Monday, February 13, 2012
Adele swept the major honors of song, record and album of the year Sunday for her lost-love epic "21" and its driving single "Rolling in the Deep." She picked up her final two awards after making her first public performance in months after being sidelined for throat surgery. Her total of six Grammys matched Beyonce for most ever by a female act.
After seeming almost sheepish in picking up some of the trophies ("This is ridiculous," she said after winning record of the year), Adele's tears flowed upon winning best album.
"This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it — just a rubbish relationship," she said. "It's gone on to do things that I can't tell you how I feel about them. It's been the most life-changing year."
The Foo Fighters won five Grammys for music that singer Dave Grohl said was made in his garage, and ceremony no-show Kanye West won four. Indie rockers Bon Iver won best new artist.
Show host LL Cool J's neat pivot allowed the assembled industry leaders to mourn Houston while enjoying the night's music. He offered a prayer at the outset for Houston, who died Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel. Later Jennifer Hudson, under a portrait of the late vocalist, sang a portion of "I Will Always Love You." Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Stevie Wonder all saluted Houston.
"This night is about something truly universal and healing," LL Cool J said. "This night is about music."
Artists have fewer opportunities these days to reach large, diverse audiences and it has made the Grammys an increasingly important venue. Producers take advantage of the star power to pack the night with performances, deemphasizing the actual awards. Sunday's was a sprawling variety show, occasionally historic.
Bruce Springsteen sang a new populist anthem, "We Take Care of Our Own." Rihanna dueted with Chris Martin of Coldplay. Katy Perry debuted a shiny blue haircut. Keys and Bonnie Raitt honored Etta James. The Foo Fighters sang "Walk" and later participated in a tribute to new dance artists. Chris Brown hoofed it up a series of steps, although his voice was barely recognizable. Glen Campbell, soon to retire due to Alzheimer's, appeared in a tribute.
Maroon 5 and Foster the People played Beach Boy songs, then joined the Boys as they reunited for their 50th anniversary. Many believed Brian Wilson and Mike Love, who looked slightly stiff going through "Good Vibrations," would never appear on stage together again.
Paul McCartney sang a jazzy new song from his album of standards, then was joined by Springsteen, Grohl, Tom Petty and Joe Walsh on the Beatles' "Abbey Road" closing medley.
Then there was the truly unexplainable: Nicki Minaj's exorcism outing, ending with her levitating above the stage.
Adele was the uniting force. Her album was a critical hit and commercial powerhouse, and it would have been an upset if she hadn't joined Eric Clapton, the Dixie Chicks, Carole King, Paul Simon and Christoper Cross among artists to sweep the three biggest awards in one night.
"It's nice to see as music keeps evolving that something as authentic as she's putting out can still be not just relevant but dominating," said Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, last year's record of the year winners.
Adele said backstage that her victories hadn't sunk in yet. She said she enjoyed the two months where a throat ailment forced her to keep quiet.
"I'm actually quite mouthy," she said.
As for the subject of "21," she said, "I think he'll be very happy for me."
Dan Wilson, who co-wrote Adele's "Someone Like You" and two other tracks on the disc, said he's excited about how well Adele has done because her songs are performed simply. It's all about the message and the emotion, he said.
"She stands up onstage and delivers them with tons of soul and heart," he said. "It almost seems like a trick she's doing that. She doesn't have any, like, elephants walking with her or, you know, fire and stuff like it. It seems like she has the most amazing trick, which is she's doing it with almost nothing, and is still blowing us away."
Paul Epworth, who worked with Adele on the album, won a Grammy for producer of the year.
While Adele's vocals are powerful, the singing of best new artist winner Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is often delicate, the music atmospheric. He won a competitive and diverse category with Minaj, The Band Perry, J. Cole and Skrillex. Appearing onstage in an ill-fitting suit jacket, Vernon talked about writing for the inherent reward of writing songs, not for trophies.
It doesn't mean he wasn't honored and grateful for the award, he said backstage later.
"At some point I got really nervous," he said. "Maybe it was because I didn't feel like I deserved to be here ... This is the biggest night in music but it's also a very small Staples Center, and there's so much music out there in the world and it's so hard to feel like it's collecting the whole thing."
He gave an onstage shout-out to Eau Claire, Wis., probably a Grammy first.
Grohl shouted "long live rock 'n' roll" as producers played LMFAO's "Party Rock" over the loudspeakers to get him offstage after the Foo Fighters won for best rock performance. He made a plea for musicians to recognize that the human element is what makes their art most important.
