Friday, September 28, 2012

Matt Zarley's Best Single Ever: 'Change Begins With Me'

At last! The song I've been waiting for: The fourth single from my sweet, adorable, hunky pal Matt Zarley's current album Change Begins With Me is the beautiful power ballad title track. Written by Zarley, Andy Zulla, & Chris Curtis, and produced by Matt's long-time collaborator, the Grammy-winning Zulla, “Change Begins With Me” is a wildly intense declaration of self acceptance, responsibility and ultimately, forgiveness.

Matt sings, "I can see it now, it's all so clear, all my answers were always here/I've turned a new page, I can see it now... If I want my life to change, the change begins with me."

And I tell you what. A year ago, when I first heard this soaring anthem, it stood by my side time and again as I weathered my own divorce. Watching the video for the first time last night, I couldn't help but tear up again. Every time that thunderous bridge and final chorus start scraping the clouds, I feel the chills coming on. And I feel change, brothers and sisters.

In the video clip below, Zarley invited fans to become part of the message. Over the past few months, dozens submitted home movies with messages of change, which are featured in the clip's finale. The vid was directed by Robert Bottoms and also features the Broadway Inspirational Voices singing the requisite gospel background chorus.

Want to know more? Check out Matt's webbie or The Smoking Nun archives! Now, sit back and prepare to swoon. Celine, girl, are you listening? You can also access the video directly on YouTube.

Stretch Jeans? Seriously?

These are the kind of offers I'm going to be getting in the mail now? Seriously? Suddenly, AARP doesn't look so degrading. *

Thursday, September 27, 2012

William Levy Ultimate Fans Sister Blog Reaches 60,000 Unique Hits!

On August 23, the William Levy Ultimate Fans blog reached a milestone of 50,000 unique visits, five months after its official launch on March 26, 2012. I'm delighted to report that just one month later, The Smoking Nun's sister sub-blog has climbed to 60,000 hits! That's just plain hot!

If you hadn't noticed, Levy has long been The Smoking Nun's fave grade-A beef man of choice, and as we attempt to evolve past so many posts about hot guys, blah blah, hot men, blah blah, underwear, blah blah and Speedos, what other choice was there to satiate our love for Mr. Levy than to offer him his own dedicated online space, especially as he reached mainstream fame last Spring via his star-making turn on ABC's Dancing With The Stars?

If you haven't yet checked out the most comprehensive English-language William Levy fan site on the Internet, right here, what in the world are you waiting for? *

Now THIS Is A Whitney Houston Tribute!

After posting yesterday that I find the notion of a new Whitney Houston Greatest Hits package rather distasteful, there's mightily more respectful news to report. CBS will air a one-hour tribute special on November 16, with top-notch vocalists Celine Dion and Jennifer Hudson performing. Usher will also sing... (How'd you like my little Usher dig there? Get it?)

It's going to be fascinating to hear what Celine might sing. Few vocalists could dare take Whit's signature "I Will Always Love You," and yet both Hudson and Dion could nail that baby. Apparently, Jenn has previously performed it in tribute to Houston, so perhaps it will be handed to Celine. Man, I'll be crying like a baby over that performance.

"We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston" will tape October 11 at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. The special will also include Houston’s “most memorable performances” and interviews with various artists. More performers will be announced. Bravo! Whitney died in February. The new compilation will be released November 13. *

Happy Sweet 16, Young Charles

Lord have mercy. Somehow enough time has passed that I am now three times the age of my Sweet 16 (surprise) birthday party, in September 1978. How the hell did this happen? Isn't time just the damndest thing?

But let's talk about what's really important here: To this day, my orthodontist remains one of my greatest heroes. The day I got my braces at 15 (late bloomer, cool cats) was the beginning of a promising new life... No more big split dividing my blessedly bucky front teeth. Thank god for Dr. Pillis... and, uh, my parent's good sense to know that without a set of straight choppers, I'd probably still be washing dishes in the back of a pizza joint... just as I was during the summer of my 16th year. *

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do We Need Another Whitney Houston Greatest Hits Album?

