Friday, February 17, 2012

Whitney Houston songs race up music charts

LOS ANGELES/LONDON (Reuters) - Late singer Whitney Houston's re-entered music charts on Wednesday with a greatest hits album that raced into the top 10 of the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 101,000 copies in just 24 hours after the singer's sudden death this past weekend.

"Whitney: The Greatest Hits," which includes songs such as "Saving All My Love for You" and "My Love is Your Love," hit No. 6 on the album chart, selling 91,000 digital copies and 10,000 physical copies, based on Nielsen SoundScan sales weekly data that is finalized on Sunday evening.

Houston, 48, died on Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Her body was discovered underwater in her room's bathtub, and while speculation has centered on a possible overdose given her past problems with drinking and drugs, authorities have yet to determine a cause of death.

"There's certainly going to be a resurgence in Whitney music. We'll hear it on the radio a lot and that will lead to people listening to it on (online music streaming application) Spotify and downloading it on iTunes," said Bill Werde, editorial director of music publication Billboard, to Reuters.

Dramatic sales also followed the deaths of Michael Jackson in Los Angeles and Amy Winehouse in London. According to music magazine Billboard, more than 35 million Jackson albums were sold worldwide after he died in June 2009.

"It's sad when people discover an artist this way, but it is what happens when an artist dies," said Werde.

As fans of Houston rushed to rediscover the singer's music, single digital track sales of the artist's music rose to more than 887,000 song downloads in 24 hours.

The biggest selling digital song was Houston's signature ballad "I Will Always Love You" with more than 195,000 copies downloaded, fueled by Jennifer Hudson's emotional rendition of the song in tribute to Houston at Sunday's Grammy awards.

The song also was played more than 2100 times on U.S. terrestrial radio stations between Saturday and Sunday.

In the U.K., five of Houston's songs made it into the Top 40 by Wednesday, led by "I Will Always Love You" at No. 10. Since midnight on Saturday, 82,000 Houston singles and more than 37,000 albums had been sold in Britain by mid-week.

Britain's Official Charts Company reported a total of 27 Houston tracks were in the Top 200 as fans snapped up her music after her death on Saturday.

Earlier this week Houston's record label Sony Music Entertainment apologized after a price hike "mistake" on two of the singer's albums on iTunes just hours after her death. The price increase occurred on the UK iTunes, where Houston's "The Ultimate Collection" album jumped from 4.99 GBP to 7.99 GBP.

"Whitney Houston product was mistakenly mispriced on the UK iTunes store on Sunday," said a statement issued by Sony to the New York Times. "When discovered, the mistake was immediately corrected. We apologize for any offense caused."

The sales surge in Houston's music is likely to continue through the week, ahead of the singer's funeral on Saturday.

Her greatest hits compilation may knock Adele's "21" from the top spot on the Billboard 200 album chart next week, after the British singer, who swept the Grammys on Sunday with six awards, notched her 20th week at No. 1 on Wednesday.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Adele triumphs at Grammys with six wins

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Soul singer Adele triumphed in her return to music's stage on Sunday, scooping up six Grammys and winning every category in which she was nominated including album of the year for "21" and best record with "Rolling In the Deep."

As joyous as the show was for Adele, it was equally as serious with tributes to late pop star Whitney Houston, who died suddenly on Saturday. She was remembered by fellow artists in acceptance speeches and songs. Jennifer Hudson sang Houston's signature hit, "I Will Always Love You," and Grammy host LL Cool J offered a prayer for Houston's family, friends and fans.

But it was Adele who stole the show. The 23-year-old, who has taken the music world by storm, underwent surgery on her vocal cords late last year and had been resting her voice on doctor's orders until music's biggest night. For the first time since then, the British singer took the stage to belt out "Rolling In the Deep" and finished to a standing ovation.

Adele claimed three of the music industry's top awards - album, record and song of the year - and added best pop solo performance, pop vocal and short video to her stack of trophies.

