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Meeting Nicole Kidman

Arjan: Congrats on the award for your performance in Moulin Rouge.
Nicole: Thank you, everybody has been so supportive of this film. It has been great.

Arjan: What project are you working on now?
Nicole: I actually just finished a movie last night, called 'The Human Stain,' in which I play opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins. He is such a wonderful actor, such a gentlemen.

Arjan: Who do you play, what is your character like?
Nicole: The film is based on a book by Philip Roth, and I play Faunia, the love interest of Anthony Hopkins.

Arjan: What is your first upcoming movie?
Nicole: That will 'The Hours' at the end of the year, in which I play with Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

Arjan: You have played so many different characters. What is your favorite type of role?
Nicole: I think I am very all-round. I am challenged by a lot of different roles. Not one in particular. Moulin Rouge was great to do, it is one of the few love stories I have done.

Arjan: Nicole, are you going to do more singing?
Nicole: Yes! But I can't really talk about it.

Arjan: Can you give me a glimpse...
Nicole: Haha... Well, it will be a singing project with another actress and I will be working on it in the next couple of months.

Arjan: You are sporting a great outfit by the way.
Nicole: Thank you. It is mish-mash of different designers, but the suit is Dolce & Gabana.

June 30, 2003 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Cooler Pop

SISLEY TREASURE WAS AN AVID Internet chatter and often used America Online to find like-minded people to make music, go to raves and hang out. When this club kid and fashion maven found DJ Kaz Gamble in AOL’s member directory, it was a match made in pop heaven.

Treasure, 21, was looking for a singing gig, and Gamble, 26, was searching for a vocalist for his new music project. In a phone interview with the Blade, Gamble recalls, “I only randomly check my AOL e-mail account, but I fortunately found Sisley’s e-mail. Her timing was perfect. She sent over some tapes of her singing and dancing and she got the job.”

Treasure and Gamble formed the group Cooler Kids and started working in the studio on their first record together with production team Pop-Rox. The fruit of their labor is the debut “Punk Debutante,” which appears in stores on July 1.

“Punk Debutante” is a refreshing take on pop music. The album features 12 tracks that offer an infectious fusion of catchy melodies, disco-house arrangements and a heavy dose of ultra-hip attitude. Songs such as “All Around The World,” “Morning Star” and “Hook Up” are instant hits for their irresistible pop quality.

In preparation for the record release, Cooler Kids hit the gay scene to build a strong fan base for their new-millennium vibe. Earlier this year, they opened for Erasure during their North American tour. Treasure giggles, “That tour was so much fun. We got to see a free Erasure concert every night.”

With her offbeat style and pseudo valley girl antics, Los Angeles native Sisley Treasure is quite the hag that gays love to embrace. The feelings are mutual.

“It is really fun to perform in front of all the gay boys. They’re my favorite audience,” Treasure raves. She says, “Gays have been really accepting of the party vibe that we bring. Not just the music, but also our fashion. I make our entire wardrobe and gays are so appreciative and responsive.”

To celebrate their debut CD with the gay community, Cooler Kids will be on the Next Magazine float during New York City’s Gay Pride this year and will be at Roxy and Opaline/Area10009 for more appearances.

GAMBLE EXPLAINS THAT HE HAD A very clear vision when he wrote the album. He says, “Most importantly, I simply wanted to make good pop songs. Sing-along, whistle tunes. I wanted to compete with classis songwriters such as Carol King, The Beatles and Abba.”

The album’s production is surprisingly sophisticated for a seemingly carefree pop album. Gamble agrees, “We have strong songs, but then we have tripped-out sounds, beats, flips and other sound effects that people might not have heard before. We wanted to make eclectic pop.”

Gamble explains that there was a reason to call the album “Punk Debutante” in a time when even popster Avril Lavigne is considered punk. He says, “Honestly, we feel it is punk to be fabulous. We want to be glamorous and that is our punk vibe against the norm.”

The group’s hip style is also reflected by the album’s artwork, which was shot by famed gay photographer David LaChapelle.

Cooler Kids’ melodies often seem reminiscent of music that dominated the charts in the ‘80s. Gamble argues, “Some people say we’re going back to the ‘80s. That is not true. In fact, we have always been into ‘80s pop.” He continues,” We continued to do ‘80s drum ‘n bass that nobody liked for a while. Now we’re bringing it back and the crowds are loving it.”

Treasure adds, “People can pretend we’re big ‘80s stars and this is our come-back record.”

The two pop purists feel that their music will strike a chord with many. Gamble claims, “I think a lot of people are ready for a fresh new sound. People are fed up with hearing the same angry rock ‘n roll. We relate to that. We had to make this album because nobody else is making it.”

Cooler Kids
‘ Punk Debutante’
DreamWorks Records, 2003 (July 1)

June 26, 2003 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (5)

Cash Comes On Strong

After a polyp sidelined Rosanne Cash for two years, she returns with a new CD that reflects strength and artistic integrity.

COUNTRY ROCK SINGER Rosanne Cash could not sing for years after she had reached a prime spot in her career. The daughter of music legend Johnny Cash lost her voice for almost two and a half years after a polyp shut down her vocal chords. There were days she could not even speak. But after a lot of hard work with vocal therapists, her ability to speak and sing gradually returned to normal in late 2000.

This ordeal sparked a full-blown identity crisis that initially led Cash, 47, to become depressed. But she eventually used the challenge to put her life in perspective and tap into a level of creativity that allowed her work to expand.

During this time, Cash published a book, continued to raise a child and wrote lyrics and music with her husband, John Leventhal, a producer, songwriter and guitarist. The result of her soul-searching appears on her latest album, “Rules Of Travel.” This is her first new CD since “10 Song Demo” in 1996.

