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10 Artists who retired from music and made a comeback

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ENTERTAINMENT

Dua Lipa’s ‘Studio 2054’ Stream Was the Post-Thanksgiving Dopamine Rush We All Needed

https://variety.com/2020/music/reviews/dua-lipa-livestream-studio-2054-1234841570/

Dua Lipa’s ‘Studio 2054’ Stream Was the Post-Thanksgiving Dopamine Rush We All Needed

“I like it better when we’re intertwined,” Dua Lipa sings in her song “Cool,” maybe speaking for all of us who are doing Thanksgiving weekend and pretty much every other weekend of 2020 unentangled from most human beings. Her performance of that and a host of other songs from her two albums Friday in “Studio 2054,” a pay-per-view event, felt like a happy dispatch from another galaxy, where dancing and dopamine both still occur, and joy is a thing of the present, not past or future nostalgia.

Not much was revealed about the content of the streamed event ahead of time, other than a growing guest list, some of whom were recent collaborators on remixes or side duets (Miley Cyrus, the Blessed Madonna), some of whom were not (Kylie Minogue, Elton John), and the promise that it would be elaborate. But would it be an FX-filled spectacle, a la the recent state-of-the-art livestream from Billie Eilish that was performed on one tiny set but used high technology to give every number a different, often animated setting?

Lipa was having none of that. Her Black Friday show had exactly zero special effects, other than the ones that were arrived at in-camera, as it were, taking place in a few different connected spaces of the multipurpose Printworks venue in London. If anything, the show tried to throw off a low-tech vibe, especially at the beginning, with a determined initial intent to look like something that could have been done in the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, in keeping with the motifs Lipa goes back to with the sounds of her Grammy-nominated “Future Nostalgia” album.

(How throwback did it ultimately get? Two words: roller disco.)

When the broadcast opened with the recent album’s statement-of-purpose title song, and for a couple of numbers after that, it was actually going out in the old-school 1.33:1 Academy aspect ratio, all the better to approximate something that looked a little like it was out of the classic “Soul Train” or “Solid Gold” era. With lots of garishly colorful neon in the set and large cubist structures hanging overhead, the nearest analog, so to speak, to what Lipa and company were doing might be how the band Muse similarly went for an ’80s vibe when they were designing and touring the “Simulation Theory” album a couple of years ago, albeit without Lipa’s distinct discotheque emphasis.

After the first costume-change interlude, the visual scheme lost its squareness went widescreen, without any great fanfare. But what stayed consistent throughout these and other changes was having the dancers (10 primary performers and another 10 additional dancers) alternate back and forth between choreography and the lack of it. When they first appeared for the opening “Future Nostalgia,” they almost appeared as if they might have been “Soul Train” kids taken in right off the street to boogie with Dua, revealing their pro status only as subsequent numbers brought everyone into tight formation. But even later in the show, everyone would break tight ranks for extended stretches in what appeared to be just a normal night out at a dimly lit dance club. Even the most impressive and formal dancing had a friendly, relaxed quality to it that felt more about drawing the viewer in as a participant than dazzling us with impossible feats of prowess.

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Dua Lipa in “Studio 2054”

(Side note: It wasn’t all an homage to the styles of decades past — there was one late moment of mass booty rumbling among Lipa and her female dancers that jerked, or twerked, us back into the present day.)

The opening act had Lipa, in a glitzy mini-gown, not just apparently singing live but interacting with an actual band, including a bona fide guitar solo during “Levitating,” and the phenomenal bass lines from the recent album possibly being played on something other than a MIDI, too. An interlude led into FKA Twigs working the pole and singing (as opposed to just the former during her recent Grammys guest shot with Usher) at some length before finally being joined by Lipa, now in more of a leotard for act 2. A mini-set on a secondary nightclub set began with a fist-pumping “Physical,” ended with the career-establisher “New Rules” and in-between had Lipa jumping into the DJ booth to jam alongside a designed spinner, the Blessed Madonna (who did the lion’s share of work on the singer’s recent remix album).

The guest cameos soon got underway, and the answer to how all these celebs would make their way to London soon became clear: some would, some would not. Lipa went into her elegant-bordello-like “dressing room” and kicked everyone out so that she could watch herself and Miley duet on “Prisoner” on an analog black-and-white TV… with a mutual coziness between the two stars that can only be described as somewhere between slumber-party chic and outrightly non-heteronormative. Next up was a more elaborate collab, “Una Día (One Day),” which had Lipa singing in the flesh but J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Tainy piped in remotely via the groove tube. Finally, Angèle showed up right in Dua’s faux dressing room for “Fever,” with a level of familiarity just a little less steamy than what Lipa shared with Cyrus.

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Dua Lipa and Angele in “Studio 2054”

Then things moved over to a very-dark-disco set where who should be awaiting Lipa’s arrival than Kylie Minogue, joining the host from behind (and occasionally on top of) the DJ’s mixing board for her own “Real Groove” and Lipa’s “Electricity.” Minogue is apparently not holding it against Lipa that she came out of the gate in 2020 with a neo-disco concept before Kylie got around to making a concept album out of it herself with “Disco.” Seeing these mutual Anglo dancefloor-revivalist birds of a feather flock together had to be a special kick in merry olde England, but it was a highlight over here, too.

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Dua Lipa and Kylie Minogue in “Studio 2054”

Then things got weird: While Lipa disappeared from the screen for a few minutes, her cast of dancers stood motionless watching a piped-in video of Elton John singing a mostly solo “Rocket Man” on a big screen, like rapt cult members awaiting instructions from Big Daddy. Since there was no interaction with the star, what this had to do with the rest of the show was anyone’s guess, although three minutes of Elton singing “Rocket Man,” even as a disembodied, spectral presence, can never be counted as a bad thing. And it did make “Studio 2054” feel a little bit more like a traditional holiday variety show.

