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WHO DO U LOVE… Are you ready? One of gay clubland’s favorite singers is returning with new material this fall. Well, yes, Whitney Houston may return, if she can get her act together. But that’s not who I mean. Same script, different cast: Houston’s one-time duet partner Deborah Cox will release The Promise later this fall. Of course, just last year Cox released Destination Moon, her fourth studio album, but no remixes ever surfaced from it. As a high-concept tribute to jazz singer Dinah Washington, it had limited appeal. Her previous set, The Morning After, was released all the way back in 2002.
The 34-year-old Canadian native started as a backing vocalist for Celine Dion, then became a protÃ©gÃ© of Arista Records’ Clive Davis, the legendary label honcho who also championed Houston. Exactly one decade ago Cox scored her only major mainstream hit, ”Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” and Hex Hector‘s remix of that song was just one of over a dozen hits she’s had in clubland. Four years ago, she made a rare foray on Broadway, starring in the Elton John/Tim Rice Disney musical AIDA. But she got her start in R&B, so to R&B she now returns.
On The Promise, which Cox will release Nov. 11 on her own label, the artist worked with many notable producers, including John Legend, who co-wrote the album’s title track.
Meanwhile, Flyte Tyme’s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson) produced a sleepy, smooth-jazz ballad ”Did You Ever Love Me,” released last month. Far better is the official first single, ”Beautiful U R,” a Rihanna-styled empowerment anthem with electric guitars blaring over jerky beats and moody harmonies in the chorus. ”Don’t ever let nobody bring you down, girl,” Cox sings in the mid-tempo song that deserves to be a No. 1 pop hit. And here’s hoping some dazzling remixes are on tap, so Cox can finally return to the top of the dance charts. After nine No. 1 hits on the Billboard Club Play Chart, only one of her last three tries topped it: 2006’s ”House Is Not A Home.” ”Easy as Life,” the 2004 dance hit Tony Moran carved out of AIDA, only made it to No. 33, and Moran’s ”Everybody Dance (Clap Your Hands)” only made it to No. 17 last year….
BEYONCE’S DÃ‰JÃ€ VU… Deborah Cox replaced Toni Braxton when she took to the Broadway stage in the starring role of AIDA — a role Heather Headley originated. But none of them are apparently big enough to carry Disney’s planned movie musical, due in 2010. Instead, Beyonce is in talks to star as Aida, and Christina Aguilera in the supporting role of Amneris. Just ask any of her former colleagues in Destiny’s Child: You just can’t get away from Beyonce these days. To think the 27-year-old is only beginning to truly conquer film. Soon enough, we’ll see the Dreamgirls‘ star turn as blues singer Etta James in Cadillac Records.
But Beyonce has pretty much stayed in the recorded-music limelight ever since she released her last album two years ago. B-Day spawned no fewer than six hits. Now, she’s ready with her third solo set, which will drop one week after Cox’s The Promise. Timbaland is purportedly the lead producer on the as-yet-untitled album, which will also feature Justin Timberlake, although Billboard reports it’s unclear in what capacity, and the magazine offered few other details other than that we’ll hear two singles from the set in less than two weeks: ”If I Were A Boy” and ”Single Ladies.” In case you didn’t know, the now-Mrs. Jay-Z is neither….
THAT BRITNEY’S SHAMELESS… It wasn’t expected to be ready until Spring at the earliest, but Britney Spears is too eager to see if she can still sell records — beyond her core gay fan base, of course. She’s still hoping for a spectacle. She is titling her sixth studio set Circus, after all. Due Dec. 2, on Spears’ 27th birthday (yep, she and Beyonce are the same age), it will be preceded by first single ”Womanizer,” which you should expect to start hearing next week….
LILY KNOCKS ‘EM OUT… Overshadowed in part by the whole Amy Winehouse phenomenon, British pop star Lily Allen didn’t have nearly the success she should have stateside when her debut album was released early last year. Allen is tabloid fodder in her homeland, in part because she’s the daughter of a famous British actor and musician, but primarily because she’s spunky and cheeky and not afraid to offend, not even her bosses. ”I am trying really hard to do this album with integrity… not just some thrown together last-minute industry bullshizz,” she recently posted to her MySpace page. The follow-up to Alright, Still, Allen’s second album, so far untitled, is due for release in the U.K. next February. No word on when Capitol will release it here. Billboard reports the set sports a more electronic sound than her fantastic debut, which was more reggae- and dub-influenced pop. The new set is said to include a track — ”Guess Who Batman?” — that condemns homophobia and hatred….
