|Sun, December 12, 2010 at 4:43 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Michael Jackson fans will this week finally get their hands on the pop icon's first record since he died, with huge sales expected despite lukewarm reviews and questions over its authenticity.
"Michael," due out Tuesday in the United States, comprises 10 songs the King of Pop was at various stages of completing when he died last year, and includes contributions from rapper 50 Cents, Lenny Kravitz and US singer Akon.
Two tracks have already been released online, the first of which -- "Breaking News," a fierce protest at how the media hounded the scandal-tainted singer -- sparked a fierce debate over whether it was really Jackson's voice.
Record company Sony -- which plans to release a series of new Jackson albums -- was forced to defend the album after fans and even some of Jackson's family members questioned the record's authenticity.
"We have complete confidence in the results of our extensive research as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael that the vocals on the new album are his own," it said in a statement.
Jackson's sister LaToya said bluntly that the record "doesn't sound like him." But more generally, purist Jackson fans question how some of the songs were completed, from material recorded sometimes several years ago.
At least one song, "Much Too Soon," was written at the time of Jackson's landmark 1982 album "Thriller," several stem from the time of his last album of new material, 2001's "Invincible."
The most recent track, "Band of Joy," stems from the months before Jackson's shock death in June, 2009 -- he planned to keep working on it in London in between a series of sell-out concerts in July and August, producers say.
Jackson is credited as writer of all but two of the songs -- "Another Day" by Lenny Kravitz and "Hold My Hand" by Akon, and producers are keen to stress how closely they kept to the singer's original intentions.
"While Michael was not there to complete the tracks as only he could, he had left behind a unique roadmap mapping out his creative vision in the form of notes and detailed conversations," they say in a 10-page media introduction, which spends two pages seeking to justify the album's authenticity.
Pre-release reviews of the new album -- reportedly the first of a 10-album deal over seven years, although that is difficult to confirm -- have been decidedly mixed.
"This is not a Michael Jackson album ... He would not have released anything like this compilation, a grab bag of outtakes and outlines assembled by Jackson's label," said Rolling Stone, although calling the album "compelling."
Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B" grade, saying: "As musical epitaphs go, Michael is a solid album, arguably stronger than Invincible and certainly no great affront to his name.
"But it can be hard to listen and not wonder what he would have done differently -- or if he would have wanted us to hear it at all."
In Britain, music weekly NME's reviewer said the album was saved by the last two tracks: "Behind the Mask" which he describes as "brilliant" and the Thriller-era ballad "Much Too Soon."
"Oh, it isn?t really very good, don?t be under illusions of that. But compared with the unnecessary, inauthentic and insulting mess it could have been ... ?Michael? can actually be considered something of
|Wed, September 08, 2010 at 8:42 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
VENICE (Reuters) – Ben Affleck directs and stars in "The Town," a tense cops-and-robbers thriller set in Boston which is premiering out of competition at the Venice film festival.
Affleck, who made his directorial debut in 2007 with "Gone Baby Gone," also a Boston crime drama, plays the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers who dangerously falls for a woman the gang briefly takes hostage.
Overall his character, Doug, is painted in a sympathetic light as the FBI is closing in on him and he is torn between a desire to change life and the loyalty to his partners in crime who want to go for one last heist.
"The idea of whether or not I was glorifying a criminal character or minimizing the impact of violence was on my mind throughout and was really important," Affleck told reporters after a press screening.
"The need to reconcile those moral considerations with the demands of truthful storytelling was the central issue for me. I tried to be both as accurate and as complicated as I could because while I didn't want to glorify anything, I didn't want to oversimplify anything."
The film is based on Chuck Hogan's novel "Prince of Thieves" and set in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, which has had more bank and armored car robberies than anywhere in the United States.
Raised near Boston, Affleck said he felt comfortable he had tried to make the film as realistic as possible, visiting prisons and talking to former bank robbers and FBI agents.
"I was a little bit hesitant actually to do this because I did not want to be pigeonholed as the Boston director guy but I liked the part, I wanted to play the part, I believed the story was good," he told reporters after a press screening.
"I don't think you can like a movie like this or believe in a movie like this if you don't have a really strong sense of place, if you don't really believe that the characters are from there and that what you are seeing is really happening."
WANTS TO KEEP DIRECTING
He said both his two films as a director and "Good Will Hunting," for which he won an Oscar for best original screenplay with Matt Damon, focused on similar themes -- the influence growing up in a certain place has on people, and the fact that children often pay the price for their parents' sins.
"I guess maybe it's time that I try something new," he said, adding that he hoped to carry on as a director.
"I was a little bit nervous the first time out, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to finish the movie having never been through the process. The second time I knew it was possible to kind of get to the finish line at the very least, so that gave me more confidence."