Lipa’s time spent in her real dressing room was not in vain, as she returned for the finale of “Hallucinate” and the year’s show-stopper, “Don’t Start Now.” in a bedazzled bodysuit that did finally make it seem as if special effects weren’t off the table. Strict formation again gave way to full-title boogie and free-range hoofing, ending with a Lipa who had previously not had much to say letting out an exultant “Yeahhhhhh!” as the camera panned far out to reveal its overhead tracking and the vastness of the space. A celebratory expletive might also have been heard in the fadeout.

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Dua Lipa and friends in “Studio 2054”

Affirmative exultations and exhalations may have been shared by the audience (which tuned in in waves, as streaming start times were staggered to accommodate fans in time zones around the world). Lipa might not have had to do much besides stand there and sing the bulk of “Future Nostalgia,” which is maybe the most purely enjoyable album of 2020, to make “Studio 5054” worth the relatively economical $11.99 cost of early-bird admission. But, as seen on Lipa’s recent American Music Awards contribution, she and her team have already mastered the jubilance that can come from a long tracking shot that has Lipa and a bare handful of dancers marching toward the camera in time to a four-on-the-floor beat. The creative team (including director Liz Clare, choreographers Charm La’Donna and Alex Clark, and producers Ceremony London) clearly relished the chance to make Lipa the star of something that was undeniably a hairtrigger-tight extravaganza but also felt a little down-home, like a friendly party you could step into without being held back at the velvet rope.

The only drawback? The PPV status mandating that pay-per-viewers could only watch it in a 24-hour window, not put it on continuous loop until the pandemic is over. But at least it served as an espresso-style wakeup charge after a day and a half’s worth of turkey coma in America, however much more we might be needing it when life is returning to Zoom-business as usual next week. Thanks, Dua, for the dopa-twine.

 

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ENTERTAINMENT

Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins LPs Reinforce the Record Store Day/Resonance Jazz Connection, as Producer Zev Feldman Collects a Grammy Nod

https://variety.com/2020/music/news/resonance-records-record-store-day-bill-evans-sonny-rollins-zev-feldman-1234841046/

Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins LPs Reinforce the Record Store Day/Resonance Jazz Connection, as Producer Zev Feldman Collects a Grammy Nod

It hasn’t yet come to pass, but there may come a year when Record Store Day gets the official dual title of National Bill Evans Day. While there are plenty of rock artists whose archives have been regularly mined for exclusive vinyl releases tied to the semiannual event, like David Bowie and the Grateful Dead, in jazz, it’s been Bill Evans whose fans have most benefitted from a serious of previously unissued double-albums digging into the vaults. And the late piano legend even seems to be picking up a new audience among rock fans who’ve studied forums dedicated to RSD releases and come to realize that, with every release selling out its run virtually instantaneously, Evans-mania must exist for a reason.

For 2020’s Black Friday edition of Record Store Day, Resonance Records put out its fifth Evans release, “Live at Ronnie Scott’s,” a 20-song recording from the pianist’s 1968 trio prime. But that’s far from the only offering that Resonance and/or the nonprofit label’s co-president, Zev Feldman, aka “the Jazz Detective,” put into the public sphere Friday. Resonance put out a total of three highly annotated vinyl deluxe editions for RSD, the others being “Sonny Rollins in Holland” and Monty Alexander’s “Love You Madly: Live at Bubba’s,” both marking the first time the company has celebrated those artists.

At Resonance, Feldman is allowed to also ply his detective work for some other labels, like Blue Note, on the side. And so he actually has a hand as producer or co-producer on four RSD titles this particular time around, the last of them being the George Coleman Quintet’s “In Baltimore,” released on the Real to Reel label, surely making him this year’s undesignated RSD king of product that’s often actually sourced from reel-to-reel.

It’s a heady week for Feldman not just because he put out four highly involved and elaborate albums in a single day, but because three days earlier, he picked up his first Grammy nomination. It came in the best historical recording category for Nat King Cole’s “Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943),” which Resonance released last year as a non-limited-edition 10-LP or 7-CD set boxed set.

Of the Record Store Day titles, he says, “I’m always just trying to elevate the art of record making, when we can. And I feel like these four releases really sum that up. There’s just a lot of thoughtful curation. But there’s a team,” including founder and co-president George Klabin and a staff of “seven or eight” at Resonance. “I still can’t believe we’re able to do this. All of these are going to ship sold out. They’re gonna be gone— one and done. But that’s the beauty of Record Store Day.”

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Zev Feldman, the “Jazz Detective”
Zak Shelby Szyszko

Feldman told Variety about this weekend’s LP releases — which will be followed by CD issues in just a week, in the cases of the Evans, Rollins and Alexander titles— starting with, but hardly limited to, Resonance’s unofficial flagship artist.

“My sales guy, who comes from the rock catalog world, said to me, ‘You know, Bill Evans is kind of like the Grateful Dead of jazz. He does a lot of the same repertoire, and people just keep digging it and eating it all up.’ But Bill Evans was really such an amazing enigma, and such an inspiring figure in his music. Yeah, he played a lot of his repertoire over and over, but there was something really special about how he reached from inside himself and every time it’s such an inspiring performance. When you listen to, for instance, a track like ‘Nardis’ — oh my God, there have been guys that have written articles and studied about all the different introductions. I just find him fascinating. I’ve been listening to him since my teens. George Klabin loves him. There’s a special connection with us.

And as long as we can keep finding great Bill Evans, man, I could just keep doing that forever. man, I could just be happy doing that forever. Because he really matters. His son Evan has talked to me about that quite a few times, about we’ve ended up doing something for the Bill Evans brand.”

 

As usual with any Resonance archival release, the huge booklet provides practically an actual book’s worth of reading material, mostly in the form of Q&As with survivors or other musicians. The Evans release includes a recent conversation between his drummer on the recordings, Jack DeJohnette, and the band leader he went on to play with after leaving Evans’ employ, Chick Corea.