"It's not about being perfect. It's not about sounding absolutely correct. It's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here and what goes on in here," he said, pointing to his head and his heart.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen told reporters outside the Beverly Hilton that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the hotel. Her body remained there and Beverly Hills detectives were investigating.
"There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent," Rosen said.
Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.
Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday. Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, he said.
Houston's end came on the eve of music's biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony.
Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday at the same hotel where her body was found, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.
Producer Jimmy Jam, who had worked with Houston, said he anticipated the evening would become a tribute to her, and he expected there to be one at the Grammys as well.
Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press that she would perhaps perform: "It's her favorite night of the year ... (so) who knows by the end of the evening," he said.
Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.
Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price. Singer Kenny Lattimore hosted the event, and said Houston sang the gospel classic "Jesus Loves Me" with Price, her voice registering softly, not with the same power it had at its height.
Lattimore said Houston was gregarious and was in a good mood, surrounded by friends and family, including daughter Bobbi Kristina.
"She just seemed like she was having a great night that night," said Lattimore, who said he was in shock over her death.
Aretha Franklin, her godmother, also said she was stunned.
"I just can't talk about it now," Franklin said in a short statement. "It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen."
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
"The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird," Sharpton said in a statement.
In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston "was one of the world's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades."
"Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs," Portnow said. "A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice."
At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale."
She had the perfect voice and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.
She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
"The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.
She seemed to be born into greatness. In addition to being Franklin's goddaughter, she was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston and the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick.
Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.
"The time that I first saw her singing in her mother's act in a club ... it was such a stunning impact," Davis told "Good Morning America."
"To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine," he added.
Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with "Whitney Houston," which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. "Saving All My Love for You" brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. "How Will I Know," ''You Give Good Love" and "The Greatest Love of All" also became hit singles.
Another multiplatinum album, "Whitney," came out in 1987 and included hits like "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
The New York Times wrote that Houston "possesses one of her generation's most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity."
Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the "Soul Train Awards" in 1989.
"Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?" she told Katie Couric in 1996. "You're not black enough for them. I don't know. You're not R&B enough. You're very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them."
Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop's pure princess while he had a bad-boy image and already had children of his own. (The couple only had one daughter, Bobbi Kristina, born in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.
But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.
"When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place," she told Rolling Stone in 1993. "You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them, it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy."
Brown was getting ready to perform at a New Edition reunion tour in Southaven, Miss., as news spread about Houston's death. The group went ahead with its performance, though Brown appeared overcome with emotion when his voice cracked at the beginning of a ballad and he left the stage.
Before his departure, he told the sell-out crowd: "First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage."
Brown said he decided to perform because fans had shown their loyalty to the group for more than 25 years. During an intermission, one of Houston's early hits, "You Give Good Love," played over the speakers. Fans stood up and began singing along.
It would take several years for the public to see the "down and dirty" side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America's sweetheart.
In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with "The Bodyguard." Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.
It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy's record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the "Bodyguard" soundtrack was named album of the year.
She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with "Waiting to Exhale" and "The Preacher's Wife." Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, "My Love Is Your Love," in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut "It's Not Right But It's Okay."
But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, she said by the time "The Preacher's Wife" was released, "(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. ... I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. ... I wasn't happy by that point in time. I was losing myself."
In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.
Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2009. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.
She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown's reality show, "Being Bobby Brown," was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared "crack is whack," was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.
Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album "I Look To You." The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.
Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on "Good Morning America" went awry as Houston's voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.
A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.
Houston was to make her return to film in the remake of the classic movie "Sparkle." Filming on the movie, which stars former "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, recently wrapped.
Friday, February 10, 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — Jason Wu has arrived, and the confidence he's feeling in his emerging success was evident at New York Fashion Week Friday, where his dramatic show featured a collection inspired partly by his Chinese roots.
He has been considered a strong up-and-comer since Michelle Obama wore a gown by the then-barely known designer to the presidential inaugural balls in 2008, and his show has increasingly become a hot ticket during the seasonal previews. Then came a Target deal that put a limited collection in stores earlier this month.
Maybe it's with that confidence that he went all out for his runway show, with studded fortress doors, billowing smoke, a theatrical finale and a highly personal Chinese-influenced collection that captured the yin-yang of tough military dress and in-your-face luxurious embellishment.
Wu grew up in Taiwan, but hadn't visited there in years until a trip about 18 months ago. "I almost went back as a foreigner with fresh eyes," he explained in an interview earlier this week.
He tapped into Chinese military uniforms with Mao jackets, grommets, strong shoulders and capes — the best of that look being the green coat with attached cape and black lace that opened the show. A different sort of strength, however, is found in the ornate trappings of the Qing Dynasty and the tassels, embroideries and brocades worn by empresses.
