Janet Jackson's boyfriend, producer Jermaine Dupri, is out at Virgin Records.
Dupri was head of urban music at Virgin. But late yesterday, according to my sources, Dupri quit—i.e. was forced out—after disappointing sales of Jackson's comeback album called "20 YO."
Three weeks into its release, the album is a dud with less than 500,000 copies sold. I told you in this space last week, before anyone else, that the CD had dropped an astonishing 77 percent in sales in its second week.
For Jackson, this is especially painful since '20 YO' was the last album on her Virgin contract. She now faces the task of negotiating a new deal with little leverage.
Dupri was partially responsible along with Randy Jackson ("American Idol" fame, not the brother) for making Mariah Carey's "Emancipation of Mimi" album a monster hit. With Janet, he opted to make her into something she couldn't be at age 40—a hip hop diva—rather than present her as an adult star. Kids did not flock to her, and adults didn't want to hear it.
At the 11th hour there was talk of Mariah possibly re-recording one of the '20 YO' songs with Janet to resuscitate the album. But with Dupri gone, '20 YO' will probably just get written off as a mistake now. This will leave Jason Flom, head of Virgin, to rebuild the urban department at the label—something I'm told he's been itching to do since he took over last year.
Michael Jackson has a lot to grouse about. Maybe that’s why he’s holed up at Grouse Lodge residential recording studios in remote Westmeath, Ireland, about an hour outside of Dublin.
Grouse Recording, only four years old, is billed as Ireland’s only residential recording facility. It has nine double bedrooms spread over three renovated stone cottages — just enough to house Jackson, his three kids, nanny Grace, and a couple of security guys.
And of course, Grouse comes equipped with a resident herbalogist and homeopathic healer, one Sarah Redpath, who is no doubt bemused by Jackson’s faith in chemical healing. It would be fun to be a fly on the all during those conversations!
The big questions remains: Who is paying for this, and what exactly is being accomplished? Jackson currently has no permanent address and is hiding in Ireland for the time being. If he’s recording anything at all, it should be interesting to see if it’s useable stuff, or just the same fluff that he offered five years ago in his low-selling Invincible album.
One part of Jackson’s problem now is that nearly everyone in urban music is making Jacko-like music. The greatest offender would be Justin Timberlake, who’s fashioned a whole solo career on Jackson’s falsetto and whoops. Interestingly, Jackson — according to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush — is working with the Black Eyed Peas’ ubiquitous Will.i.am. If so, expect tracks that sound like Jacko doing Timberlake doing Jacko.
"Premature" was the way my sources described yesterday’s reports that Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields is out of the woods in the Pellicano case.
Indeed, my sources insist that despite those reports, Fields is on the verge of being indicted for illegal wire tapping. Several times the statute of limitations has been extended for Fields in this case, but now action on the part of U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders may be imminent.
On Wednesday the New York Times reported that federal prosecutors were interviewing at least 10 attorneys from Fields’ firm, Greenberg Glusker, about his use — and theirs — of Pellicano as a rogue private eye. A rough list of names, provided by an informed source, includes Ricardo Cestero, the lawyer I told you months ago worked first for Pellicano before joining Fields’ firm to represent Tom Cruise.
Others on the interrogation list are thought to be Bonnie Eskenazi, Aaron Moss, David Moriarty, Jill Cossman, firm spokesman Norman Levine, and Chuck Shepherd, Fields’s go to guy in the firm. Levine has gone on record telling other publications that the case, however, is over, and that the firm “has moved beyond it.”
The inside word, though, is that under pressure any attorney from Greenberg Glusker is going to toss Fields to the wolves.
“None of those people are going to lie to a federal prosecutor,” says a source. “If they think they can save themselves, they will give Bert up in a second.”
Fields, of course, has maintained his innocence and ignorance about the Pellicano matter. His side has used the argument that nothing of much interest has occurred since last February in the case. That, coupled with a fairly light-touch article in The New Yorker, is said to be Fields’ reasoning that he’s untouchable at this point.
If, however, Fields is wrong, and he is indicted, the result will be a sensation in Hollywood. Fields is attached to just about everyone of interest in Tinseltown. His secrets extend from Cruise to Michael Jackson and beyond. He could charge more for tickets to his trial than Barbra Streisand would ever imagine for one of her comeback concerts.
To be continued…
Madonna Crucified By NBC
So: Madonna will not be seen on the cross during her NBC special. Reports are that the offending material has been cut from the show. See our report from Wednesday on Madonna’s Kabbalah foundation setting up shop in Malawi with help from the Clinton Foundation and a billionaire involved in the Anthony Pellicano case…On Monday, we reported on about Scarlett Johansson signing a deal to make a record of Tom Waits songs…On Tuesday we reported that we ran into Reese Witherspoon, helping hubby Ryan Phillippe promote Flags of our Fathers…Yesterday’s piece about The Departed was more about how Brad Grey dictated the terms of the producers’ credits on the films. What if Grey, now head of Paramount, gets to go on stage and accept Best Picture for a Warner’s film? Weird, huh? The movie’s exec producer Graham King should do that. He stayed in a hotel for six months overseeing the daily aspects of The Departed, I’m told…