And speaking of CC’s, there’s a length Q&A Feldman conducted with Chevy Chase, which is not as incongruous an inclusion as it might sound. Chase is a major jazzhead (and former drummer) who, in his pre-“SNL” days, used to spend his time in clubs seeing the greats like Coltrane, Davis and Mingus — and actually befriended Evans. the drive Evans to and from gigs and ply him for wisdom. “I went up to Chevy’s house, and 90 minutes he spent talking with me about Evans, no bathroom break,” Feldman laughs. “He used to drive Bill home after his gigs. Bill gave Chevy two kittens that he had their entire lives. They kept in touch over the years. And there’s just a really such a warmth of Chevy that comes through when you listen of him talking about Bill, and how he used to ask, ‘How do you do that? How do you play and make these chords?’ ‘Eight hours a day, Chev,’ he said. ‘Eight hours a day.’”

Feldman had long wanted to do a Sonny Rollins release, and went large with it when he got the chance, doing a triple album that starts with one side captured in the studio and five more taken from a couple of gigs in the same 1967/Netherlands time frame.

Rollins “is the saxophone colossus,” Feldman says. “I mean, he’s really the greatest living legend in jazz music that’s still with us. He’s not playing now. And he’s a reluctant guy to just go back to an old tape and say, ‘Sure, put that out.’ Not with him. But he was really taken with this music, which is special to us. And with the writings and a lot of photographs that we had” — there’s an unusual wealth of beautiful black-and-white portraiture throughout the packaging — “I really wanted to build an incredible experience. I told Sonny going into this, ‘Listen, if I can, we’ll spare no expense to at least try to build something that tells this narrative of what you guys were doing.’ It’s music that’s just really, as he says, ‘wham, bam, thank you, ma’am’ and ‘take no prisoners.’ It’s let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’ The energy is just really inspiring.”

Monty Alexander, Feldman says, “is really one of the great pianists in jazz. He was a disciple I would say was directly influenced by the likes of Nat King Cole, Erroll Garner, Earl Hines.” Originally from Jamaica, Alexander moved to Miami and was doing gigs there when he was discovered by Frank Sinatra and the owner of Jilly’s, who were so taken with him he became the house pianist at that legendary restaurant in New York. “Throw him into that school with Ray Brown and Milt Jackson and some of the greats. He’s played Montreux probably 30 times, maybe more,” Feldman points out.

Alexander cut his debut album in 1965, and became “one of the top five modern jazz pianists ever to play the instrument,” Klabin contends in his liner notes contribution. Yet, as Feldman says he told Klabin, “George, I’m not sure if there’s ever been a super-deluxe, over-the-top, ‘Monty, we love you’ kind of package.” The opportunity arose when Alexander told them he had played a club in Ft. Lauderdale in the early ‘80s that was professionally recorded by Mack Emerman, the fellow who ran the famous Criteria Studios, home of the Bee Gees, Eric Clapton and others. As Alexander recalls in the liner notes, the studio maestro said, “’Hey, can I come and record you? I’ll bring the remote truck.’ … Son of a gun, he gave me the tape as a gift.” A gift Alexander held onto for 38 years — and the rare buried treasure Resonance gets to work with that involves a 24-track, audiophile recording that they can take into L.A.’s Village Recorders for a completely fresh mix.

Finally, the George Coleman single-LP Feldman helped put together for the Real to Reel label came via that imprint’s association with the Left Bank Jazz Archives in Baltimore, where Coleman’s gig went down in 1971.

Coleman counts as an undersung hero, with the liner notes pointing out that the Encyclopedia of Jazz editorialized a bit in calling him “a tenor saxophone master who, in relation to his high degree of accomplishment, is undervalued by the public.” Says Feldman, “This is the guy that was in Miles Davis’ second quintet, after Coltrane, before Wayne Shorter. But George Coleman didn’t start making records until the late 1970s; before that, he was this sideman,” playing not just with Davis but Chet Baker, among others. But he did do headlining gigs, even if he wasn’t recording his own albums yet, and so this live album captures him when he was 36, six years before he made an album under his own name. “He’s one of the greats,” Feldman says, “and we basically just rewrote the discography on George Coleman with this this release,” at least on the front end.

There is as much in the pipeline as you’d expect from a producer who just put out four albums at once. Not everything can be talked about, since rights are often in dispute and require a great deal of discussion and negotiation. “It’s a whole journey, and there’s so many pitfalls along the way” with releases that often take years to come together, especially when estates are involved, or gigs were recorded by outsiders whose rights may be nebulous. “Sometimes there are disappointments that occur. If someone doesn’t agree with something, something can easily turn off the car real fast. But we have a track record of being above board with people: Let people know your intentions, and be transparent… It’s really important to know that we’re doing things the official way.

“We’re paying the musicians; we’re negotiating with the rights holders to make that happen. And that’s something that sadly doesn’t always get followed by a lot of folks, especially in parts of Europe and Asia. to me, it’s disrespectful. But you know, I’m not raising my nose. I’m just doing my part on my side of the street to keep it clean and do things the right way and give people a great experience, and then we can kind of wave the good guy flag over here. At least I’m trying.”

Yes, there will be more Evans. “Next year I have these tapes of Bill Evans from Argentina, which were concerts in ‘73 and ‘79. It only took me four years to negotiate the rights to put that out.” There’s also a 12-LP live boxed set in the works for one of the labels he does side work for on an artist he can’t reveal yet. Also, “I can’t announce all the details yet, but Resonance is going to be issuing previously unissued recordings featuring the late, great Roy Hargrove, who this month has now been gone sadly for two years. Next April, for the next record store day event, we’re going to have a release, hopefully, with this music.” (He’s also at work on a coffee table book that will collect the classic jazz artwork of illustrator David Stone Martin, whose previously unseen drawing of Evans adorns the cover of the new “Ronnie Scott’s” release.)

Resonance doesn’t strictly release on Record Store Days, but it’s long since become a valuable association that works both for the label (and Feldman’s outside projects) and RSD itself, whose participating stores know a certain cult of customers will be drawn with the initial intent of buying whatever the imprint is putting out, on spec.

Feldman used to hold off on the CD release (and the digital release, when Resonance finally gave in to a non-physical format) for a month or two after the vinyl RSD release. Now, the gap is narrowed to the label putting out Evans, Rollins and Alexander on compact disc just a week later.

