November 15, 2012
By Chelsea Battle
SENTINEL: Why did you choose to direct Intimate Apparel?
Sheldon Epps (SE): It’s a play that I saw many years ago, and really liked what I saw. I always thought about it as a possible play to do. The idea of people literally and figuratively reaching out and touching each other — the idea of people having simple physical affection — is really important. I guess, I was also thinking about the idea of how we’re so into electronic communication. We’re constantly texting each other or tweeting each other, emailing — and we’ve sort of lost the idea of being in literal connection with each other, which I think is kind of a shame. You used to sit down and write letters to your friends and your family, and people just don’t do that anymore. I can’t remember the last time I got a hand written letter! So it’s just a reminder of that time, the way we made contact with someone in a non-digital way. That’s the way our society used to be; that’s what we used to all want.
SENTINEL: What specifically about this time period really fascinates you? Why 1905?
(SE): The fact that New York City specifically became very segregated: the Blacks uptown, the Jews downtown, and the Whites were sort of midtown. But the working class people of 1905 all lived together, and I think that’s really interesting that somehow, after literally being right next door to each other, something changed in America and we started separating — and frankly probably became a lesser country — because we lost that inter weaving that kept all the races together because everybody was poor together. I was also very interested because people who often times were not educated certainly didn’t have a lot of money, but they certainly had a sense of value about what they did, and pride in their work. And this is a woman [main character Esther] who does not want to be taken care of; she wants to make it on her own. That woman is an early womens’ libber because she says, “I don’t want a man to take care of me; I want to make my own way.” The opportunity to make your own destiny was started by women in this play.
SENTINEL: Is there a reason that the main character is a seamstress? Is this notion of a seamstress a metaphor for something else?
(SE): Yes, there is definitely a reason. The character even says, “I would rather make my money sewing, doing this art form, than to be a maid or a washer woman.” One of the things Lynn addresses in the play is that there is an art form to making something. One of the characters says to Esther, “You have gifted fingers. Not everybody can thread a needle.”
SENTIEL: Does the fabric itself symbolize something?
(SE): The play is all over the place. There are some Black characters, some White, there is a Jewish character, and a character from Panama. One of the main characters in the play brings a specific piece of fabric from Asia. That’s a whole different civilization, and it really becomes an important aspect of the play. The idea of different cultures coming together through the art of sewing and creating is really important to the play. The very touch and feel of the fabric is what draws two people together who really can’t be together because of the restrictions of culture, race, religion, and the period they live in. Yet they are in love with each other because they have such a mutual appreciation for this fabric.
SENTINEL: What are some of the recurring themes in the play? How does it relate to today?
(SE): I think that everyone has had a time in their life when they didn’t feel all that attractive. Or maybe they had something going on inside of them that made them feel not valuable. That was true in the era of this play, 1905, and it was true 5 minutes ago. We’ve all had times where we don’t feel worthy of love or of being interesting to a partner. What’s interesting in the play is that you kind of expect this from a character who is Black and not wealthy. She’s a workingwoman who is illiterate, so she feels badly about herself. But it’s also true of this 5th avenue wealthy woman that she makes corsets for, who feels exactly the same way. So that feeling of not feeling worthy is something that’s still with us. In the end, the main character gets beyond that and she says, “I’m going to give up a lot (I won’t tell you what; you have to see for yourself!) because I respect myself. I won’t allow you to abuse that good woman.” You see the growth of this character, and she goes back to work and doing what she does best.
SENTINEL: What did you look for when casting the characters?
(SE): I like actors who are brave, who have a lot of what I like to call theatrical muscle. I wanted to cast people who were really good looking because I wanted it to be about people who are really good looking. All of the characters are good looking, but don’t feel that they are. Also, everyone likes to look at good-looking people!
By MESFIN FEKADU
Ne-Yo knows that dance and electronic music dominate the charts and radio, and he believes some of the lyrics are weak.
“There’s dance songs out there with four words in the whole song, and it don’t ever matter,” he said. “Because it’s not about what the words are, it’s about the music, the ups and downs in the music ... and then it explodes — that’s what that genre of music is about.”
But when he approached that sound on his fifth album, “R.E.D.,” the 33-year-old Grammy winner said he took the time to craft lyrics that have meaning. He said the best example is “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” his current single and Top 10 Billboard pop hit.
“I told myself if I’m going to do this dance music or electronic or techno or whatever it is, I need to do it from a standpoint of making mine stand out from everybody else’s, meaning a Ne-Yo dance record is going to have some kind of depth in the lyrics because the lyrics is who I am,” he said.
“R.E.D.” — out this week — features more dance-sounding tracks as well as R&B ones. The singer-songwriter, who has multiple hits of his own and has also written smashes for others like Rihanna and Beyonce, talks about the new album, songwriting, collaborating with country star Tim McGraw and being a father in an interview with The Associated Press.
AP: “Let Me Love You” was co-written by Sia and you usually don’t write with other people. How did that song come about?
Ne-Yo: I know for a fact that there are incredible songwriters out there, but I just always feel like everything I do comes from a really personal place, and for another songwriter to come in and write a song for me that’s going to be as personal as me writing a song for me — I didn’t feel like that was possible. But even with that being said, I’m never going to turn down a hit. If somebody’s coming at me with a hit, I'm not that dude.
AP: Sia also co-write Rihanna's hit “Diamonds” and she’s blowing up.
Ne-Yo: She’s getting all this recognition and attention now and she doesn’t want to be an artist anymore. ... I don't blame her. Being an artist definitely has its pros and its cons. ... You can walk down the street and have the No. 1 song in the world and nobody bothers you.