WHAT’S SUMMER WITHOUT RIHANNA?… Another summer has come and gone, and Rihanna once again showed her strength as a summer songstress. But for the first summer in four years, the 20-year-old, Barbados native didn’t actually release an album of all-new material. She simply re-released last year’s exceptional Good Girl Gone Bad, creating a Reloaded version that included four new tracks. Her initial stab at a Song of Summer 2008 wasn’t as strong as her preceding years’ tries, either. ”Take A Bow,” especially the dance remixes, was pretty lackluster, lacking a strong chorus, and lacking the enjoyment of ”Pon de Replay,” ”S.O.S.” and ”Umbrella.” Unfortunately, her last try for Song of Summer 2008 came just a tad too late. Originally slated for Rihanna’s next album, due out next year, ”Disturbia” was rushed released for summer, but not until late June, and it didn’t hit the top of the charts until a couple of weeks ago, after at least one other song stole the summer show. (Keep reading for details.) When it’s all said and done though, ”Disturbia” may reign as the song of the year. It’s certainly one of Rihanna’s very best. She sings about the heavy pull and price of fame, drawing out the deep shades of her expressive voice in a frantic style, with dark music that subtly nods to Michael Jackson’s ”Thriller”….
KATY PERRY’S GUILTY SUMMER… So if not ”Disturbia,” what was the Song of Summer 2008? Unfortunately, it was the intentionally provocative, lyrically bankrupt ”I Kissed A Girl.” ”Ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent!” Katy Perry sang about her lesbian kiss, but she’s certainly guilty: guilty of using homo-titillation to gain attention. And damn it if it didn’t work. The song spent several weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, and it also topped the dance charts. Songwriter Cathy Denis (”Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” ”Toxic”) is responsible for the music, which, taken by itself, is as fetching as her usual. But then Perry had to go and ruin it with her lyrics. Whether her boyfriend (Gym Class Heroes‘ lead singer Travis McCoy) minds it, I certainly do. And I don’t feel the least bit sorry for the former gospel singer turned busty pinup model. ”The problem is girls now keep asking for a kiss,” Perry whined to British paper The Sun. ”After every gig on my tour I stay behind to do an autograph signing. But about a dozen women will want a snog…. If I kissed everybody who asked I’d probably go away with something I don’t really want!”’ Yeah, like our respect….
SHOULD HAVE BEEN IDA CORR’S SUMMER… ”Let Me Think About It” should have been the Song of Summer 2008. Written by Danish singer Ida Corr and remixed into a funky, fiery dance jam by Dutchman Fedde Le Grand, the sassy song didn’t get much play in clubs, for reasons I can’t explain. And when it did get play, it was often just the staccato horn sample from le Grand’s remix, supporting a different vocal track. Danish singer Corr’s debut album One has just been released in the states, along with a new single, ”Ride My Tempo.” Time to check that out….
ABBA’S SUMMER LIKE NO OTHER… Katy Perry may have had the Song of Summer, but the summer really belonged to ABBA, like no other summer for the former Swedish quartet in nearly three decades. Among other feats, the all-ABBA Mamma Mia! soundtrack and the 16-year-old ABBA Gold greatest-hits set are topping several Billboard album charts. Plus, Mamma Mia! The Sing-Along Edition is now in theaters; time to see it once more, with feeling! And next month, Universal reportedly will re-release on Blu-Ray Disc the 31-year-old concert-based film ABBA: The Movie….
ABBA DESCENDANTS SEE THE SIGN… ABBA may be once again the hottest dance act going, but another Swedish dance-pop group is also planning to come back — and in this case, I mean come back together. Though no longer a quartet, and now with just one female singer, Ace of Base is currently touring in Europe, with hopes to hit North America next year. If it happens, the trio of siblings Jenny and Jonas Berggren and Ulf Ekberg will perform new material. Yes, that’s right, a fifth studio album is planned for release next year, to include seven new songs and seven re-worked versions of some of their hits, which include ”The Sign,” ”All That She Wants” and ”Beautiful Life.” They’ve also reportedly commissioned new dance remixes of their hits for a separate remix album….
DOLLY DOES BROADWAY – AND DANCE?… Dolly Parton has turned her 1980 film 9 to 5 into a full-fledged musical. The show just opened for a month-long run in Los Angeles, and it will then make its official debut next March on Broadway. ”You can tell they’re kind of Dolly-ized,” Parton told Billboard about her musical arrangements, adding that most songs are ”mainstream Broadway, but they’ve got a little Dolly flavor.” With that and continued promotion for last year’s Backwoods Barbie set, Parton is keeping busy. But what could be next? ”I wake up with new dreams every day, and I just kind of follow my gut and follow my heart,” she told Billboard. ”It may be a country album next, or it may be something completely different. I may wind up doing a dance record!” She was joking, obviously, but wouldn’t it be a hoot to hear her at least try such a feat? Ah, yes, what a way to make a living…