The film's cast includes Jeremy Renner, who also starred in this year's Oscar-winner "The Hurt Locker," Jon Hamm, a Golden Globe winner for his performance in the "Mad Men" TV series, and Rebecca Hall.
Affleck came to the Venice festival just days after his younger brother Casey took the Lido by storm with "I'm Still Here," his documentary -- some say hoax -- on Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed actor to shambolic hip-hop singer wannabe.
|Thurs, December 31, 2009 at 6:31 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Since his death on June 25, 2009, late pop icon Michael Jackson has been showered with accolades and honors for his 40-plus-year musical career. But on Wednesday (December 30), one of Jackson's most enduring legacies, the pioneering 1983 dancing-ghoul-filled video for "Thriller," was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
The Associated Press reported that the 14-minute mini-movie that revolutionized music videos and cemented Jackson's status as one of the most ambitious, innovative pop stars of all time, was one of 25 films that were inducted into the world's largest archive of film, TV and sound recordings.
The iconic video, directed by John Landis ("Animal House," "The Blues Brothers"), is the first music video named to the registry. It earned its spot because of the landmark nature of its achievements, which include Guinness World Record sales of over 9 million copies.
"Because of the way the recording industry is evolving and changing, we thought it would be good to go back to the development of an earlier seismic shift, which was the development of the music video," said Steve Leggett, coordinator of the National Film Preservation Board. "Thriller" had been considered for inclusion in the past, but Leggett said following Jackson's death, the time seemed right to add the video to the list.
The library works with film archives, movie studios and record labels to ensure that original copies of the works it enshrines for their enduring cultural, historical and aesthetic importance to U.S. culture are kept safe as well as acquiring copies for its own vault.
Among the other works entering the National Film Registry this year: 1979's "The Muppet Movie"; the 1957 sci-fi classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man"; Sergio Leone's epic spaghetti...More MICHAEL JACKSON
|Fri, September 11, 2009 at 8:45 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Some of the world's largest recording companies are suing "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," claiming producers violated their copyrights by playing more than 1,000 songs without permission.
Many of the songs were played during the "dance over" segment of the show, when DeGeneres dances from the stage to the interview area, often through the audience.
According to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Nashville, when representatives of the recording companies asked defendants why they hadn't obtained licenses to use the songs, defendants said they didn't "roll that way."
"As sophisticated consumers of music, Defendants knew full well that, regardless of the way they rolled, under the Copyright Act, and under state law for the pre-1972 recordings, they needed a license to use the sound recordings lawfully," the suit states.
Scott Rowe, spokesman for the show's Telepictures Productions, wrote in an e-mailed statement that the company has been working with the record labels for months to resolve the issue and remains willing to resolve it on "amicable and reasonable terms."
Rowe said the issue does not involve DeGeneres, who on Wednesday was named as the fourth judge on TV's "American Idol," and whom Rowe calls "a tremendous music enthusiast and advocate."
The suit claims the daytime talk show has used copyrighted music without permission since its inception, including "recordings by virtually every major current artist of popular music." It claims the show routinely used some of the most popular songs of the day, which the record labels don't license for daytime television at any price.
Other songs cited in the lawsuit include Michael Jackson's "Thriller"; The Beach Boys'"Good Vibrations" and Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It."
The suit calls the segment and the music played by the show's own disc jockey "signature elements of the show."
Plaintiffs include Arista Music, Atlantic Recording Corp., Capitol Records, Motown Record Company, Sony Music Entertainment, Virgin Records America and Warner Bros. Records.
The suit does not specify the dollar amount it seeks in damages
|Wed, July 08, 2009 at 2:39 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
LIFE Michael: 1958-2009 The rare, intimate, and never before seen photos capture this superstar in full.
NEW YORK - FROM THE EDITORS OF LIFE MAGAZINE comes LIFE Michael: 1958-2009, one of one of the most intimate and all embracing Michael Jackson portfolios available - including seven never-before-seen photographs and many photographs taken exclusively for LIFE from the LIFE archives.
Millions of photographs have been taken of Michael Jackson but rarely has a collection captured the personal side of Jackson as LIFE's. Over the years, Jackson opened his doors to LIFE photographers who captured the singular excitement that was Michael Jackson - from his earliest days in the Jackson 5 to the era of Neverland, when they were firmly closed to others.
LIFE's photo team reveals some legendary moments for LIFE Michael, including photographs by John Olson and his now-famous photo essay on rockers and their parents; the book includes Olson's cover image of Michael as well as a frame featuring Janet Jackson as a toddler that never made it into the pages of the magazine. Also featured are images from the storied Scottish photojournalist Harry Benson. Twice on assignment for LIFE, in the 1980s and 1990s, Benson took exquisite, intimate portraits of Jackson, including many taken at his Neverland ranch.