“There’s kind of a balance,” Feldman says of juggling different mediums, “and when you’re doing publicity and marketing, I want to have things within a shorter window” than in the past. “I would like people to, if they read a review (of the vinyl), be able to go out and find it if they want to (on CD). Sometimes, things can be out of sight, out of mind .if you put things off too much. So the closer the better now. But I respect the Record Store Day organization and want to make sure it works for them, too. Because without them. what we’re shipping on these projects, it would take a period of time to achieve that threshold, instead of being able to do it through one time with an event.”

He points out that, as a rare nonprofit in the label world, “we’re not greedy. But I wish sometimes that we could do a pre-order sort of exercise and forecast (what kind of pressings to do); it’s really hard sometimes until the actual orders are solicited for us to know what exactly what it’s gonna be. But every year, (demand) keeps going up. I’m just like, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing, nose to the grindstone, and not change the formula. And let’s just keep making the records exciting as much as we can.”

Quantities on the RSD titles vary significantly by renown of the artist. The new Evans album was announced as a pressing of 7,000 hand-numbered units for the world, and most likely could sell well beyond that, given that fans were already complaining it was tough to find on Friday. (Demand has been so great for some of the Evans titles on the secondary market that Resonance did do a second edition of one earlier album, changing the mastering and slightly updating the cover to keep the original collectible — the sort of move that gets heavily debated among record geeks.) The Rollins album, representing another one of jazz’s major stars, also became scarce Friday, even with 6,000 out in the world. Monty Alexander and George Coleman were represented with a more modest 2,000 and 1,500, respectively.

Basking in the glow of the past week’s Grammy nod, Feldman emphasizes that all these releases are “such a team effort. it’s not one person. But for me personally now, after doing this for a greater part of 10 years, to be recognized by your peers within that form really is a very moving thing for me. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and grateful for my life and what I get the chance to do. I’ve had other jobs. I used to work overnights at a gas station before I went into the music business. I’ve worked fast food. It smells like roses over here! I want to stay. I’m just having a wonderful time.”

Feldman is tickled by reports that Record Store Day regulars who know little to nothing about jazz artists have started buying Resonance releases as part of their semi-annual diet of exclusives just because of the label’s reputation and word of mouth about the titles.

As crossover interest goes, “I kind of relate to that very closely,” Feldman says. “Because, yeah, mom and dad played Wes Montgomery and Nancy Wilson and Michel Legrand and all sorts of stuff at home, but I was listening to the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. And it was really a lot of that stuff that, believe it or not,” led him to jazz. (Vintage rock posters sit alongside jazz prints in his L.A. living room.) “My brain was just primed by listening to the way that the solos would be constructed and the way that there would be ideas articulated in the way that Pete Townshend bends the strings, or Clapton. It may not be really be all that different in some ways, in the way that something grabs onto something neurological in your brain that makes you hear something that connects with you. And I feel like this music does that.”

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ENTERTAINMENT

‘The Masked Singer’ Reveals the Identity of Broccoli: Here’s the Star Under the Mask

https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/the-masked-singer-recap-broccoli-paul-anka-season-4-episode-9-1234840915/

‘The Masked Singer’ Reveals the Identity of Broccoli: Here’s the Star Under the Mask

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 4, Episode 9 of “The Masked Singer,” which aired Nov. 26 on Fox.

Paul Anka is thankful for his time on “The Masked Singer,” even though he was the latest celebrity to be revealed on the hit competition series. On a special Thanksgiving airing, Anka was unmasked as the Broccoli.

Anka said “The Masked Singer” was the perfect way for him to perform during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also take a break from recording his latest album, which he’s currently producing for release next year.

“I was really locked in a studio and with COVID-19, not socializing or getting out, obviously,” Anka told Variety. “Once I talked to my son and my girlfriend and then some people in my staff I said, yeah I got to get out of here and I think it’d be a lot of fun.”

Among the panelists, Robin Thicke was the only one to figure out it was Anka, but for good reason: As fellow Canadians in entertainment, Anka and Thicke already knew each other.

“It’s a pretty close knit community,” said Anka, who also knew Thicke’s late father, Alan Thicke. “There was a lot of diversity in who they guessed, from Bill Murray to Wayne Newton. I suspected Robin would [figure it out] because I wasn’t really changing my voice that much, other than I was doing a lot of movement. I don’t really suspect a lot of people watching or even on the panel have ever seen me in person other than maybe Robin.”

Nicole Scherzinger guessed Wayne Newton, Ken Jeong thought it was Ringo Starr, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg’s guess was Neil Sedaka and guest panelist Jay Pharoah guessed Paul Simon.

Anka, as Broccoli, sang “Old Time Rock & Roll,” by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, for his final performance. In previous episodes he also sang “House Is Rockin’”/”Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Hello,” by Lionel Richie.

“That was the point, to have fun and a lot of movement,” Anka said of the mostly uptempo numbers. “By putting the energy and songs I don’t normally do, I felt it could throw them a little bit.”

Anka said he chose the Broccoli costume because he’s a “health nut.”

“I was going with the flow, I don’t exist with expectations, most things in life,” he said. “So I was just going along with the flow of it. I think I went further than I thought I would, frankly. I wasn’t really ready to be in a costume for three weeks, but those costumes are amazing. I think the big turn on for a lot of fans is those costumes are unbelievable.”

He did admit that the costumes and tech took a little bit of getting used to. “I’m a guy that’s old school in the sense that there’s no tricks,” he said. “I don’t have in-ears and I work a certain way. And I come from the Rat Pack group and we had certain execution when we sing. But once you get in a suit, that’s not really fitting you in a form of normality, and then the heat, and then the visual’s very tough because of the screen. And then you’ve got a hand that’s five times size of yours. But once you get past the first [performance], and the heaviness of everything, then you just deal with it, you apply yourself and do it.”

As for his new album, Anka said he’s working with guests such as Il Divo and Olivia Newton-John. But most notably, he’s working with Andrea Bocelli and taking the master recording of Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” (which Anka wrote) to produce a new version of the song.

