Sadness… R.I.P. *
After posting yesterday that I find the notion of a new Whitney Houston Greatest Hits package rather distasteful, there’s mightily more respectful news to report. CBS will air a one-hour tribute special on November 16, with top-notch vocalists Celine Dion and Jennifer Hudson performing. Usher will also sing… (How’d you like my little Usher dig there? Get it?)
It’s going to be fascinating to hear what Celine might sing. Few vocalists could dare take Whit’s signature “I Will Always Love You,” and yet both Hudson and Dion could nail that baby. Apparently, Jenn has previously performed it in tribute to Houston, so perhaps it will be handed to Celine. Man, I’ll be crying like a baby over that performance.
“We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston” will tape October 11 at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. The special will also include Houston’s “most memorable performances” and interviews with various artists. More performers will be announced. Bravo! Whitney died in February. The new compilation will be released November 13. *
Tribute or opportunism? Whitney Houston already has the definitive best-of collection: her 2000 two-album The Greatest Hits, released as her career was just about to run its course. Now, according to RCA, “the legacy of Whitney Houston continues with the first-ever definitive single disc collection” of hits, coming November 18, just in time for fourth-quarter holiday sales.
I Will Always Love You: The Best Of Whitney Houston contains 18 songs and two “new” cuts: “Never Give Up” from Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox & Johnta Austin; and a “duet version” of previous flop single “I Look To You” with the song’s writer R. Kelly stripped on as her singing partner and a different vocal take from Whitney.
Most disturbing is Kelly oozing, “We love you Whitney. Rest in peace” at the end of the song, which is not only gruesome but just plain gratuitous. It made me a little sick to my stomach.
Clive Davis claims, “The duet version of ‘I Look To You’ between Whitney and R. Kelly is purely and simply a knockout. I believe that everyone will remember the first time they heard it and I think a new classic is being born.” With all respect to Mr. Davis, I believe that unfortunately, the song is as non-monumental as it was the first time it was released and simply unnecessary. I’d love nothing more than to hear something fresh and new from the Houston archives. This is not it.
Last week, I was browsing through the aisles of a retailer in Downtown Brooklyn and Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on the radio. There must have been four women I passed who were singing along with Whitney, quietly, to themselves but audibly, with happiness in their hearts. Now that is a tribute. The release of another greatest hits that offers nothing new just to put some more bucks in the bank? No thank you. *
Ah, man, oh, man, this one bites. Chad Everett, the dreamy star of the 1970s TV series Medical Center has died. He was 76. Everett’s daughter, Katherine Thorp, said he died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles after a year-and-a-half-long battle with lung cancer.
Everett played sensitive doctor Joe Gannon for seven years on Medical Center, which earned him two Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination, as part of a 40-year career in TV and films. He was a favorite of my mama’s… and mine, as a little gay boy who didn’t quite understand why he had such a crush on the good doctor.
Everett was born in South Bend, and graduated from Wayne State before moving to Los Angeles and becoming a contract player with MGM. He was married to actress Shelby Grant for 45 years until her death last year.
Six-time Oscar winner & Broadway diva Celeste Holm died Sunday in her sleep at home at age 95. I’d say that’s a decent life, eh? She starred in Broadway’s landmark musical “Oklahoma!” before her film career skyrocketed in the late ’40s and ’50s, beginning with 1947’s Gentleman’s Agreement, for which she won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
During her career, she acted alongside Debbie Reynolds, Marilyn Monroe, Tracy & Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and… of course, Bette Davis. Holm had a major role in 1950’s timeless camp classic All About Eve… which is why we’re paying tribute on The Smoking Nun. And how about this: She was married five times—the last on her 87th birthday. Go, girl!
I met Celeste briefly at one of the campiest events I’ve been to in my life: Seeing Carol Channing perform at NYC’s Feinstein’s with pal Strele. Also there: Knots Landing’s Michele Lee. Carol Channing lives on today: at a crisp 91 years young. *
On the tube, at least, “American Idol” appears to have slunk into wearisome “yesterday’s news” territory for much of America. The Season 11 finale this week posted its lowest ratings ever—down 29% from last year—as blues troubadour Phillip Phillips was crowned the winner, possessing about as much personal panache as 2011’s victor, dreary country crooner Scotty McCreery. Yawn!
However, where there’s real talent, consumers are still prepared to rally. On this week’s album chart, for the first time, one “American Idol” supplants another at No. 1—a notable feat for the franchise.
Adam Lambert powers to the top of the Billboard 200 with his new “Trespassing,” moving 77,000 copies. That pushes out last week’s chart-topper, Season 4 “AI” winner Carrie Underwood, whose “Blown Away” dips to No. 3. The latter holds at No. 1 on Country Albums for a third week.
This is “Idol” Season 8 runner-up Lambert’s first No. 1 album, following “For Your Entertainment,” which debuted and peaked at No. 3 during the 2009 holiday season—blocked by Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas.” “Entertainment” delivered the 2010 top 10 hit “Whataya Want From Me,” which was nominated for a Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Grammy. So far, the only action “Trespassing” has fostered is a murmur on Hot Digital Songs with the title track, which enters at a tepid No. 178.