Tribute or opportunism? Whitney Houston already has the definitive best-of collection: her 2000 two-album The Greatest Hits, released as her career was just about to run its course. Now, according to RCA, "the legacy of Whitney Houston continues with the first-ever definitive single disc collection" of hits, coming November 18, just in time for fourth-quarter holiday sales.

I Will Always Love You: The Best Of Whitney Houston contains 18 songs and two "new" cuts: “Never Give Up” from Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox & Johnta Austin; and a "duet version" of previous flop single "I Look To You" with the song's writer R. Kelly stripped on as her singing partner and a different vocal take from Whitney.

Most disturbing is Kelly oozing, "We love you Whitney. Rest in peace" at the end of the song, which is not only gruesome but just plain gratuitous. It made me a little sick to my stomach.

Clive Davis claims, "The duet version of 'I Look To You' between Whitney and R. Kelly is purely and simply a knockout. I believe that everyone will remember the first time they heard it and I think a new classic is being born." With all respect to Mr. Davis, I believe that unfortunately, the song is as non-monumental as it was the first time it was released and simply unnecessary. I'd love nothing more than to hear something fresh and new from the Houston archives. This is not it.

Last week, I was browsing through the aisles of a retailer in Downtown Brooklyn and Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" came on the radio. There must have been four women I passed who were singing along with Whitney, quietly, to themselves but audibly, with happiness in their hearts. Now that is a tribute. The release of another greatest hits that offers nothing new just to put some more bucks in the bank? No thank you. *

Joe Manganiello Deemed 'Sexiest Man' For 'People's' Emmy Poll

Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara were voted the “Sexiest Man and Woman” on People magazine's 2012 Emmys poll. Meanwhile, Joe covers two mags: the Spring/Summer (huh?) 2012 issue of Australia's Remix mag; and Summer Girl. We have the pics!

Manganiello recently grew a full-on beard for his role as werewolf Alcide Herveaux in the upcoming sixth season HBO's True Blood, which begins filming in January. He also trained for five months to add muscle for the role, following his beefy role in Magic Mike.

There's still talk of a follow-up flick after the enormous success of Mike. Manganiello told earlier this year, "We're actually talking about the possibility of doing a prequel... because if you want to do the sequel, then you lose Mike [Channing Tatum]. Otherwise, what's Mike going to do? So you would do the prequel, and how they got there."

Tatum also is up for the idea: "Yes, yes and yes!" he tweeted in a Glamour interview over the summer about the possibility of a second Magic Mike installment. "We're working on the concept now. We want to flip the script and make it bigger." And as we all know, bigger is better when it comes to Joe.*

P!nk Debuts Atop The Billboard 200 With 'The Truth About Love'

Deserved kudos to singer/songwriter P!nk, whose sixth studio album The Truth About Love, debuts this week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. In all, she launched atop the album chart in seven countries: Australia, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland.

Surprisingly, it's her first-ever No 1 launch at No. 1 in the U.S. Truth is the third-highest selling debut of 2012, behind Justin Bieber and Madonna.  The album also tops the American Digital Albums chart, and topped iTunes Album in 20 nations. 

Lead single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" is No. 1 at Top 40 and Hot AC radio and on Hot 100 Airplay. It's No. 5 on the Hot 100—her 12th top 10 hit.

Meanwhile, Maroon 5 rises 2-1 on the Hot 100 with "One More Night," a notch higher than previous (and much better) single "Payphone" was able to achieve. Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together" dips 1-2. fun. ably avoids dreaded one-hit wonder status as its "Some Nights" is No. 3. *

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ruff, Ruff! Brooklyn Heights Annual Dog Show

While I was down the street selling everything I could heave down from my apartment during ourbuilding's annual $idewalk $ale, the local Brooklyn Heights Assn. held its 2012 Dog Show amid the fall Summer Space festival on Montague Street. The event included music, games, dance, and restaurant & retailer goodies. During a lull in sales mid-afernoon, I charged up the avenue to shoot some pics for the Brooklyn Heights Blog, and was astonished at the turnout: some 300+ folks and dozens and dozens of pooches.