Cash’s new record has 11 songs, most of which she wrote. Marc Cohn, Jacob Dylan, Joe Henry and Craig Northey contributed to the album as well. Friends and guest vocalists such as Sheryl Crow and Steve Earl appear on the CD. Most notably, her father, whose longtime wife (and Rosanne’s stepmother) June Carter Cash, died on May 15, sings on “September When It Comes.”

Surprisingly, Cash’s vocal therapy not only helped her to sing again, but also rejuvenated her voice. On the album, her distinct vocals are still jagged and raw, but also richer and more resonant than before.

Cash has been making hit records since 1979. Her compelling mix of country, folk and rock is in many ways a predecessor of today’s buffed up country-pop by Faith Hill and Shania Twain. Cash debuted with “Right Or Wrong,” which was soon followed by her breakthrough album “Seven Year Ache” in 1981. The record delivered three No. 1 country hits, including the title track, which crossed over to the top spot on the Billboard Pop chart.

EVEN THOUGH CASH, one of four daughters, grew up in her famous father’s shadow, she has found a niche of her own. The anti-diva has developed a knack for turning seemingly trivial emotions into songs of timeless quality. Her compassionate songwriting conveys a deep understanding of some of the elemental moments in life.

“Rules Of Travel” is no different. The album explores mortality, friendships and relationships with great empathy and sensitivity. Her acoustic- and guitar-driven sound still has a country edge, but is more folk-rock oriented than before. At times, Cash is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, Simon & Garfunkel and other greats of the ‘70s American songwriting generation.

The album kicks off with “Beautiful Pain,” an achingly honest pop song that features Sheryl Crow’s background vocals. The title track, “Rules Of Travel,” is a compelling pop rock tune with a catchy chorus that poetically describes the challenge of true intimacy between two lovers. The song’s lyrics shape a metaphor about getting inside someone’s heart and navigating carefully not to break or bend it.

A high point on the album is Cash’s moving duet with her father on “September When It Comes.” The song explores mortality and dealing with the burden of unresolved issues late in life. It offers a candid look at a very private moment between father and daughter.

Another highlight is the sensitive “Will You Remember Me,” which features a simple acoustic guitar arrangement and a beautiful chorus melody. Cash continues her radio-friendly vibe on “Closer Than I Appear” and “Hope Against Hope.”

With “Rules of Travel,” Rosanne Cash fearlessly carries a torch of artistic integrity in a musical era dominated by overproduced pop acts.

June 6, 2003 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Revealing Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin has made a deeply personal CD that’s more spiritual than his earlier work. But he’s still keeping listeners at a safe distance.

AFTER A TWO-YEAR breather, Ricky Martin is back with “Almas Del Silencio” (“Souls of Silence”), his first Spanish language album since 1998’s “Vuelve.” This record is the singer’s attempt to prove that he is not a one-hit wonder or regional phenomenon. With his record sales declining and ongoing rumors about his sexual orientation, this Latin golden boy faces more creative and personal scrutiny than ever before.

The pop idol prodigy took the U.S. music scene by storm after his exuberant performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards. His hip-shaking rendition of “La Copa de la Vida” made him an instant sex symbol. Martin was already a platinum seller in Latin America, where his popularity had been soaring since he was part of the Puerto Rican ensemble known as Menudo.

After his Grammy performance, Sony Music rushed to bring out Martin’s first smash hit, “Living La Vida Loca,” and his self-titled crossover album. It ended up selling more than 17 million copies worldwide.

In 2000, Martin followed up with “Sound Loaded,” an uninspired effort that merely repeated a previously winning formula. The album was a commercial dud and Martin had to make a serious effort not to fade away from the pop scene.

On top of his artistic challenges, Martin faced enormous scrutiny about his personal life and rumors about whether he is gay.

Martin fueled such innuendo in an interview with New York Daily News in 2000 when he refused to specifically answer questions about his sexual orientation.

“The homosexual community wants me to be gay and the heterosexual community wants me to be straight,” he said. “They pull and push and pull and push. I don't think it’s necessary to either say I’m gay or I’m straight. I’m an artist, and you can take my poster and fantasize about me however you want.”

THIS SITUATION PAINFULLY underlines yet again how brutal the entertainment industry and public opinion can be.

With “Almas Del Silencio” (“Souls Of Silence”), Martin appears to be hoping that his music can take center stage again. The singer presents the album as a very personal soul-searching that is supposedly a departure from his previous bubble gum pop.

He left the songwriting to an impressive team of musicians, including Franco de Vita, Emilio Estefan, Alejandro Sanz and famed Columbian musician Juanes.

The album is a well-produced, mature pop record, which combines a number of exciting up-tempo songs with slick ballads that include authentic Latin musical and vocal arrangements.

“Tal Vez” (“Perhaps”) is a sweet pop ballad with a tear-jerking orchestral introduction that features Martin’s signature crooning. The fierce “Jaleo” (“Commotion”) is the album’s “La Vida Loca” clone with its thriving rhythms, Flamenco percussion and painfully infectious chorus.

On the Elton John-type piano ballad “Asignatura Pendiente” (“Pending Assignment”), the singer reflects on the dehumanizing elements of his fame and sings in Spanish, “A picture with Bush. A suite in the Waldorf. And more cars than friends.”

The song “Y Todo Queda En Nada” (“And All Remains In Nothing”) carries a similar theme. Martin sings, “I listen to the comments of all my friends. That I seem to be different. That I am so destroyed.”

Martin prides himself in having made a record that is deeply personal and more spiritual than his earlier work. And it includes seemingly personal reflections. But he also keeps listeners at a safe distance with lyrics that often are trivial and unoriginal.

This born-to-entertain artist should let his guard down a bit and give audiences more of the real Ricky Martin.

June 1, 2003 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (5)