Friday, July 14, 2006

27: Today's Soundtracks


FINAL CUT..."BET Uncut" received the most unkind cut of all--the TV-MA rated music video program was canceled after a six-year run. The racy show's last episode, hosted by producer/Janet's guy Jermaine Dupri, aired July 7. BET says it is definitely gone, but "BET Uncut" fans aren't taking this lying down--they've already started an online petition to have the show revived . We'll keep you posted on how the blade swings.

HOW YA LIKE ME NOW...While hip-hop heads may be upset about the cancellation of "BET Uncut," the network is jumping back into the rap fray full force with the BET Hip Hop Awards. No details from BET president Reginald Hudlin yet, other than it will air in November and be hosted by actor/comedian/recording artist Katt Williams ( Hopefully, BET will avoid the extracircular activities that have plagued other rap awards shows, such as The Source Awards.

25 & COUNTING....Radio One will wrap up its year-long 25th anniversary celebration is a big way. The media conglomerate will host black-tie awards gala in DC on August 17, hosted by Ananda Lewis, J. Anthony Brown, Tom Joyner, Russ Parr. Set to perform are Aretha Franklin, Ciara (left), and Jeff Majors. There'll also be special appearances by Russell Simmons, Kirk Franklin, Marquis Houston, and Eddie Griffin. For more info, visit Sounds like a hot party with the industry coming out to support Radio One's success--maybe the same folks can organize our one-year blog mark.

SONY RACE RELATIONS..Tongues are wagging about a recent PSP Dutch ad that may have just gone over the top. In the photo, a white woman dressed in white grabs the face of a black woman dressed in black with the words "PlayStation Portable White is Coming." Viewers felt the billboard was about more than just a game. Although Sony pointed out that in another ad the black model is overpowering the white model, it apologized and pulled the campaign, launched exclusively for the Dutch market. No wonder we haven't read much about power deals and urban players with Sony on the multimedia level. Guess Jesse Jackson may still need to catch that flight to Amsterdam.

SPANISH FEVER...Seems folks can't get enough of Carlos Mencia's humor, so Comedy Central has ordered another season (16 episodes)--the third--of "Mind Of Mencia," according to Lauren Corrao, executive vice president of original programming and development for the network. "Mind of Mencia" covers such topics as ethnic stereotypes, race relations, immigration, war, patriotism, capitalism. Mencia also likes to out "invisible" Hispanic celebrities --Nicole Richie, Reggie Jackson, Bob Vilas, for example.

CASTING CONUNDRUM...Word just released that Angelina Jolie (below, left) will star in as Mariane Pearl (center), the wife of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan. It will be an adaptation of Mariane's book, A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl. Brad Pitt will produce and Michael Winterbottom (Welcome To Sarajevo) will direct. OK. Great to hear the film will be made. But Jolie? Wouldn't Thandie Newton (right) be a better choice? Not only because she is of color, as is Pearl, but Newton has proven her acting chops over and over. But, hey. she didn't just give birth to baby Pitt.

MAYO TO THE RESCUE...Almost immediately after Radio One's COO Mary Catherine Sneed called it quits, Barry Mayo and his Mayo Media were tapped to consult Radio One during the transition. You may recall, Mayo recently opted not to re-new his contract with Emmis NY, where he was senior vice president and general manager of the company's New York stations group. Emmis eventually hired Mayo as a consultant. Obviously, Mayo must have the magical touch.

DASH & FLASH....Actress Stacey Dash (Clueless, Mo' Money) is ready for closeup. Dash, 40, posed for the August issue of Playboy. But that isn't her only time in front of a camera lately. Stacey, cousin of mogul-in-transition Damon Dash, just filmed the comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman with Michelle Pfeiffer, Graham Norton, and Tracey Ullman and Secrets of A Hollywood Nurse. No word on when those two films will hit theatres, but her in-the-buff production has already hit news racks.



According to the 2006 Radio and Television News Directors/Ball State University report, overall representation on minorities in radio newsrooms dropped by more than 8% in the past decade. While there was an increase in minority journalists in TV newsrooms, with journalists of color representing 22.2% of the TV news workforce, up one percent from 2005, the growth came nearly entirely from an increase in Hispanics and Asian Americans. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has issued a statement that these findings are troubling. "As stations seek to diversify their news staffs, such progress should not come at the expense of African Americans. Fair and accurate coverage of African-American communities must remain a priority," said NABJ President Bryan Monroe. What the organization found of great concern was the lack of growth among black general managers. According to the survey, 93% of all general managers of TV stations were white, and four out of five were men.


The African Union (AU) has just announced plans to create the largest media network on the continent. And at the recent AU summit in Banjul, Gambia, the government of Egypt pledged to cover 10% of the budget. According to the AU, the network will be owned by all 52 member states.The is to "present...balanced information that gives a true image of the continent and facilitates exchanges with a view to popularising a project that is a priority to African integration," reads the AU decision. The content would include general information, sport, culture, documentaries, and African films.

After a six-year legal battle, a U.S. federal judge in Colorado has ruled that distributing sanitized Hollywood films crude language and nudity edited out violates the rights of the films' creators. Sony, MGM, and Warner Bros. were named in the suit against film distribution companies CleanFlicks, Family Flix, and Play it Clean Video. These companies created and distributed copies of movies that they altered by deleting sex, nudity, profanity, and violence. According to the ruling, these companies are "not free to determine the social value of copyrighted works." An appeal is expected.


From the Isaac Hayes-driven Shaft soundtrack to Curtis Mayfield's Superfly to Prince's Purple Rain, the soundtrack used to rule. Not to mention the mainstream achievements of such talents as Henry Manchini, John Berry, John Berry, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim. These compositions not only helped promote a film, but had a life of their own. These days, it's difficult to remember one tune from a flick, one soundtrack from another, let alone have the urge to buy the soundtrack to extend your film-going experience.