“When I originally wrote it for Sinatra in 1968, I had the rights to have it on one of my albums,” Anka said. “I didn’t want to just do ‘My Way,’ so I thought it would be interesting if I could get Bocelli, and then get Frank’s master, mix it in with me with an orchestra. The technology today is amazing, you’re able to do those kinds of things. So it’s, me, Bocelli, Sinatra, and we’re singing ‘My Way’ together. To be able to meld them properly, with Bocelli was a big challenge but we pulled it off. And it’s an exciting part of the album.”

In the Group C final round smackdown, Anka as Broccoli performed “Take Me Down” by Alabama, while the Mushroom sang “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway.

New this season, the show’s panelists are also competing for a “Golden Ear” trophy based on their first impressions of each masked performer — and going into the episode, McCarthy Wahlberg was in the lead with three, while Thicke and Scherzinger had two points each, and Jeong so far had zero.

Scherzinger’s first impression guess was Bill Murray; Jeong’s was Martin Short; Thicke’s was Bob Newhart; and McCarthy Wahlberg said Jerry Springer. No one picked up another point this week.

This season’s costumes include Baby Alien, Crocodile, Broccoli, Gremlin, Mushroom, Jellyfish, Whatchamacalit, Lips, Squiggly Monster, Popcorn, Sun, Dragon, Giraffe, Seahorse, Snow Owls and Serpent.

Previously unmasked have been Lonzo Ball (Whatchamacalit), “Dr. Elvis” Francois (Serpent), Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black (Snow Owls), Bob Saget (Squiggly Monster), Wendy Williams (Lips), Mark Sanchez (Baby Alien), Brian Austin Green (Giraffe), Mickey Rourke (Gremlin) and Busta Rhymes (Dragon).

That means heading into the championship round, the final six are Crocodile, Mushroom, Jellyfish, Popcorn, Sun and Seahorse.

Here were the other contestants and their performances in week nine, “The Group C Finals — The Masks Give Thanks”:

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Mushroom and host Nick Cannon, “The Masked Singer”
Courtesy of Fox

Mushroom

Song: “Unconditionally,” by Katy Perry
Panel guesses: Jaden Smith, Taye Diggs, The Weeknd
Clue: “The name that I go by now was not my name when I first sprouted.”
Friend voice-over: “Off the record, Mushroom has always been a go-getter. In high school, Mushroom was class president. With a GPA of over 4.0. When Mushy’s mind is set on something, Mushy goes after it hard core. Whether it’s helping underprivileged youth or making calls for important causes, Mushroom’s work ethic is unrivaled.”
Previous songs: “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell; “If I Could Turn Back Time,” by Cher
Previous panel guesses: Donald Glover, Usher, Frank Ocean, Adam Lambert, Jaden Smith

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Jellyfish, “The Masked Singer”
Courtesy of Fox

Jellyfish

Song: “Don’t Start Now,” by Dua Lipa
Panel guesses: Charli XCX, Kylie Jenner, McKayla Maroney
Clue: “If you find this, you’ll know I’ve never performed on a stage quite like this before.”
Sister voice-over: “Jellyfish has always been the rebel of our by-the-book family and in reality she’s also the overachiever. Even though she’s ticked off so many accomplishments already, she’s always eager to challenge herself in new arenas. We love singing together with our favorite show so I’m no stranger to her gorgeous voice. And with her work ethic, it’s no surprise she’s come this far.”
Previous songs: “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” by Fergie; “Crazy,” by Patsy Cline
Previous Panel guesses: Gabby Douglas, Chloe Grace Moretz, Awkwafina, Sofia Richie, Lana Condor, Halle Bailey.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Aimee Mann on the ‘Stubbornness’ That Led to ‘Bachelor No. 2,’ an Indie Landmark Being Reissued for Record Store Day

https://variety.com/2020/music/news/aimee-mann-bachelor-no-2-record-store-day-vinyl-interview-1234840945/

Aimee Mann on the ‘Stubbornness’ That Led to ‘Bachelor No. 2,’ an Indie Landmark Being Reissued for Record Store Day

Aimee Mann knows a sinking ship when she sees one. And she saw the holes in the ballast back at the turn of the century when she asked for her release from her record company so that she could release “Bachelor No. 2 or, The Last Remains of the Dodo” herself. It’s not so much that the majors were going down (Interscope, the label she was signed to at the time, has soldiered on fine without her) so much as the marriages between these companies and a classic breed of singer/songwriters going down for the count. In asking for, and receiving, her exit, she was getting a few years’ head start on nearly every other significant artist of a similarly artisan ilk also looking to go independent, either out of choice or necessity.

It could hardly have worked out better: “Bachelor No. 2” not only became a landmark record on its own — with a little cross-promotional help from “Magnolia,” which employed several of its songs, among other Mann numbers Paul Thomas Anderson seeded throughout the movie — but it set the template for her subsequent career. As much acclaim as Mann had gotten in Til Tuesday and for her first couple of solo records, it was “Bachelor No. 2” that made Mann No. 1 in the hearts of critics and a significant coterie of followers who’ve hailed her, with plenty of justification, as the sharpest songwriter of her generation.

For the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day, Mann is reissuing “Bachelor No. 2” as a two-LP set, with extensive annotation, a new cover and five bonus tracks (including more “Magnolia” songs that weren’t previously a part of the album). Anyone who might hesitate in this dating game probably needs to wise up, as the limited edition of 5,000 copies is likely to go fast, although Mann is not averse to eventually pressing a second edition if the first goes as quickly as expected.

“It seems really fresh,” Mann said in a phone call with Variety. “It’s a very startling to realize it had been 20 years.” Our conversation about what fed into this classic album then, and how she reevaluates it now, follows.

VARIETY: Have you been actively thinking about releasing your catalog on vinyl, or was it just “Bachelor No. 2” in particular?

MANN: Well, we’re going to do a reissue of “Lost in Space,” too, because I think some of them just wanted to get better vinyl versions. In fact, I can’t even remember if we had a vinyl “Lost in Space” — I don’t think we did.