Tearing up and having difficulty speaking as she took the stage to claim the night's top award, album of the year, Adele talked about "21" and its heartfelt songs dreamed up after a failed love affair.

"This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it, just a rubbish relationship, and it's gone on to do things I can't tell you how I feel about it, it's been the most life-changing year."

Indeed, her sophomore album has sold more than 6.3 million copies in the United States and broken many sales records, including spending 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Now it can add the Grammys to its many accolades.

Rockers Foo Fighters were the other big winners, picking up five Grammys including best rock performance for the hit "Walk."

"This is a great honor because this record was a special record for our band. Rather than go to the best studio ... we made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine," said frontman Dave Grohl. "It shows that the human element of making music is what's most important."

But as jubilant as the audience was for Adele and as much as Foo Fighters rocked the house, Grammy organizers were equally as serious about Houston, whose body was found in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills hotel room. The cause is still unknown.

Host LL Cool J took the stage and offered a prayer for Houston, her fans and her family. "Although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed by her musical spirit," he said.


Grammy organizers give out awards in more than 75 categories and many early winners mentioned Houston. Singer Melanie Fiona, who won with Cee Lo Green for traditional R&B performance for "Fool For You," said she was inspired by the singer.

"Whitney Houston, I would not be standing up here if not for you," Fiona said. Backstage, she told reporters her mother had rocked her in the cradle to Houston's songs when she was a baby.

Other major Grammy winners included country's Taylor Swift, who picked up Grammys for solo performance and country song with "Mean," which she performed to a standing ovation. She had been expected to take best country album, too, but Lady Antebellum swooped in and took that prize with "Own the Night."

The other big surprise came when indie folk band Bon Iver took the Grammy for best new artist over rapper Nicki Minaj, who had been widely expected to win behind hit album "Pink Friday."

DJ Skrillex won two Grammys for best dance recording and top dance/electronica album with "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites."

Jay-Z and Kanye West won best rap performance with their song "Otis" from the album "Watch the Throne," but they failed to show up to claim their prize. Chris Brown won the Grammy for best R&B album "F.A.M.E."

West entered the night with seven nominations, more than any other artist, but came away with the Grammy for "Otis" and another for best rap album with "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."

Rousing performances were given by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Chris Brown, Coldplay and Rihanna, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson. Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt sang a duet of "A Sunday Kind of Love" from Etta James, who also died in 2012.

Minaj gave fans an over-the-top performance toward the show's final act, and Sir Paul McCartney ended in a guitar-heavy number with Springsteen, Grohl and others. Memorable moments came in a reunion of members of the Beach Boys and a lifetime award for Glen Campbell, who sang "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Finally, one of the show's more poignant moments came early in the day when Mitch and Janis Winehouse, parents of the late singer Amy Winehouse who died of excessive drinking in 2011, accepted the award for best pop duo or group performance - Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennett for "Body and Soul."

"Long live Whitney Houston. Long live Amy Winehouse and long live Etta James," Mitch Winehouse said, referring to the "At Last" singer who died earlier this year. "There's a beautiful girl band up there."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston found dead in hotel, age 48

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Whitney Houston, whose soaring voice lifted her to the top of the pop music world but whose personal decline was fueled by decades of drug use, died on Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel room. She was 48.

Her death came on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and at the same hotel where her mentor, record mogul Clive Davis, was holding an annual pre-event party at which she was scheduled to perform.

A dramatic scene unfolded at the Beverly Hilton Hotel as music celebrities arriving for the party expressed shock at her death, while reporters swarmed the hotel and fans gathered to pay their respects.

A Beverly Hills police officer told reporters they were called to the Beverly Hilton at around 3:20 p.m. PST and that emergency personnel found Houston's body in a fourth-floor room, and she was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. The cause of death is under investigation.

"She has been positively identified by friends and family (who) were with her at the hotel, and next of kin have already been notified," Lieutenant Mark Rosen told reporters. Police said there were no obvious signs of criminal intent.