Hollywood went through a period in the 1930s and '40s that reinterpreted and further glamorized traditional Chinese dress, and Wu said he was a fan of that, too, especially Marlene Dietrich in the old movie
The common thread among the elements is strength, he added, "and I had to inject myself and my generation, so I did that with sportswear."
The result? Puffy jackets in glitzy brocade.
The lingering look from this collection, though, is likely the finale: a black wool jacket with epaulets and mink trim covered in crystal embroidery paired with a black skirt etched with fabric through a process known as devore.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Passengers on United Airlines Flight 531 from Chicago to Los Angeles didn't just get to travel with a world-famous celebrity, they also had their picture taken with him.
The affable celebrity was Oscar — as in the Academy Awards statuette — who rode in first class alongside film academy president Tom Sherak before making the rounds during the five-hour commercial flight to pose for photos.
Sherak surprised passengers just before they boarded the flight, dubbed "Oscar 1," at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. He arrived with the Oscar in hand and announced that the famous golden guy would be flying with them.
Actually, there were two Oscars in the cabin on the Thursday flight. And not just any Oscars. These guys will be presented for best picture at this year's Academy Awards.
Passengers used cellphones and pocket cameras to snap photos with the Oscars as airline workers held a show-related trivia contest, awarding hoodies and hats from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"This is the closest I'm ever going to be to having one, so I'm enjoying it," Rockford Yapp, of Chicago, said as he held the coveted trophy. The 52-year-old also won an Oscar sweatshirt because he was sitting in the 84th seat on the plane. The 84th annual Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre and broadcast on ABC.
"My kids are going to be so excited!" Heather Boyd, of Chicago, said as she reviewed her shots on her cellphone. "The pictures are going on Facebook as soon as I get on the ground."
Several passengers uploaded the photos to Facebook immediately upon landing.
"We're staying in Studio City and I was just hoping to see someone from 'American Idol,'" said a thrilled Joan Castell of Woodstock, Ill., who was heading west with her husband, Scott, for a vacation.
"I think United should do something entertaining like this on all their flights," he said.
A flight attendant called the occasion a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" as she invited passengers to enjoy "the flight of the Oscars."
Sherak said this is the first time Oscars have flown commercially out in the open. The statuettes, which have been made at Chicago's R.S. Owens foundry for more than 70 years, are typically shipped to Los Angeles with little fanfare.
So why have Oscar mix it up with passengers?
"Just for fun," Sherak said.
The pilot even allowed an Oscar into the cockpit of the 757 before takeoff, calling the statuette his most prestigious "non-human" passenger yet.
"It's a special treat. We want everyone to enjoy the flight and enjoy the show," said Capt. Mel Mason Jr.
Nearly everyone on board held one of the Oscars, and the 13 1/2-inch tall statuette surprised them with his heft. Made of a proprietary metal called brittanium and coated in 24-karat gold, Oscar weighs 8 1/2-pounds.
Altogether, Sherak was escorting 42 of the trophies back to academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, Calif., but only two rode in the cabin. The rest had to tough it out in cargo.
The Oscar celebration continued at Los Angeles International Airport. Gold and silver balloons and oversized Oscar posters decorated the arrival gate. As passengers left the plane, each was given an Oscar of their own — a tiny, chocolate version.
"United Airlines announces the arrival of the 84th Academy Awards Oscars," a voice said over the loudspeaker as Sherak followed the throng of passengers.
"He's home!" proclaimed Sherak, holding a statuette above his head.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has granted Katy Perry and Russell Brand a divorce, although the pair won't be legally split up until July.
Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro signed the judgment Wednesday, less than six weeks after Brand filed for divorce and one day after Perry filed paperwork stating that she and Brand have agreed on all financial issues.
The exact terms of the breakup are confidential.
Brand, Perry and Marmaro all signed the judgment Wednesday, court records show. The couple will become legally single again on July 14 because California law requires that couples wait at least six months after filing before their divorce can be finalized.
The judgment calls for Perry's maiden name, Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, to be restored.
Neither Brand, a British actor and comedian, or Perry, a pop superstar, indicated in court filings when they separated.
They were married in October 2010 in a lavish wedding at a resort inside a tiger reserve in India.
Their wedding came at a high-point for both of their careers. Brand was introduced to U.S. audiences after hosting the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards and has since starred in films including "Arthur," ''Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "."
Perry has turned out a string of pop hits, including "I Kissed a Girl" and "California Gurls" and is scheduled to perform at Sunday night's Grammy Awards. She has also been nominated for two awards for her song "Firework."