To refresh your memory, both of these albums only came out on vinyl in very limited Mobile Fidelity editions. And they command high prices on the collectors’ market. Looking them the going rate for them on Discogs, the lowest price for a sealed copy of “Bachelor No. 2” right now is about $300, and the lowest price for a sealed “Lost in Space” is about $365. So, you can probably sell a few of these new editions.

Good God! I don’t think I had anything to do with those. Or it was probably one of those things where I was on the road and my manager said, “Somebody wants to release it on vinyl,” and I’m like, “Fine.” That was probably my involvement at the time.

But I think with this one in particular, because I had recorded all of those “Magnolia” soundtrack songs at the same time, to me, it always felt like they should be on that record. And then some of (the bonus tracks), like “Momentum” and the cover of (Nilsson’s) “One,” had been done earlier, but I wanted to put them on this reissue. And I wanted to have a better package, because the package was done so hastily at that point, it didn’t really come out the way I wanted it to. And there are some liner notes, and it’s remastering by this great guy, Dave Cooley.

And the running order has changed.

Yeah, I resequenced it a little bit. I wanted it to flow from one side to the other, while still trying to keep most of the original sequencing. But it has been changed a little bit, because I didn’t want to just chuck the five new songs together on one side. That sort of bothered me. I wanted to incorporate them. So everything is a little different. The cover keeps the idea of the original cover, but expands it. It’s all just a little bit more. It’s “Bachelor No. 2 Plus.”

There are only 5,000 copies pressed, which seems low, looking at how instantly some Record Store Day titles have gone recently in quantities of about that size that have far less repute as a classic than this one. Is this a one-time pressing or will there be a separate edition later on that’s not limited?

I don’t know! Listen, if I thought people were really clamoring for it, I’m sure I would press up some more.

Will there be a CD of either of these albums in their remastered or expanded form, or is it vinyl only?

It’s vinyl-only right now. But I think a digital version will come.

Besides the bonus tracks and the fact that basically only a handful of people already have it on vinyl, one of the big draws of this is the extensive liner notes, which include track-by-track commentary. A general statement you make in the notes is: “This album is better than I remember.” Did you have a thought in your mind, like, “Well, that one was kind of mediocre by my standards”?

No. Well, I think it’s two things. First of all, you always think that your most recent thing is the best. And for me, there’s always a feeling of “Oh, I’ve improved so much.” I think that feeling that I’ve gotten better or the sound has gotten better, or whatever, on some level translates into that meaning the older stuff wasn’t as good. But that’s also compounded by not ever listening to your record once it’s done, so you retain an impression of what it was or what it was like to make it or what it sounded like. I think that’s just why I was surprised. Like: Oh, I just haven’t heard this. It actually is really good.

One of its lasting legacies, besides the fact that it is really good, is that you were legendarily ahead of the indie curve. Nowadays, probably anyone who makes anything sort of remotely like your kind of music is thinking, “Why would I want or need to be with a major label?” But in 1999-2000, it was a radical thought to go it alone.

Yeah. At the time (a major) was the only game in town, you know? I didn’t know anyone who put out their own records. The Internet wasn’t really a thing. I mean, it was a little bit of a thing, but you couldn’t really order it online. It was more like mail order; you could call a number or something — I’m not sure exactly what it was. But I know that the online store thing at that point didn’t really exist in the same form.

But that was the point where I found myself, along with a bunch of other artists, getting transferred to Interscope [which absorbed Geffen, her former label, and A&M, in a consolidation]. I had pretty much seen all that the major labels had to offer and realized it wasn’t really rocket science, and saw kind of a thin sliver of hope of a way to do it myself. Because you can hire independent record promoters to work at radio. Obviously you can continue to tour it and promote it yourself. You can hire a publicist. All the things that a record label does, you can provide for yourself. Distribution was the only thing that was missing. Eventually I was able to get distribution for my label, but at first we just went (self-released).

Mostly, it was stubbornness. I just didn’t want to work with the major labels anymore, and I felt like I don’t care if I have to sell this out of the back of a van. Because then at least you’re in charge of your own destiny. My reasoning was that if I wasn’t going to sell any records, at least I should be able to make the record I wanted to make — and I had already made it. It wasn’t a mystery as to what it was. It was already recorded. And I felt like it wasn’t a very good sign that Interscope, I think even without listening to it, assumed that they would have to go over it and make me record a bunch of extra songs and continue to work on it. I felt like it was finished. So I didn’t want to go through that again.

How did it pan out, commercially?

We sold 25,000 records, just from the website. And then once we got a distribution deal, we sold 275,000, which I think is the most sales that I’ve ever had.

It got a boost when people who probably didn’t know anything about Til Tuesday or your two previous solo records were discovering you from the “Magnolia” soundtrack, safe to say?

I do think I got a new audience with the “Magnolia” soundtrack, and those two things overlapped. I know that Interscope was offered the soundtrack, and they turned it down. I think the soundtrack was a gold record — but for Interscope, those numbers were really insignificant; a gold record didn’t really mean anything to them. So they passed on that, and I think that made it even easier for me to leave.

You’ve made it sound like you were bringing in material to the label before you left and were getting sort of a shrug. Were there any champions who were saying “No, no, this is great stuff,” or was it really just kind of uniformly “we don’t get this and you need to write a hit”?

With Interscope, I didn’t really have a relationship with them anyway. That lasted about five minutes and then I was out. But at Geffen, I didn’t really feel like I had (support). Jim Barber had signed me, but I think he was also fixated on a single. Which, in my experience, when you are listening to music to try to discern whether it’s going to be popular with other people, you just can’t hear it the same way. There’s no emotional response, which means you can’t really ascertain whether it would be a single, because music is all about having an emotional response. I mean, if something is catchy, that’s an emotional response. It’s not going to be catchy if you’re looking at it with a microscope.