Billboard columnist Gary Trust notes that Lambert is the seventh “AI” finalist to reach No. 1, alongside Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Underwood, Chris Daughtry and McCreery. And next week we’ll see how Kris Allen fares; he defeated Lambert on “Idol” in 2009, and sophomore album, “Thank You Camellia” will chart a week from now. Like McCreery before him, Allen has hardly become a household name: Following two medium-sized hits in 2009, he’s delivered three consecutive flops, including 2012’s (current) “The Vision of Love” from the new album. It’s safe to say that Lambert is runner-up in title only.
Moving along… At No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in its 65th chart week is “21” from Adele, who has grown as comfortable in the runner-up spot as she has at No. 1. By far, she is in the lead of 2012’s best-selling albums to date (followed by Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee” and Whitney Houston’s Whitney: The Greatest Hits.”)
Comedy rock duo Tenacious D—actors Jack Black and Kyle Glass—launches at No. 4 on the album chart with “Rize of the Fenix.” They reached No. 8 in 2006 with “The Pick of Destiny.” Norah Jones’ “Little Broken Hearts” holds at 5; “Now 42” is down 2 to 6; and debuting at No. 7 is indie duo Beach Houses with “Bloom,” its first top 40 entry among three charted albums. Also new is No. 8, “Glee, the Music: Season Three, The Graduation Album,” the 14th top album for the Fox TV series. At No. 9, down 6, is Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee”; while One Direction’s “Up All Night” dips 3 to No. 10.
On the singles side, Gotye’s delectable “Somebody That I Used to Know,” featuring Kimbra, spends a luxurious sixth week at No. 1 on the Hot 100. (Remember I taught you how to say his name a couple weeks ago: “Got-ee-aye.” Good for you…) The alt-meets-dance-meets-pop song tops Radio Songs, at last, up 2-1, while it’s No. 1 on Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, Alternative Songs (its 12th week) and Dance/Mix Show Airplay (3 weeks). It now ties Fun.’s “We Are Young” for most weeks at No. 1 in 2012.
Canadian songbird Carly Jepsen’s perky “Call Me Maybe,” No. 2 on the Hot 100, continues to knock on heaven’s door as a potential singles chart-topper. It rises to No. 1 on Digital Songs in its 13th week, also claiming top Digital and Airplay Gainer honors. It rises 9-7 on Pop Songs airplay and 12-9 on Radio Songs, according to NielsenBDS. “Maybe” holds at No. 3 on On-Demand Songs.
Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, surprisingly slips 2-3 on the Hot 100, although it moves up 4 to No. 10 on Radio Songs. Fun.’s anthemic “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae—which spent six weeks at No. 1 in March and April—eases 3 to 4; as Nicki Minaj’s sing-songy “Starships” returns to No. 5, up 1.
Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” featuring Sia, dips 5-6, while 7-10 remain locked in place: One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” the Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” and Train’s “Drive By.”
Coming Up: John Mayer and his new hippie haircut will likely make a robust debut next week with “Born And Raised.”
Finally, the week wouldn’t be complete without a look at the love expressed for Donna Summer in the wake of her untimely death last week, at age 63. Paul Grein from Yahoo! Music was kind enough to do the legwork, and reports that nine Summer songs enter the Hot Digital Songs chart. The Oscar-winning “Last Dance,” arguably her signature hit, leads the way, with sales of 38,000.
Following are “On The Radio,” “Hot Stuff,” “She Works Hard For The Money,” “Bad Girls,” “Love To Love You Baby,” “MacArthur Park,” “Dim All The Lights” and “Heaven Knows.” In addition, four Donna Summer compilations re-enter The Billboard 200, led by “On The Radio—Greatest Hits—Volumes I & II.”
It about slayed me that we lost five-time Grammy winner Summer and Bee Gee Robin Gibb within days of one another. I was a teenager in the midst of disco’s joyous revolution in the late 1970s. Too young, perhaps, for entry into Studio 54, but believe me, my friends and I spent many a weekend mastering the Pretzel and spinning in unison to so many indelible dance ditties. R.I.P Donna & Robin.*
I had the immense pleasure of working with Dick Clark, who died this morning at age 82, when he agreed to host the Awards Show for the 1998 Billboard Radio Conference in Phoenix. As Radio Editor, I actually wrote a script for Dick… humbling, huh?… and he could not have been kinder, more gracious and, of course, he was a total pro. He even sent a thank you letter after the fact.
My pal Fredly worked with Dick Clark for decades on numerous specials, including scripting the annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square. I can imagine this is a particularly tough day for Fred… He, like everyone else who worked for him, was very fond of Dick. R.I.P., Mr. Clark. *
On Monday, NBC’s Today show revealed the movie trailer for Whitney Houston’s upcoming movie role in Sparkle, a remake of a 1976 flick that is scheduled to hit theaters August 17. (The YouTube version without commercials is below.)
The trailer below shows the daughters performing, including American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who plays the title character. Houston is prominent throughout, at one point singing the classic gospel song “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” * See other versions of The Smoking Nun’s collage below the jump…
Here’s an endearing clip from The 2004 World Music Awards, demonstrating Celine Dion’s admiration for Whitney Houston’s talent.