Tributes poured in from around the world for a singer whose remarkable vocal range produced some of the most memorable music of her generation, including her signature hit, "I Will Always Love You."

"Whitney Houston was not only an amazing artist but also a beautiful person. She was so smart and her knowledge and appreciation for the musical art form was remarkable," Motown founder and R&B legend Berry Gordy said in a statement.

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, which runs the Grammys, said event producers were working on ways to honor the singer in front of her many friends in the audience.

Standing on the red carpet outside the hotel, Portnow told Reuters they would "try to celebrate her life," and called Houston a "one of a kind singer" whose body of work was "staggering."

Throughout her decades in music, Houston won six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums, sold some 170 million CDs, singles and videos that included smash hits "Saving All my Love for You."

She also appeared in the movies "Bodyguard" (1992), "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) and "The Preacher's Wife" (1996).

Houston was inspired to sing as a child by soul singers in her New Jersey family, including mother Cissy Houston and cousins Dionne Warwick and the late Dee Dee Warwick. Her godmother was Aretha Franklin.

"I just can't talk about it now," Franklin said in a statement. "It's so stunning and unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading coming across the TV screen. My heart goes out to Cissy, her daughter Bobbi Kris, her family and Bobby (Brown)."


By the early 1990s, Houston reigned as the queen of pop, but her critical and commercial success on stage was accompanied by an increasingly troubled personal life. In 1992 she married singer Bobby Brown, who had a bad-boy reputation, and their tumultuous 14 years together were marred by drug abuse and domestic violence.

In 2000, she and Brown were stopped at an airport in Hawaii and security guards discovered marijuana in their luggage. In a 2002 TV interview, she admitted using marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs.

The pair also starred in a reality TV series, "Being Bobby Brown," which painted an often unflattering portrait of the couple.

The last 10 years of Houston's life were dominated by drug use, rumors of relapses and trips to rehab.

She launched a comeback tour in 2009, and in April 2010 she called media reports she was using drugs again "ridiculous." In May 2011, Houston enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program.

Despite her personal troubles she commanded great affection among her music industry colleagues, and emotional tributes flooded the media in the hours after news broke of her death.

"I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney's passing," legendary music producer Quincy Jones said in a statement. "... I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly."

Pop star Rihanna posted on Twitter "No words, just tears," and rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted "Jesus Christ, not Whitney Houston. Greatest of all time."

(Additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Eric Beech)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Audio app Shazam enabled for Grammys

LOS ANGELES ( - Grammy nominees Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Adele take note: first you could Shazam the Super Bowl, and now you can Shazam the Grammy Awards.

Shazam and the Recording Academy announced Thursday that viewers will be able to use the app during the awards show to free up exclusive behind-the-scenes content and stay apprised of the performance schedule.

"The Grammy's broadcast brings together two of the key aspects of the discovery service Shazam offers - music, which is our heritage, and television, which is part of our future," Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher said in a statement.

Shazam, which started as an app for recognizing songs, has been pushing its audio recognition technology into the TV space. If one opens up the app while watching an advertisement or program that is Shazam-enabled, it will unlock all kinds of content.

It has used this for more than a dozen TV shows and even more advertisements, but the biggest "Shazam for TV" moment to date was last Sunday's Super Bowl. The game itself was Shazamable, as were nearly half of the advertisements.

Shazam has latched onto another big event platform in the case of the Grammys, and tagging the show will offer users a live stream of behind-the-scenes footage, a set list for the big show and the ability to buy all kinds of music.

Additionally, if any Shazam user tags a song between now and March 15, they will be entered into a contest to win a VIP trip for two to next year's Grammy Awards.

Newcomers and comebacks could yield Grammy surprises

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Adele may be a safe bet to clean up at Sunday's Grammy Awards, but if music fans think that means a night of few surprises, they should ask Justin Bieber.

The Canadian teen idol left the Grammys empty-handed last year after losing the best new artist award to jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding -- the first jazz artist to clinch the coveted prize.