The impression I got was that they thought that I was not commercial enough, which to me seemed crazy. Because I remember having a lot of conversations, like, “Well, what about like 10,000 Maniacs? They have a huge hit — how am I less commercial than that?” And, “What about Tracy Chapman?” That was more at Epic (Til Tuesday’s label). I would point to these other artists, and they would say, “Well, that’s a different story, because of these other reasons.” It was just very frustrating because I in no respect thought that I was a left-of-center or inaccessible artist.

You wrote the song “Nothing Is Good Enough,” which was provoked by those kinds of conversations, thinking back on situations that predated even being on Interscope, then?

Oh, yeah. A lot of that record was really hard to write, because I felt so completely demoralized by and discouraged by my interactions with people at Geffen. Because nobody ever listened to anything that I played for them and reacted with any kind of happiness. When you play a song for somebody, what you’re hoping for is that they smile and go, “Oh, I really like that,” or “It’s really pretty,” or “It really gets to me” — or something. And it’d just be sort of like nodding and then saying, “Well, I don’t hear a single.” You just feel like you’re failing all the time. The upshot of that is that I started to be unable to write because their reaction made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, and so I just started to have a lot of writer’s block.

Then you filtered those feelings you were having into some of the songs, which are great, more universal songs that certainly transcend being about the music business.

Yeah, I think the only way to deal with that kind of situation is just to write about what you’re feeling. And obviously everybody’s been in various relationships where they felt like they weren’t good enough for the other person, or they kept letting the other person down in some unknown way that was frustrating. I wanted the song (“Nothing Is Good Enough”) to not just be about the relationship with the record company, but be about that feeling.

In the liner notes you say that the “Dodo” part of the title reflected your feeling at the time that singer-songwriters were a dying breed. If you felt that way in 2000…

Oh my God. [Laughs.] Yeah. “The remains of the Dodo” — I came across that phrase because I was reading about the Dodo. It obviously became extinct ages ago, but they don’t even have a full stuffed Dodo. They just have a beak and a couple of feathers and a claw. There’s just these sad little remains! And I feel like that’s about where we are now. We’re at beak-and-claw stage.

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Aimee Mann’s “Bachelor No. 2” vinyl reissue for Record Store Day Black Friday
SuperEgo

To talk about “Magnolia” a little: Did Paul Thomas Anderson tell you how much of your music he was planning to use, or that he was quoting lyrics in the script, well before he shot it?

Yeah, he did. I have to confess that my reaction to a lot of the things that were in the movie … When he showed me the “Wise Up” sequence in the script, I just did not know how he could pull that off without seeming ridiculous, because it was such an audacious idea to have people suddenly start singing. But I didn’t realize that throughout that movie, there’s a kind of almost surrealism that makes everything take on a dreamlike state, without being mannered. To me, that’s almost like the state of PTSD where normal things feel surreal, but extraordinary circumstances feel commonplace.

It’s difficult to think of any other film that transforms itself into a movie musical — for just one number.

I know, it’s so strange. But it was such an amazing moment. But yeah, it was very hard for me to picture. And then I felt bad that I lectured him. [Laughs.] That I had doubted. I was like, “I don’t know, man. This seems pretty weird!”

Speaking of surrealism during that period, does performing on the Oscars still feel like a surreal experience? [Mann sang her Oscar-nominated “Save Me” on the 2000 telecast.]

Oh, yeah, that was very surreal. I really didn’t feel like I belonged there. It’s such a formal event. The focus on the women’s clothes… You know, from a distance it’s kind of entertaining. And then when you realize you have to be a part of it, you’re like, “I can’t do that! I’m not going to play in a gown. I can’t even wear those shoes.” That was just so far from my life. And I thought about Elliott Smith wearing that white suit [when performed his nominated song from “Good Will Hunting” two years earlier]. It was hard to bridge that gap. And then finally I found a stylist who found some clothes that looked fancy but still weren’t out of the realm of the kind of things that I would wear normally. But it felt like a whole different planet that I didn’t belong on.

Is it something that at least feels good on your resume — “Oscar nominee”?

Oh my God, yes. And I got to meet Jeff Goldblum at the Vanity Fair party, and that was worth the price of admission. [They became friends and Goldblum has occasionally shown up as a guest at Mann’s L.A. shows.]

The song “Deathly” is one that appears on both “Bachelor No. 2” and “Magnolia.” There, the opening line shows up as a piece of dialogue between Melora Walters and John C. Reilly. In that context, you could think of it as more of like a positive song, because the characters are fearful of something that could be good for them. But then in your liner notes, you say that the song was written about needing to be wary of charmers who really are no up to good. So it’s one of those songs that could read different ways, but maybe the “Magnolia” usage pushes it in a certain direction?

Yeah, that’s probably true. I think when I wrote it, it was, yeah, “be aware of the charmer.” But it’s about when you have a certain reaction to somebody, and you’ve spent a long time really trying to stay heavily armored, and realizing how overwhelming it is to have feelings for somebody when you’re so heavily armored. It’s in that moment that you realize, “Oh, I’m out of my depth. It’s just too much.” It’s like, “Don’t be nice to me. It’ll just make me think of all the other times where people weren’t nice, and I don’t want to think about that.”

Songs like that stuck out because pop artists tend to write about more clear-cut feelings. “I’m really guarded” is not necessarily the first go-to theme for love song lyrics.

Yeah, exactly. Or stating in the first line both your attraction to somebody and how you’re immediately going to repudiate that attraction.

With the song “Wise Up,” Aaron Dessler and Bon Iver covered it just within the last few weeks, for a Biden thing or something, right?

Yeah, they did it for a get-out-the-vote-for-Wisconsin thing. I loved their version. And they have “rise up” at the end, which I loved.

That’s another song that you could almost take two ways. It’s either a hopeful song or a “you are just never gonna get the point” type of song.

This was before I knew anything about 12-step stuff, but it’s basically saying: “it’s not going to stop until you hit bottom. And better sooner than later.”

In the liner notes you say there were songs you almost would have left off the record then, and that they’re different than the ones you would leave off now.

