India.Arie, the 26-year-old R&B star who earned seven Grammy nominations, hit New York with a fanfare yesterday.
India.Arie, who is from Atlanta, headlined at the second anniversary gala for the Oxygen network. The show was taped before a live audience of more than 1,000 people who turned out to celebrate with Oxygen owner Oprah Winfrey and chief architect Geraldine Laybourne. Arie invited two guests to sing with her: contemporary vocal legend Julia Fordham and perennial star Roberta Flack.
With each, Arie showed off her enormous range and talent.
After the show, I met with her in her dressing room. Did she know about all the rumors of her feuding with fellow Grammy star Alicia Keys? Keys beat Arie for Best New Artist and bested her in other categories as well.
"We laugh about it," Arie told me. "I've met with her a lot. We get along great. It's just silly."
Arie is more upset that Entertainment Weekly suggested she got her nominations "because the Grammys wanted to discover someone on their own."
"What about talent?" she asked. "Didn't that have anything to do with it?"
But don't get her wrong. This up and comer is not the least bit arrogant. She was as friendly and accessible as ever, a real trouper — even if she's not crazy about New York per se. "I like to drive," she told me. "I prefer Atlanta and Philadelphia."
She went out of her way to make sure the visiting backstage paparazzi got pictures of her with Flack and Fordham, as well as with Phoebe Snow, who came backstage to say hi. When Winfrey — who'd arrived late at the show after flying in from Chicago — spotted Snow in Fordham's dressing room she kissed her all over, exclaiming, "Phoebe!"
Meanwhile, other celebrities toured the massive nightclub where Arie was playing. Candice Bergen, Katie Couric and Kyra Sedgwick were among the famous femmes who came to support Winfrey and Laybourne.
Couric, by the way, entered through the wrong place before the show began, accidentally skipping the usual red carpet walk in front of paparazzi. "I don't to want to be an [expletive]," the perky Today Show host said to a publicist who tracked her down. She looked longingly at the red carpet, then caved in and gave it her best shot.
As for India.Arie, even though she hasn't started it yet, her sophomore album will be issued in September — possibly before the Grammy deadline at the end of that month. "I've got a stack of songs," she told me. "We didn't know what was going to happen with Acoustic Soul so we have a lot of material."
In June, Arie will appear as guest vocalist on Fordham's new single "Concrete Love" on Vanguard Records. If the crowd reaction last night was any barometer, it should be a big hit.
And here's a P.S. about the Oxygen hoo-ha. I ran into AOL Time Warner chief executive Richard Parsons, who was running out before the show started. Yesterday, Premiere magazine named him the most powerful man in entertainment. How was he celebrating? "It's my birthday," he said, "and I'm going to meet my wife."
That's a CEO for the new millennium!
You didn't think the end of Talk magazine meant the end of editor Tina Brown, did you?
On Wednesday night, Brown and husband Harold Evans hosted an elegant soiree at their Sutton Place townhouse apartment — the kind of party we usually just get to read about.
But there, in the flesh, were Henry Kissinger, Sony honcho Howard Stringer, Fox News Channel's very own supreme leader Roger Ailes, plus Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Dominick Dunne, Edgar Bronfman, Helen Gurley Brown and producer husband David Brown, NewYork 'Daily Snooze' owner Mort Zuckerman and editor Ed Kosner. Miramax's Harvey Weinstein showed up and spent a good deal of time chatting with Conrad Black, the media mogul who's backing a new daily conservative broadsheet here in New York.
Brown — who's had a couple of months to catch her breath — looks energized, rested, and ready to take on the world. She will probably not, she said, accept Vanity Fair's offer to write a monthly column. "You must move forward," she advised me. The real star of the night though was Harry and Tina's charming and precocious 11-year-old daughter Isabel, who greeted all her parent's guests in silk pajamas and made astute comments about the state of media today. Her real interest, though? Britney Spears. "Tell me everything you know about her," she instructed this reporter.
The apple does not fall far from the tree, you know…
Celine Dion's new album, A New Day Has Come, debuts at No. 1 next week with over half a million copies. As I wrote last week, the songs on this album are extremely dreadful, just one boring, generic tune after another.
But behold! Celine may yet have a Best Record nominee with the title track, expertly remixed and reworked by producer Ric Wake. Wake has taken the original version of this song — also included, tragically, on the CD — and breathed life into it.
Talk about making a silk purse out of a sow's ear! If only Wake had been assigned to re-polish all of the songs. But by including the original, it's like seeing a notebook for how a great producer transforms mediocre material. My hat is off to him — he made a catchy, classic pop record.