Sunday's new artist race is just as diverse and could again have jaws dropping, but it won't be the only spectacle at the music industry's biggest awards show that will draw the attention of millions of fans watching on TV.

Singer Adele is giving her first major performance since throat surgery. Katy Perry will appear at a key event for the first time since her breakup with estranged husband Russell Brand, and then there's R&B singers -- and former lovers -- Chris Brown and Rihanna who will both turn out.

Still, among the races, the new artist category presents among the most intriguing of the night's nominee matchups. Rappers Nicki Minaj and J. Cole, country music group The Band Perry, indie rock band Bon Iver and electronica dance music producer Skrillex are competing for the title in a category that is often the hardest to predict.

Minaj, 29, is the most commercially successful act of the five after her No.1 debut album "Pink Friday", and in a sign of her popularity, she appeared on the biggest TV stage in the world at last week's Super Bowl halftime show with Madonna.

But surprise nominations for Bon Iver and disc jockey Skrillex -- the first electronica dance act to get a nod in the newcomer category -- have pundits torn.

"Last year, the Grammy voters pulled a fast one," said Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard music magazine.

"Everyone expected Justin Bieber's name to be called and they announced Esperanza Spalding's name. So how jaw-droppingly great will it be if Skrillex walked on the stage to accept the best new artist award rather than Nicki Minaj, who I think a lot of people would say is the front runner," Werde said.

Skrillex, 24, has an impressive five Grammy nods in total this year, including two for his dance album "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites".

Bon Iver, fronted by Justin Vernon, boasts four nominations, including two in the top categories of record and song of the year for "Holocene".

And don't count out The Band Perry -- the three siblings whose single "If I Die Young" was a cross-over hit on both country and pop radio last year and helped to win the trio eight awards from various country music groups.

"Everyone thinks Nicki Minaj has a good chance of winning or J. Cole or The Band Perry, but rap doesn't always do very well at the Grammys," said Lyndsey Parker, managing editor of Yahoo! Music.

Minaj also has three other shots at taking home a Grammy on Sunday, including for best rap performance for her "Moment 4 Life" song with Drake


Grammy show performances can make or break an artist, and several big names are making comebacks of sorts on Sunday.

Adele, 23, up for six awards, will be singing live in public in her first major performance since undergoing throat surgery in November 2011.

Katy Perry, who used clips of her wedding for her work at the 2011 Grammys, goes into Sunday's show with two nods for her hit single "Firework". But she is likely to make more headlines for her first big public outing since her British comedian husband Russell Brand filed for divorce in December.

"I think Katy's ready to come out and show everyone she's not a victim and she's running the show," said Bonnie McKee, songwriter of Perry's hits "California Gurls," "Teenage Dream" and "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)."

"Of course she has to acknowledge (the divorce) but she does it with a wink and a smile. The show must go on," added McKee.

Iconic 1960s band The Beach Boys will use the Grammy spotlight for their first performance in more than 20 years ahead of a new album and tour later this year.

And rocker Bruce Springsteen will take the stage with his E Street band for the first time without saxophonist Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, who died of a stroke last June.

The biggest comeback may be for rapper Chris Brown, whose career was almost derailed three years ago on the night before the Grammys, after he was arrested for beating up his then-girlfriend, Rihanna.

Brown has spent the past few years since that 2009 incident working to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of fans and both he, with three Grammy nods, and Rihanna, who has four, will be performing on Sunday night, although on separate stages.

"He definitely hurt his career during that Grammy weekend. There's always talk about his redemption...but I don't think he's atoned enough," said Parker.

Rihanna, nominated for the coveted album of the year honor for "Loud", will sing with Coldplay on the main stage, while Brown will join Foo Fighters, David Guetta, Deadmau5 and Lil Wayne in a dance music special on a stage outside the Staples Center venue in Los Angeles.