Yeah, I think “Satellite” is a song that I overworked. Which you can kind of hear, because it’s got so many sections. Even so, I actually think it works. But I think when you overwork something, it doesn’t leave you with a great feeling. So I didn’t like that song — but I like a lot of it now. I am kind of into it. But I had originally had different music to it, and going through so many stages with a song is not something I usually do, because it throws me off, and I think that’s what happened. I lost perspective on that song.

Is there a standout for you?

I think “Nothing Is Good Enough” is kind of my current new favorite. The song where I was going to deliberately write a single, and that’s what I wrote instead. That really makes me laugh — the sort of Bacharach-y jazz waltz that would have no possibility of ever being a single in any universe.

There’s one song where, in the notes, you break down the math on what your attitude toward the decision making about it. You have the equation as “one-fourth make them happy, one-fourth fuck you…”

[Laughs.] That’s my usual breakdown in any given situation: one-fourth make ‘em happy, one-fourth fuck you.

You’d made great albums before this, but did you feel like this was the start of a second act, or third act, or whichever level of new beginning it would be at this point in your career?

Yeah, I do. I was so proud that, first of all, I produced that record. There were some songs that Jon Brion had started, or that I started recording with him, but finished off myself; songs that I produced entirely; songs that I collaborated with others). But I was more in charge of it than usual. Because the songs that I did with Jon, he plays everything, almost — I mean, 90% of everything — so he’s not only producer, he’s sort of the band. It’s very easy to just sit back and let Jon go. So this was the only record that I really took responsibility for all the music: all the parts that were played, the way everything sounded. Everything about it had an Independence Day flavor for me, including the fact that we took it and sold it ourselves and were completely under our own recognizance in selling and promoting it. It’s made me really happy that we were able to pull that off and keep going, even after leaving the sanctified world of Record Company Dad.

On subsequent albums, you’ve had an outside producer, usually a pretty close associate. But it feels like this album sort of set the template for what you did since; that even though it may be other people in the producer’s role, that you really settled on something musically with this album.

Yeah, I think there were certain things that I wanted to try, and a certain sound I wanted to go for that was a little more stripped down than I had been doing. My first two (solo) records were a little kitchen sink-y — in a great way. But I think I always felt more comfortable with a less-is-more approach.

And you’ve stuck with the DIY approach on a business level, keeping your own SuperEgo as your label. You must be pretty happy with that model, because surely other labels have come calling and would be very pleased to have you as a flagship artist. It’s still working for you, 20 years later, the way you go about things.

Yeah, it really is. I’m so happy to be able to do these records the way I want, within the limits of whatever I can afford — to spring for a string section sometimes, and to have the cover art the way I want it… I think the record companies were kind of counting on the idea that you were so desperate to just have a record out, because I think they thought, “Well, every artist wants to be famous, and this way we’ll sort of dangle the possibility of being famous over their heads.” But I wasn’t really into that. I mean, I wanted to make to make a good record. And I also wanted to have the possibility of being able to make a living — which, I mean, if you’re on a major label and they’re not promoting your record, it’s not like they’re giving you money, you know? The only money they give you is to make the actual record, and then sometimes not really that much.

At the time, with the model of how things worked so set, there was probably a feeling of, “Why wouldn’t you want our advice on how to make a hit record or find out what you can do to get on the radio, if we just give you some helpful hints”?

They were always wrong, though. All their hints were, “Well, why don’t you make it sound like this thing that is on the radio right now?” And my response was always: “Because by the time this record comes out, they won’t want to hear that anymore.” And also… I can’t speak to now, because I think there’s a really manufactured quality to everything that’s on top. Maybe it’s always been like that. But I think people respond to music most strongly when they can sense that the artists themselves were personally invested — that’s a personal expression and that it’s not just trying to move some units. Hearing a striving for moving units is not an emotional experience.

 

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ENTERTAINMENT

Khalid Croons Out of Encino Starter Home

https://variety.com/2020/dirt/entertainers/khalid-croons-out-of-encino-starter-home-1234840954/

Khalid Croons Out of Encino Starter Home

He’s “Young Dumb & Broke” no longer. After winning a Grammy and collaborating with hitmakers Benny Blanco, Halsey, and Billie Eilish, not to mention becoming one of the most popular Spotify artists with about 50 million monthly listeners, mononymous 22-year-old singer-songwriter Khalid — Khalid Donnel Robinson to his mother — has already outgrown his starter home in L.A.’s increasingly desirable and expensive Encino community. The gated two-story residence has been newly listed for $2.2 million, a cool 15% increase on the slightly less than $1.9 million paid just two years ago.

From the outside, the simple gray stucco structure, paved motor court and double garage may not strike anyone as the hip crib of a chart-topping stadium filler, but listing photos for the 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath spread show a neatly renovated contemporary that checks all the boxes for a homeowner who’s seeking a blank canvas. Listings held by Haili Michaels of Brixton Gate Realty show the property’s high-tech upgrades include home automation, indoor/outdoor speakers and a state-of-the-art security system.

The open-plan layout comprises dark, grayish-brown hardwood floors and crisp white walls that ensure the house feels light and bright. Highlights include a wall of glass that looks out from the living room to the swimming pool, and a chic chef’s kitchen is chockablock with high-end appliances, lustrous laminate cabinets and a giant, quartzite-topped island that backs up to a freestanding fireplace housed in a thick column sheathed in Calacatta marble.

Khalid House Encino

Khalid House Encino

One of the three main-floor bedrooms is perfect for long-term guests with a marble fireplace, private bath and direct access to the backyard, while the principal bedroom privately occupies the entire second floor and spills out to a wraparound terrace with an mountain views over the pancake-flat San Fernando Valley.

A huge patio runs across the back of the house and offers a freeform swimming pool and built-in firepit. There’s also a slender strip of lawn shaded by mature trees on a separate, lower terrace.

Since March 2018, Khalid has enjoyed a nearly two-year straight streak of Billboard hits; in April 2019, he became the first — and so far, only — artist to occupy the entire top five of the Billboard’s top R&B songs chart. Needless to say, expect the next stop on his real estate ride to be something much more grand.

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