When they start counting album sales this morning for last week, I can tell you the folks at Arista Records will be fit to be tied.
In its third week of release, Whitney Houston's Just Whitney is listed at No. 36 on the Billboard charts. And that position may be a generous one once Hits Daily Double does its tallying up. It may be heave-ho for Houston, who has $20 million-plus in cash of Arista's money in her pocket and no way to make it back.
Those big record company contracts you read about — $100 million for Whitney, for example — are advances against sales. If albums don't sell, the companies get mad. Sometimes, as in the case of Mariah Carey's Glitter, they want their money back.
Arista is not having the jolliest New Year's to start with. They have a lot of albums on the charts, but they're not selling as predicted. Santana's Shaman has sold just under 2 million copies, which isn't bad but is far lower than its blockbuster predecessor. Albums by Toni Braxton, Kenny G, and TLC — their final album with late singer Lisa Lopes — have all been disappointments.
Houston has her own problems, though, which contributed to the poor showing of this album. Two of the ten tracks were released in advance to almost no airplay on radio. Then the whole album was put on the Internet six weeks before its release, allowing fans to download it for free. This was followed by Houston's disastrous appearance on TV with Diane Sawyer ("Crack is whack"), followed by her odd "live" showing on Good Morning America. Since then, Houston has done nothing to promote the album.
Is Donald Trump's new Trump World Tower 90 stories high? Or is it just 72 stories? Someone should ask all the movie stars who've moved in how high they think they can get.
Of all the people in the world, you'd think publicity-friendly Trump would have the answer. But something weird is going on at the new skyscraper where people like Harrison Ford and Bill Gates have taken up residence in the last few months.
Indeed, when I visited Trump World Tower over the Christmas holiday, the elevator clearly goes to the 90th floor. And on the Tower's Web site, there are apartments with that number that are still for sale. So it's 90 stories high, right?
But in much of the press about the building, it's depicted as having only 72 stories. Where are the other 18 floors?
According to one woman I spoke to in the sales office, TWT is "only 72 stories but has 90 floors." What's that? Well, some of the apartments are on more than one floor, "so we skip some floors." I guess that means the 90 is artificial. I don't know, it made my head hurt thinking about it.
It seems too that Trump, a master at publicity, is not publicizing this true thing about his new glittering prize. It's the largest residential building anywhere. Go look at it, too: It's huge. It rises into the night and disappears into the clouds.
Do you need something to measure it against? OK, the RCA Building, with the Rainbow Room near the top, is 70 stories high. The Empire State Building is 102. The Sears Tower in Chicago is 110. The John Hancock Center is 100.
You'd think people would have noticed the Trump World Tower by now. It's not something you can hide.
According to the building's Web site, there are a lot of luxury apartments still available. Four of them in the D line, on the 54th, 60th and 63rd floors, ranging from 1.7 to 2.1 million bucks. In the A line, there's 80A, a steal at $4.2 million. 86A and 90A are also available but they're a tad pricier at $10 million and $13 million, respectively. Also, 86B and 90B are open — their prices: $13.2 million and $17 million.
I thought the most interesting sightings at Jann Wenner's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner this year would be: The Police playing together, Bruce Thomas of the Attractions talking to his former bandmates or the Clash dealing with the death of Joe Strummer. Or everyone dealing with the Hall's funny finances.
But now it seems that the real drama will be whether or not newly separated Elvis Costello brings Diana Krall as his date.
(Ironically, Wenner's Rolling Stone ignored the Police, the Clash and Costello in their late '70s heyday, and has probably never written about Krall, but that's another story.)
I guess Elvis Costello's soon-to-be-ex-wife, Cait O'Riordan, will be interested to read an interview given by Diana Krall to VH1.com last April 16. Seems Krall — with whom Costello has been spotted enough now to call them an item — says she "saw" Costello at the Grammy Awards "and he was so kind in helping me get over my nervousness." That was in February. By April Krall says she had all of Costello's albums and was busy learning most of his songs. Hmmm ... how long, as the jazz singer might croon, has this been going on?
It does so happen that Krall regularly performs with Tony Bennett, whose son Danny ably manages dad and ... Costello. By coincidence, the title song of Krall's most recent studio album is "The Look of Love," written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach — who of course Costello has been obsessed with most of his life. He even did an album with Burt called Painted From Memory.
Krall, mind you, has a great reputation as a singer and nearly as good of one in the companion department. For a time she seemed very close to Clint Eastwood, meeting him for meals at the Bel Air Country Club. They have a love of jazz in common. Prior to that, Krall was supposedly tight with Michael Greene, former head of the Grammy Awards. As for Elvis, he does have a song on his latest album, When I Was Cruel, called "Episode of Blonde."