"The Grammys know what would get interest...I would hate for (Brown and Rihanna) to be a focus of the Grammys over other artists but it's going to get a lot of attention," said Parker.

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grammy spotlight shines on Adele

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Grammys in recent years have targeted young audiences even as older acts won key awards to the surprise of some music fans, but this Sunday's honors will shine its spotlight on Adele, whose popularity crosses all age boundaries.

The soulful British singer, whose album "21" has spawned massive hits like "Rolling in the Deep" and topped charts for 19 weeks, enters music industry's biggest awards with six nominations, second only to rapper Kanye West with seven.

But all ears will be tuned in to Adele, 23, who is scheduled to give a Grammy performance that is her first since undergoing throat surgery late last year. And everybody -- young and old -- wants to know if 2011's top-selling performer has recovered.

"My eight-year-old daughter sings Adele songs, and my friend's 75-year-old grandmother sings Adele songs," said Nic Harcourt, former radio host at KCRW, who is among those credited with helping put the British chanteuse on the U.S. music map.

Adele's voice was a breath of fresh air in 2011 for a struggling industry. "21" album sold more copies in one year than any other act since Usher's "Confessions" in 2004. Its current U.S. sales total is roughly 6.3 million copies.

In years past, the Grammys have often seen relative newcomers in top categories like album of the year face off against veteran acts, only to see the older performers win, shocking the youth-driven industry. Herbie Hancock's 2007 jazz album, "River: The Joni Letters," was among the recent surprises.

That won't happen at Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles. Competing for album of the year are Adele with "21," Lady Gaga for "Born This Way," Rihanna with "Loud," Bruno Mars for "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" and Foo Fighters for "Wasting Light."

Indeed, many of the major categories are dominated by younger pop stars like Adele, Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna. Traditional rockers are largely missing, with the exception of legends Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen who are both set to perform at Sunday's show in Los Angeles.


But in an ironic twist, Adele gained stardom precisely because she has appealed to so many audience groups with her soulful ballads such as "Someone Like You" that sound like a throwback in an industry dominated by electronic dance music.

"She's got a little more substance and is not just a pop confection. With a classic sound, veteran Grammy voters will have no problem supporting her, while she also reaches the young," said Bob Merlis, president of MFH Publicity.

Adele's singles have been played on multiple radio formats, helping to sell albums to older consumers as well as younger fans who tend to buy music online.

David Bakula, senior vice president, analytics of entertainment for Nielsen said Adele has "gone beyond the bounds of a simple pop artist, which appeals to a younger, more singles-driven crowd. Katy Perry's a good example of a star who sells tons of singles, but not tons of albums."

Elsewhere, Kanye West's seven nods crown a critical and commercial comeback for the controversial 34-year-old rapper who took a self-imposed hiatus from performing in 2009.

West recorded his best rap album contender "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" in Hawaii after removing himself from the mainstream music scene following harsh criticism over his 2009 outburst involving country starlet Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Already a 14-time Grammy winner, he is nominated for song of the year for "All of the Lights" and best rap performance with Jay-Z for "Otis".

The best new artist category reflects an eclectic mix of artists, from female rapper Nicki Minaj and hip-hop artist J. Cole, to country sensations The Band Perry, house and electropop performer Skrillex and American folk band Bon Iver.

"Rhinestone Cowboy" singer Glen Campbell, 75, currently on a

goodbye tour after announcing he has early stage Alzheimer's disease, will receive a lifetime achievement award and will perform with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton.

Other performers will include veteran crooner Tony Bennett -- who is nominated for his "Body and Soul" duo with the late Amy Winehouse -- Alicia Keys, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson and Chris Brown.

Bonnie Raitt will perform in remembrance of "At Last" singer Etta James, who died in January at the age of 73, and rapper and "NCIS: Los Angeles" actor LL Cool J will be the first official host of the Grammy Awards in seven years.

Winners are determined by about 13,000 members of the Recording Academy, but only a handful of trophies in the 78 categories will be handed out on Sunday's live telecast.