It's all over the Web: Whitney Houston's new album, Just Whitney... It was leaked in its entirety sometime over the weekend to lots of Web sites and downloading services. It can be burned onto CDs, distributed for free and will likely turn up on street corners before the end of this week.
The record industry, in other words, is about to sink like the Titanic. Houston was paid $100 million by Arista Records last year in a new deal that includes this album.
Interestingly, at the same time, Santana's new album, Shaman, which Arista will release on Tuesday, also seems to be all over the Internet. (Maybe Arista has a problem somewhere in its company with disgruntled employees.)
What a situation though for Houston. Her album is not due to be shipped until Nov. 26, and the version available on the Web may not be the finished one. The Web version offers only 10 tracks plus a bonus remix of "Whatchulookinat." That's a pretty short album any way you look at it.
But what's even more interesting is that the album, which I downloaded last night (thanks to mp3delivery.com), is good -- really good, if you like Whitney Houston's brand of bland admonishments mixed with terrific vocals. There's nothing daring here, nothing that catapults Whitney into the league of Aretha Franklin or Gladys Knight.
The album does have at least three or four potential hit singles, starting with a power ballad called "On My Own," which recalls Houston's signature hit "I Will Always Love You." You won't want to, but I guarantee you'll be singing along with it in the car in traffic very soon.
Also in the plus column are a mid tempo R&B number called "Love That Man," a real Top 40 song called "Dear John Letter," and two duets -- one with Santana called "Tell Me No" and another with her husband Bobby Brown entitled "My Love."
One more track, the catchy "Unashamed," fills out a theme that Houston offers lyrically that she's empowered, independent and ready to take on the world. You might think the lady doth protest too much; Just Whitney... may be the most melodic answer the National Enquirer has ever received.
On the mediocre side, at least upon first listening, are "One of Those Days," "Things You Say" and a turgid remake of the forgettable "You Light Up My Life."
But if you like Whitney Houston, you're going to love Just Whitney... Despite all the rumors and gossip about her health, her drug problems, weight, marriage, etc., Houston's trademark voice sounds as good as ever on the best songs here. They may not be particularly deep tracks, or even well produced (nothing is as good as Wyclef Jean's "My Love Is Your Love"). In fact, all the songs sound a little rushed. And I don't think there's a need for two versions of "Whatchulookinat." But marketed properly with good videos, the bulk of the songs should be hits.
The bigger question though is what happens when an entire album is available for free in a mass form a whole month before its release date. Even if Arista were to pounce this morning on the Web sites with cease and desist orders, one would think the damage was done over the weekend.
So much happened at the 10th annual Hamptons Film Festival, but one screening in particular caught a lot of people's attention. This was the movie G directed by Christopher Scott Cherot (Hav Plenty) and produced by Andrew Lauren.
Andrew is the son of fashion designer Ralph, although there wasn't much chance of missing that point in this vanity production. All of the characters -- black, white, male, female -- sport clothes by the old man. And if you didn't figure it out on your own, actor Blair Underwood walks into his fancy Hamptons kitchen in an open Polo robe sporting briefs that have the Ralph Lauren name in dark, easily read letters along the waistband.
G is supposed to be about a black Great Gatsby-type in the Hamptons, modeled upon Puff Daddy and Jay- Z. Andrew Lauren, according to sources, sank $5 million of his dad's money into the project, which is, at best, a soap opera and at worst is a...soap opera. The money has been spent lavishly, right down to the swelling orchestra music that made me think they'd exhumed Henry Mancini for the job. A certain mindlessness has gone into the making of G (the title refers to the Puffy-like mogul named Summer G). Lauren says Puffy wanted a role in the movie, but I doubt it if he read the script. Most of the film was shot at a summer house nearly identical to Puffy's Gwathmey-designed white beach house, and I'm sure he will not appreciate most of the details.
If you're in New York tomorrow night, I can't think of a better charity event than the 8th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards. They're being presented by ESPN to raise money for the Greater New York Chapter of the ALS Association (ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig Disease).
ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, son of the late legendary sportscaster and writer Dick Schaap, is going to emcee, and his father will be honored with a posthumous prize. Other sports world greats expected to attend at the Marriott Marquis include Don Larsen, Willis Reed, Walt Michaels, Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca, Harry Carson, Emerson Boozer, Jeff Blatnik and Mrs. Helen Hunter, wife of the late Jim "Catfish" Hunter.
ALS is particularly insidious and deadly. So many people of note have it and have fought it, trying to raise awareness for those less privileged. Guiding Light actor Michael Zaslow died from it and Naked Angels theatre troupe founder Jennifer Estess continues to keep hope alive with Project ALS. The illness needs to be trumped with research money that can lead to a cure. It's so nice to feature a charity for once that you can be proud to belong to and part of.