early, with Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville taking just a day and a half to find a pool of approximately 250 jurors willing to serve.

After calling an end to the process at noon on Tuesday, Judge Melville adjourned court until next Monday, when the prosecution and Jackson's defense team will begin questioning the potential jurors, according to Reuters. "I think we have enough [potential] jurors," Melville told the attorneys in the case.

At the end of the process, Melville must swear in 12 jurors and eight alternates to hear the evidence against Jackson, accused of molesting a teenage cancer patient at his Neverland ranch. The process could take up to a month, according to legal experts.

On Tuesday, Jackson was again silent during the proceedings, switching from the white suit he wore during his first day in court (see "Jury Selection Begins In Michael Jackson's Molestation Trial") to a black suit with a white vest. Jackson's accuser and his family are expected to testify in the case, but it is still unclear if the 46-year-old pop singer will take the stand in his defense.

While the judge has kept a tight lid on statements from the defense and prosecution in the case, he did allow Jackson to film an interview with FOX News Channel's Geraldo Rivera, which is reportedly slated to air on Saturday at 10 p.m. In the interview, Jackson reportedly speaks about the trial, sister Janet's wardrobe mishap at last year's Super Bowl and the future of his career.
New Britney Clip Has Flying Hummer, More Underwear Dancing
Britney Spears wanted control of her career, and she got it. The result? Her latest video, which she co-directed, features the singer playing air guitar in her underwear, singing in a faux girl band, and flying a pink Hummer through the clouds.

Spears said she had more of a hand in "Do Somethin' " than any other video she's made, as she "even came up with all the choreography and styled the entire shoot myself using Juicy Couture clothing" (see "Britney Clarifies: I'm Taking A Break From Being Told What To Do"). "Do Somethin'," which won't be serviced to U.S. video channels, was slated to premiere in the U.K. this Friday, but fans around the world are already watching it thanks to an online leak.

In it, Spears wears a pink midriff T-shirt reading "Love Boat" and a pink capelet, making her way to a club called Hole in the Wall with her four blond bandmates via the flying pink Hummer and singing, "Somebody give me my truck/ So I can ride on the clouds/ ... Somebody pass my guitar/ So I can look like a star." En route, they whip their hair in sync to the beat as Spears puts the car on autopilot. Once they arrive, Spears and crew head for the dance floor, where she exhorts the crowd, "Get up out of your seat/ Why don't you do something?"

After a few dance moves, including one where her band pushes her around in a chair, Spears and the girls make for the stage and rock out a bit. Interspersed throughout the video are shots of Spears performing in black underwear and a white mini fur coat, as if she were shot in a separate room and is just being flashed on a screen à la "My Prerogative." But when her band starts performing, the in-her-undies Spears' response is to play air guitar.

Spears has described the video as "cute," which might explain why she goes back and forth between trying to look sexy and then goofy. She breaks from serious vamp poses to mug dorky grins and roll her eyes at the camera, even when she's in her underwear. Her answer to the incongruity might also be found in the song: "I see ya looking over here/ Can't you tell I'm having fun?"
Mariah And J.Lo Start Strong With New Singles
Rivals Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey are enjoying chart success with their respective comeback singles. 'Get Right' is the highest new entry for Lopez at #62 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks since June 2001, when 'I'm Real' started at #61. Meanwhile, Mariah's 'It's Like That' has her highest new entry on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks in more than five years at #58.
Alicia Keys to hit the Road!
Teen Music
Five-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys sets out on a winter/spring tour of the U.S. theater circuit that backs her Grammy-nominated sophomore set, "The Diary of Alicia Keys."

The singer/pianist gets things started near the end of February, and dates are confirmed into late April. Among the shows on the itinerary are two-night stands in Los Angeles; Oakland; Detroit; Chicago; Atlanta; Washington, DC; and New York City. Details are shown below.

Keys will have a chance to warm up for the outing during her Feb. 13 performance at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards, during which she plans to play her Grammy-nominated single "If I Ain't Got You," according to her website. The ceremony takes place in Los Angeles and will air on CBS.

