'Damita' Going Down Madonna's Lawsuit 'Passion' Oscars?

Janet's 'Damita Jo' in Downward Spiral

It's not good news for Janet Jackson or Virgin Records. Her "Damita Jo" album, which debuted at No. 2 last week, looks headed for a bust.

Numbers as of yesterday suggest that Janet will fall to No. 3 this week, with just over 110,000 copies sold. That's down from over 300,000 the week before. By comparison, Usher retains the No. 1 spot with another 400,000 copies of his "Confessions" going home in people's shopping carts.

Jackson probably didn't do herself any favors with her lip-synched musical performances on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, although sales from that appearance can't be attributed to the new numbers. What a shame, too, since she came off as otherwise likeable and funny on the show.

One thing really hurting Janet's sales: a surprising lack of airplay on radio stations. With the exception of some play at Urban Contemporary radio, Radio & Records — which monitors airplay — shows in its charts that Jackson is absent from the airwaves at all major stations.

Let's not attribute this to the Super Bowl fiasco, however. I really don't think anyone who buys CDs gives a hoot about Janet's wardrobe malfunction. The answer is in the grooves, or what isn't in them. Virgin had better scramble fast to find a new single and video from "Damita Jo" that captures the fans' fancy.

Madonna's Lawsuit Could Nix $8M Payout

The chaos in the record business just keeps going, with no abatement.

Over at the new Warner Music Group, there's lot of good gossip, starting with what to do about Roger Ames, the former head of the company. As you know, Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and Thomas Lee Partners bought the company from the real Warner Bros. a few weeks ago. Bronfman then installed Island/Def Jam's Lyor Cohen, leaving Ames — the company's CEO — to twist in the wind.

It's not like anyone feels sorry for Ames. The old Warner Music Group paid him over $100 million when they bought his London Records a few years ago. Still, Ames is now a lame duck.

I'm told that for Ames to go, he has to be paid out another $8 million by Bronfman and friends. This is clearly not something the new regime wants to do considering that they still don't have any hits (that's a problem) and have, essentially, inherited the old Warner Music conundrum of one Eric Clapton album on the charts and nothing else.

Things are different for Warner on the Billboard pop catalog chart, where the company is exploiting what's left of its contentious relationship with Prince on a best-selling greatest hits album. The company is also doing well on that chart with old albums by Rod Stewart, Linkin Park and Josh Groban. Of the three, P.S., Stewart is long since departed.

It must be getting a little crowded in the new Warner exec suite, with Bronfman, Cohen, Cohen's insta-hire Julie Greenwald coming from Island/Def Jam, and of course Ames. There's a funny story going around how Bronfman has already had to referee between Cohen and Bronfman's brother-in-law, Alejandro Zubillaga, who each wanted the same office. Cohen, sadly, learned that blood is thicker than water when Zubillaga — who has no experience in the music business — won out and got the space he craved.

Cohen, whose picture was on the front page of Billboard last week in something akin to an industry post-office "Wanted" notice concerning his latest legal problem with TVT Records, couldn't have been too pleased.

But back to Ames. I'm told that $8 million may not be easy to collect now that he's been named as the central antagonist in Madonna's Maverick Records lawsuit against Warner. The suit alleges that Ames "engaged in a pattern of false promises and misrepresentations of fact" to effect changes in the joint venture, and that WMG sought to induce [Maverick chief and Madonna partner Guy Oseary] to back off pressing the issues raised in the suit with the promise of a new and separate contract."

One not-so-surprised Warner insider told me: "Once they get into the lawsuit, Roger may just be whittled down to a settlement, like a million bucks, and leave before anything else happens."

Oh, the record biz. It's all pretty funny and we love to have a good time gossiping about these people, but here's something to remember: While we chuckle, they are all very wealthy and living quite nicely, thank you. Meanwhile, there ain't much of a record business, is there?

Oscars For the Passion?

I see that there's some kind of rumbling here and there about possible Oscar nods for "The Passion of the Christ." Let me tell you right now, I don't see it happening. The only possible one is for Caleb Deschanel's cinematography. Other than that, no matter how much money it's made, "The Passion" is still incredibly violent and it's also — hello! — a foreign language film.

Let's also not over-emphasize the box office numbers for this curio of a film. Its staggering $350 million take is largely drawn from repeat viewings in non-urban settings. This is nothing to sneeze at, but Academy and Golden Globe voters are unlikely to find the same enthusiasms as large church groups. So Mel Gibson may have to settle for just raking in a bundle and let that be its own reward.

Meantime, I'd be interested to know if any of the actors —  Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern etc — have received extra paydays in light of the film's financial success. I wonder if they've said of the Icon Productions accountants, "Forgive them, they know not what they do."