"In the week following Jackson's death, LIFE.com produced a number of galleries covering all aspects of the performer's incredible career. The popularity of these galleries speaks volumes about the devotion of fans for the King of Pop and the great desire to see and know more. With this new edition we're not only able to offer a keepsake collection but we can also include some never-before-seen photos exclusive to the book," explained LIFE president Andy Blau.
LIFE Michael, includes many of the powerful images that helped make Jackson an icon and the rarely seen images that give readers a glimpse into the performer's private life. It is an intimate portrait of the artist like no other and a chronicle of an extraordinary American life.
LIFE Michael: 1958-2009, retails for $11.99 U.S. will be available on newsstands July 10th, 200
|Thurs, July 02, 2009 at 11:51 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Watch Michael Jackson MegaMix
My first memory of Michael Jackson is the album "Thriller". I was about twelve years old when I heard "Billie Jean" for the first time. Even though The Jackson 5 existed before Michael Jackson went solo, I didn't know about them. In my mind, I was something of a rebel. If the parents listened to something, I tuned out. I felt like I was being forced to listen to "their" music and unfortunately for me, I missed a lot of good songs.
I loved Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller and PYT. I tried to do the dances and sing the songs. I even begged for a red leather zipper jacket.
On June 25th 2009, I was watching TV when the news broke in and announced the death of Michael Jackson. I gasped, shouted NO!!! and sat on my sofa in disbelief. I called my co-host and told him. Within two minutes of that call, I received multiple text messages from people all across the country telling me about his death.
It's been a week and I still can't believe it. Like all radio show hosts, I wanted to do a tribute, but I didn't want to just play his songs. I had to mix them on the one's and two's. My top five songs are Liberian Girl, Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller, and Smooth Criminal - in that order. I know he has hundreds of other songs, but these are MY favorites.
-->Last night, I was watching Jada Pinkett Smith's new show "Hawthorne" (it's a good show) when my seven year old daughter came in the living room with the laptop. She set it up on the ottoman next to me, grabbed my headphones and plugged them in. I didn't think anything of it as she uses the laptop a lot to play games online.
Not too long after she comes in the room, I feel a foot tapping me on my side and I look back. She looks at me, smiles and says, "I love Michael Jackson's music. Will you make me a cd?" Before that moment, she never told me she liked Michael Jackson.
She turns the laptop around and she has the "Smooth Criminal" video playing. She had googled and youtubed Michael Jackson to see why everyone was so sad about his passing. Even with his death, he still inspires children.
My grandparents and parents danced to The Jackson 5's music. I danced to Michael Jackson's music and now my daughter is learning who Michael Jackson is. That is how you remember a legend, an icon, the King of Pop! You remember what it was like to listen to his music as a kid. You tell your kids about him. You laugh. You joke. You reflect. You cry.
He will be missed!
|Tue, June 30, 2009 at 11:37 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
As predicted, Michael Jackson is once again the King of the Pop charts.
Based on preliminary sales numbers from Nielsen SoundScan, the entire top nine positions on Billboard's Top Pop Catalog Albums chart will house Jackson-related titles when the tally is released in the early morning on Wednesday, July 1. Nielsen SoundScan's sales tracking week ended at the close of business on Sunday (June 28) night.
Jackson himself has a record eight out of the top 10, while a Jackson 5 compilation also finds its way into the upper tier.
The King of Pop's "Number Ones" will fittingly lead the pack at No. 1 with 108,000 copies (an increase of 2,340%) while "The Essential Michael Jackson" and "Thriller" are in the Nos. 2 and 3 slots with 102,000 and 101,000, respectively. Last week, "Number Ones" was the only Jackson title on the chart, at No. 20 with 4,000 copies; both "Essential" and "Thriller" re-enter the tally this week.
Additionally, his classic 1979 studio set "Off the Wall" re-enters at No. 4 with 33,000 while his 1987 album "Bad" returns at No. 6 with 17,000. At No. 5, the Jackson 5's "The Ultimate Collection" debuts with 18,000. Jackson's fourth studio album for Epic Records, 1991's "Dangerous," re-enters at No. 7 with 14,000 while his 2001 compilation "Greatest Hits: HIStory -- Volume 1" also comes back to the list at No. 8 with 12,000. Finally, Jackson's 2004 box set "The Ultimate Collection" charts its first week on the Pop Catalog chart, arriving at No. 9 with 11,000.
The lone non-Jackson-related set in the top 10 is a reissue of the "Woodstock" movie soundtrack, which bows at No. 10 with 8,000.
Collectively, Jackson's solo albums sold 415,000 this past week. That's extraordinary, since his titles sold a combined 10,000 in the week that ended June 21. Of the 415,000 total, 58% were digital downloads.