While at the Grammys, Keys may also take the stage for one or more acceptance speeches; she's nominated for eight awards this year: Album of the Year and Best R&B Album ("The Diary Of Alicia Keys"); Song of the Year and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("If I Ain't Got You"); two nominations in the Best R&B Song category ("My Boo" and "You Don't Know My Name"); and two nominations in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals category ("Diary," featuring Tony! Toni! Tone! and "My Boo," with Usher).
American Idol: In-Depth Preview!
Woh woh, oh woh oh ... The theme song is back, but "American Idol" is singing a new tune as the show heads into its fourth season: "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes."

Simon, Randy and Paula return, as does Ryan Seacrest (albeit bruised from the  failure of his talk show), but "Idol" as we knew it is no more.

The biggest changes will come in the semifinals, which producers are unofficially calling a battle of the sexes, but things will be different beginning with Tuesday's kickoff.

As was announced before auditions last summer, the age limit for contestants was raised from 26 to 28 (see "Lock Up Your Mom: 'Idol' Raises Age Limit"), and it seems the older singers turned out.

"We were seeing a lot of 28-year-olds, 26, 27, and that will probably play a lot in this show, because people sometimes get better, there's things you can't fix as a teen," Randy Jackson said recently.

"American Idol" doesn't release statistics on the contestants, but executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said singers spanning the full range of 16 to 28 advanced to the semifinals. "We have more diversity, which was a good change," she said. "And it's great to be able to give that chance to the people who may be slightly older and didn't get a chance to show their talents in their earlier years."

The initial audition shows will feature the same mix of the good, the bad and the William Hungs, but this year will also see the addition of guest judges, which include Brandy, LL Cool J, Mark McGrath, Kenny Loggins and Gene Simmons. "It brings a different voice and a new perspective," Frot-Coutaz said.

Auditions were held in new cities (St. Louis, Cleveland, Orlando, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.), but the biggest change to the early episodes will be where else the show travels.

"We picked some of the kids who had good stories or good backgrounds, and we delved into their journeys," Frot-Coutaz said. "We go out of the audition room more than in previous seasons, so you'll see a lot of the emotion and the sacrifices some of these contestants have made to come to 'Idol,' so viewers can understand a bit more what it means to them, their families, their lives. It's something we did with 'Pop Idol' when we first launched in the U.K. and we never had the time in the U.S., but this year we did, so we took advantage of it. You'll see Ryan Seacrest on a farm, which is good television."

One such segment will follow a young man who "made it to Hollywood," as they say, and is forced to return to his rock band and confess that he auditioned and now needs time off.

When the singers do convene in Hollywood (well, somewhere close by), the judges will now narrow them down from about 150 to 24, as opposed to the usual 32. Of that 24, half will be male and half will be female.

The semifinals will then begin on a Monday with all 12 of the men or the women competing. Tuesday will feature all 12 of the opposite sex, and then two of each sex will be eliminated in the Wednesday show. After two more weeks of the same, the contestants will be narrowed down to the final 12, six of each sex.

"We try very hard every year to bring new things to the show without changing the formula, because the formula works, so it's about tweaking things at the margin and improving it where there's room for improvement," Frot-Coutaz said. "We thought it would add quite a bit of spice to have a girl competition and a boy competition, because the reality is boys and girls actually are very different characters. They compete differently, they tackle the scenes differently."

In past seasons, two pools of eight contestants, both men and women, advanced to the finals for four consecutive weeks, with the final four of the 12 finalists selected from the wildcard round in the fifth week.

"We did research, and the viewers didn't understand how that phase worked or what the purpose of it was," Frot-Coutaz said. "And then they didn't see the two who made it first for a whole month. Now, as a viewer, you can start rooting for people earlier. I think it's going to be great."

When the finals start, things will go back to normal and the sex of the singer will no longer matter.

"If the girls are overwhelmingly better than the boys, then the public will make that choice and it may be that within a few weeks we'll end up having a lot more girls rather than boys, or the other way around," Frot-Coutaz said. "It's still going to be the public's choice, and it could be that we have a final with two girls or two boys because those will be the best contestants."

During the finals last season, several fans petitioned producers to get rid of the theme weeks and to include the judges' comments on Wednesdays, so as not to influence the voting. The producers, however, saw no need to change those things.

"I think it would be very odd to have the comments the night after — that's the one thing you want to hear is what the judges thought," Frot-Coutaz said. "And I don't think Americans necessarily listen to what the judges have to say anyway."