But, says Gail Mitchell, senior editor R&B/hip hop for Billboard, don't count out film recordings. "Some people may say it's true," she notes. "But the soundtrack isn't dead."

It just may be in need of some resuscitation--just like other music products. According to Maureen Crowe, musical supervisor for several films (Posiedon, Chicago, Juwanna Man) and TV shows and is the president of the board of governors for the L.A. chapter of the Recording Academy, record sales have dropped overall. "[They're] down, way down like everything else. It was only yesterday that every week there was another soundtrack in the top five going multi-platinum. Then if a soundtrack only went Gold or platinum it was a failure...Now everyone would be thrilled. But still a soundtrack is unique."

Despite sagging sales, Crowe, says soundtracks are necessary to the success of a film. "It can help wet the appetite for a film just like a good TV ad or trailer can," she notes. According to Tiayioka McMIllan, producer and writer of forthcoming Codeblack release Film the Script, "Music still helps drive box office for films. When you hear a song from a film you instantly relate it to the movie. And then when you see the music video and it has clips from the film in it you become even more inclined to go see the film or by the record especially if its an artist that you appreciate or love." And, if the film features newcomers, a soundtrack packed with heavy hitters can give the film more weight. "Say you have a film with unrecognizable actors and have a great soundtrack; this would probably draw attention to the film, especially if the songs are being played continuously on the radio," explains veteran music supervisor Max Gousse, Senior-Vice President of Music World Entrainment and CEO of Arsenal Records, whose current projects include Beyonce's forthcoming album B'Day and the Dreamgirls Soundtrack. "Music can build awareness about and access to a fillm thru various mediums including radio and on-line. I think it can work for any film as long as the record is a hit and the film company and record label work together to tie the song to the film. Musicians in particular know the power of music and it's ability to make a break a scene."

And with the dominate music right now being Urban--it's no wonder ev en the Oscars are taking note. "Hollywood has always capitalized on popular musical stars for success at the box office, going back to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, etc. and right now rapper are on in the spot light, so it's their turn," says Crowe.

But even a hip hop-laced soundtrack does not guarantee a film's success or record sales. The film and soundtrack marketing have to work like a well-oiled machine. "The message of the song and the movie have to be so tied that whenever you hear the song you think of the movie before you've seen the movie. Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' did this brilliantly," says Crowe. "Most of the time, the song comes out at the same time or after the film come out, record companies seems reticent to be out in front of a picture unless they know it'll blow and sell some records. Look at Kayne West and Mission Impossible 3, Kayne came out for the press, but no song, no video." Gousse agrees soundtrack success in part comes down to marketing. "On my current film Dreamgirls, we make it a point to meet with Sony Soundtrax, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures on a bi-weekly basis to make sure the music and marketing are in sync and that the film and soundtrack are married."

There are a few projects on the horizon that will test the soundtrack's stability. "Disney's about to release a major campaign for Step Up, a teen movie set in the dance world. Along with Jive/SonyBMG, Disney setting up four singles, four videos. The studio's investing heavily on a major music campaign to open the movie. It's been a while since a studio and label have made that kind of commitment," Crowe offers. Adds Mitchell, "It'll be interesting to see what happens when OutKast's Idlewild comes out, because they are saying it in NOT a soundtrack album even though it will coincide with the film [a muscial called Idlewild]. And if any soundtrack is going to prove soundtracks still have a place, it will be Dreamgirls, which includes new songs."

Whether or not the soundtrack's footing is as strong as it used to be, ASCAP is banking on more musicians venturing into scoring soundtracks. The organization just has another edition of its special workshop the 18th Annual ASCAP Television and Film Scoring Workshop to aid aspiring composers. And, according to Gousse, more musical artists are seeking film as a creative outlet. "Many of the top session players are scoring film and TV instead of doing recording sessions because it allows them greater freedom to be creative and the pay is more lucrative," he says.

Just ask R&B producer Michael Kay, who recently worked on a Bollywood soundtrack, for a film called Bollywood Queen "Actress Preeya Kalidas was about to star in the movie Bollywood Queen in her first lead role, and had been working as a session vocalist for me just before that, singing vocals on songs that I was pitching other for artists during my publishing deal at Chrysalis music," he explains. "As the movie was based around her as a young girl who joins an R&B group and performs their material in the movie. She wanted the songs to be really good, so she set up a meeting between myself, and the director of the movie, Jeremy Wooding." Thus, Kay's venture into soundtracks--and he's not looking back.

Kay found working on soundtracks satisfying--and a way to leave a mark on cinema. "From a producer's point of view it is very important, because a good producer understands the kind of mood, or emotional feeling that different types of music can evoke. When you marry that with images, the combination can be extremely powerful," he explains.

So it seems the power of movie music will never truly die--it just evolves.

River Deep, A Tribute to Tina Turner, a multi-media musical, at The Peter Jay Sharp Theatre is only running for a limited Off-Broadway engagement --July 5-July 29--so run out and get your tickets. You won't be disappointed. It's high energy all the way through. Though not loaded with drama, it manages to tell the life story of Tina Turner with music and dance. Great direction by Gabrielle Lansner, and outstanding choreography by the cast, which includes Pat Hall as Turner, Erica Bowen, McKenzie Frye, Zainab Jah, Heather Lind, Paula McGonagle, and Shekitra Starke. The production (a return engagement) has an original score by Philip Hamilton. A great way to spend a summer outing. --John Brown, Jr., & Teresa Brown