Additionally, the 415,000 albums sold just last week is nearly 40% more than what Jackson's catalog had sold the the entire year up through June 21 (297,000).
Speaking of digital albums, on the Top Digital Albums chart, Jackson has a record six out of the top 10 slots, including the entire top four. "The Essential Michael Jackson" leads the Top Digital Albums list with 80,000 downloads sold, while "Thriller" is No. 2 with 57,000.
With the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." moving back to the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 chart with 88,000, this week marks the first time that a catalog album has sold more than the No. 1 current set on the Billboard 200 albums chart. (All three of Jackson's top sellers on the Pop Catalog chart outsell "The E.N.D.")
Ironically, the feat almost occurred was when Jackson re-issued "Thriller" in February 2008. The set relaunched with 166,000, re-entering at No. 1 on the Top Pop Catalog chart. That week, Jack Johnson's "Sleep Through the Static" led the Billboard 200 chart with 180,000 while Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" was at No. 2 with 115,000.
Catalog albums are ineligible to appear on the Billboard 200 albums chart, though they can chart on the all-encompassing Top Comprehensive Albums list. On the latter chart, Jackson's "Number Ones," "Essential" and "Thriller" are at Nos. 1-3, followed by the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." at No. 4.
Jackson places a record 25 songs on the 75-position Hot Digital Songs chart (21 solo hits and four with his siblings), smashing the mark of 14 charting titles established by David Cook in the June 7, 2008 issue. Jackson's Halloween radio staple, "Thriller," moves 167,000, which is good for second place on the chart behind the 203,000 shifted by the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling."
|Mon, June 29, 2009 at 9:28 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
The U.S. African Chamber of Commerce says The White House needs to honor Michael Jackson like other global leaders.
Washington, DC - The U.S. African Chamber of Commerce says The White House needs to honor Michael Jackson like other global leaders. The USACC declared June 26 Entertainment Day of the World to honor Michael Jackson as a global humanitarian, entertainer. Michael Jackson was due to make his triumphant return to the stage in London next month -- but instead his sudden death has left millions of fans feeling they've lost a lifelong friend.
The worldwide chorus of grief united the famous -- statesmen and superstars alike -- and the legions of ordinary people who grew up with "Thriller" and "Beat It."
Word of Jackson's death jolted nearly everyone, from a young man in Colombia who was named after the King of Pop, to Malaysians who named a soy drink for him, to a generation of people around the world who have tried, in vain, to moonwalk.
"It's horrible news, so unexpected," the Italian actress Sophia Loren told The Associated Press by telephone. "The world has lost an icon and music has lost treasures. He wrote songs that generations of yesterday, today and tomorrow will all keep on singing. What he wrote was amazing."
Loren and her children had been frequent visitors to Jackson at his Neverland ranch in California, developing an enduring friendship.
"I hope that Michael will find that peace that maybe he did not have in the last 15 years."
In London, shocked fans gathered at the Lyric Theatre, where a live show based on Jackson's record-selling album "Thriller" is being performed, and waited for news about refunds for some 750,000 tickets to his sold-out, 50-night run.
A spokeswoman for AEG Live -- the promoters for the London concerts -- declined to say how ticket refunds would be handled. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she was not authorized to speak to the media.
There were poignant memories of his final public appearance when he came to London for a March news conference to announce his "This is it" concerts, which he said would mark his farewell to the London stage. A candlelight vigil at London's Trafalgar Square was planned to honor the singer.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela issued a message through his foundation saying Jackson's loss would be felt worldwide.
Jackson sang at a birthday concert for Mandela in 1998. In 1999, according to local media reports at the time, he lunched with Mandela at a small gathering at which the South African anti-apartheid leader celebrated both his 81st birthday and his and wife Graca Machel's first wedding anniversary.
The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, UNESCO and the Red Cross were given proceeds from a huge benefit concert in Germany in 1999 that featured Jackson and other international stars.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who recorded with Jackson before they had a falling out over ownership of the Beatles catalog, said his prayers went to Jackson's family and fans.
"It's so sad and shocking," he said. "I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones."
In Ireland, where Jackson made his temporary home in a castle south of Dublin in 2007, people remembered him as a kind and loving man. Eugene Lambert, Ireland's best-known puppeteer, recalled his son's puppet performance at a birthday party for Jackson attended by the singer's three children.
"Michael and the kids seemed to enjoy the show equally," he said. "My son sang happy birthday to Michael, who seemed genuinely touched by the attention. Michael rang me that night to thank me for the show. He said he hoped he'd be as happy at his work as I am at my age, and of course I'm 80."
In Paris, actress and singer Liza Minnelli told France-Info radio she would sing her "d