The Dog Show included some 63 pooches entered in the contest and offered prizes in nine cute categories: Best Treat Catcher, Best Tail Wagger, Best Hairdo, Coolest Ears, Best Trick, Cutest Medium-Big Dog, Most Affectionate, Cutest Small Dog, Dog Who Most Likes The Judges and Best in Show. "Finn" won in three categories: Best In Show, Treat Catcher and Trick.

Sadly, this year there was no "Best Couple" category. I'm thinking Abby & Spencer woulda been a shoe-in to carry the crown, right? *

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday $idewalk $ale In The City

With idyllic early fall temps Sunday and a rousing street festival just two blocks away, it couldn't have been a more perfect day for my Brooklyn Heights coop to host its  annual Sidewalk Sale. Of course, I can't help but wonder how the hell I even accumulated enough crap (again) to fill a table full of goodies to pawn.

With buddy Leo selling his own bounty of jewelry and pal Suzanne peddling a couple of winter coats, it proved to be a bounty for all. My total take for the day: $160. Yassir! *

Friday, September 21, 2012

Meet North America's Next Should-Be Superstar: EMIN

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure via longtime uber-publicist pal Rob Goldstone for a one-on-one meet with singer/songwriter Emin at Manhattan's Dream Hotel. Already an acclaimed hit artist in his home countries of Azerbaijan and Russia, and on the way up in the U.K., the (extremely) handsome artist recently released album After The Thunder, previewed by luscious pure pop uptempo single "Baby Get Higher."

That song is written in part by David Sneddon, whose sweeping ballad "Don't Let Go" was my No. 8 song for 2007 and "Time To Fall Down" No. 28. Any fan of Westlife, 98 Degrees, BBMak, Backstreet Boys, Five or the rest of the boy band pack will eat this stuff for three meals a day—although Emin perhaps brings a maturity to his vocals that supersedes them.

And believe me, "Baby Get Higher" is only the beginning. Thunder is packed with hitworthy singles, including dramatic midtempo anthem "Never Enough," ode to optimism "Walk Through Walls" and stunningly affecting lost love ballad "Dead Roses" (which Emin co-wrote with Mark Read and Patrick Mascall).

After releasing four indie LPs between 2006 and 2009, which Emin wrote, arranged & produced, he aligned in 2011 with A-list producer Brian Rawling for previous album Wonder. That move propelled him to the world stage.

Emin was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and relocated with his family to Moscow at age 3. He moved to Europe to pursue his education as a teen and then studied in New Jersey, where he launched an eBay business that reaped $30,000 a month(!). But music kept calling.

His 2006 debut album Still was an immediate sensation in Russia, followed by three more indie releases: Incredible, Obsession and Devotion. By this point, Emin was entertaining at arena-size venues throughout Russia. And his biggest performance: Last year, he was a featured singer at Eurovision, hosted in his home nation of Azerbaijan before 300 million worldwide viewers.

Recognizing that in order to conquer Europe and North America he had to amp the stakes, Emin worked his charms and was brought into the stable of London-based producer Brian Rawling and his team of world-class songwriters at Metrophonic studios, including Paul Barry (Enrique Iglesias' "Hero") and Wayne Hector (Westlife, James Morrison). That resulted in a contract with EMI.

Emin told me, "He had me singing in a range that I had never attempted before, and I fought him on it, asking him to bring down the key. But he encouraged me to record the songs as they were written and in the end, he said, 'Now, you've found the real you.' He was right. I found a voice with highs I didn't know I had, keeping the lower register I was accustomed to."

As a result, Wonder scored two radio singles in the U.K.: "Obvious" and "Any Time You Fall," a rarity for a newcomer in the nation.

For After The Thunder, he is again working with Rawling and the team, and now has high hopes for North American domination. First single "Baby Get Higher"—already another hit in the U.K.—certainly possesses the goods to foster attention from radio's A-list PDs.

Of course, we know how U.S. radio works: It takes a mountain of money and a major label before programmers will dare bite. Given his talent, I simply can't image that there isn't a record company with backing ready in the waiting once they hear this guy.

Emin says, "I've been fortunate to have success not only in my home base in Russia, but in Europe. Of course I'd like to break in the States. If it happens, it's really the ultimate. America has found an appreciation for pop melodies again so if there were ever a time, I really believe this is it." *