AP: You have two children, and I wonder how parenthood has changed making music for you.
Ne-Yo: It’s changed the way that I write to a degree. I used to pride myself on how fast I can write a song, how many songs I can write in a small amount of time. Now it’s definitely quality over quantity. ... It’s that now because the better the song the more likely somebody’s going to buy it; someone buys it that means I get money and I can take care of my kids.
AP: What was the energy like when you made the new album?
Ne-Yo: There was almost an essence of me needing to prove something. ... My last album didn’t perform as well as my previous three, and I felt with this one, I definitely needed to remind me this is what I do.
AP: Since “Libra Scale” didn’t do as well, did you approach this album differently?
Ne-Yo: The approach going into “R.E.D.” did have a little bit to do with “Libra Scale.” In the realm of what “Libra Scale” was, there was a lot of things that I was trying to do that I had never done before and that I didn’t take the time to gain the proper knowledge of before I attempted.
AP: That was pretty honest.
Ne-Yo: I am 100 percent the guy that if I know that it was my fault, I’m going to say it’s my fault. ... No excuses over here. ... I take full blame, full responsibility.
AP: You’re also very honest on “Cracks in Mr. Perfect,” where you sing about infidelity. Was that one easy or hard to write?
Ne-Yo: That was the one record I was a little afraid of. People are going to hear this and change the way they view me. ... It was easy because it’s things that’s always floating in the back of my head anyway. The difficulty came in with the honesty. Like, do I want to be this honest? Do I want to say to somebody, “I’m a man of my word, but only when I’m not lying”?
AP: How did you and Tim McGraw get together?
Ne-Yo: I actually ran into Tim McGraw's manager in London and ... when we played “She Is,” I was like, “This is my take on a country song. Hopefully if all goes well, you’ll see me performing this at the Country Music Awards with Tim McGraw or somebody.” And Tim McGraw’s manager happened to be in the audience and he was like, “We can make that happen.”
AP: What are your favorite albums of the year?
Ne-Yo: 2 Chainz ... Elle Varner ... I’ve been singing Lana Del Rey’s praises recently. ... Got to throw Frank (Ocean) in there. ... Superbrave cat to do what he did. (Earlier this year, Ocean revealed that his first love was a man.) When I heard about it, I honestly didn’t think it was as big of a deal as everybody made (it). ... If you listen to his music, Frank is the kind of cat that’s going to do what he wants to do. ... The dude references “Dragon Ball Z” in a R&B song ... so for him to come out and say what he said ... I’m like, “OK, that just makes perfect sense with who he is.”
By Tony Jones
Special to the NNPA from The Tri-State Defender
A federal court in Texas has granted Memphis-connected soul music legend Al Bell the rights to his iconic song “Whoomp! (There It Is).”
Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “one of the fastest selling songs in music history,” the verdict orders the music firm DM Records to pay Bell after it was established that the company was illegally licensing the use of the song.
In Memphis to give a speech on the opening day (Oct. 29) of the Berklee College of Music’s City Music Network Conference at the Westin Hotel downtown, Bell commented briefly on his victory.
“They kept trying to muddy the water to try to confuse the judge, hoping that I would get uptight and give up,” Bell told The New Tri-State Defender. “But what they did not know is I’m not the type to believe that a thing can’t be done. I’m from Memphis, Tennessee!”
DM bought the song as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy sale Bell underwent for his company, Bellmark Records. The sale included at least two other best sellers, “Dazzy Duks,” and Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.”
Bell retained licensing rights to the songs through his song-publishing firm, Alvert Music. Licensing permission and fees had to be approved by Alvert Music before anyone else could use the song. This meant that DM Records, or anyone else that had purchased Belmark, could sell the song but not re-sell it without Bell’s permission.
The judgment also carried a $2.5 million jury award to Bell, who had fought the case for decades in varied legal venues.
Bell said his experience in the industry fed his belief that he would eventually win.
“They were counting on the judges not understanding the complexity of song copyright laws. Like most people, they generally understand the legal basis of copyrighting itself, but the complications of song copyrights are entirely another matter, but this judge saw right through it all.”
The ruling established that as the song’s publisher, Bell was the only one with the right of resale to the tune.
Resale value is a big deal in the advertising and marketing worlds, where song licensing is a multi-billion dollar industry. For example, the 2011 ad campaign by AT&T was based on the public’s instant recognition of “Whoomp! (There It Is).”
DM Records attorney Richard Wolfe said the fight is not over.
“This is round one and there are many issues here,” said Wolfe. “Ultimately, this will be decided by a jury and an appeals court in New Orleans.”
Bell said he anticipated such a step. He vows to fight until the matter is settled by payment on his behalf.
You’ll have lots of contact with folks you wanted to hear from this week. Your telephone is your best tool, and you’ll enjoy talking and listening to many supportive and loving friends. A letter may arrive with an invitation. Soul Affirmation: I smile and trust in the powers beyond myself.
You are too kind this week and it’s a wonderful thing. By doing things for others without thought of a reward, you’re racking up beneficial vibrations for your future! Take personal pleasure in what you do for others this week. Soul Affirmation: Moving slowly is often the fastest way to get there.
Change your routine this week. Even a minor change in the way you approach your week will enable you to feel happier and more adventurous. Try something new, and you’ll be happy with the outcome. Soul Affirmation: I know that my life is full of good things. I enjoy!
Create a map in your mind to chart a course through unfamiliar waters. You’ll be as happy as you make up your mind to be. Because you are so wise, you’ll be at peace with all outcomes. Soul Affirmation: I give thanks for who I am this week.
It’s a good week to reflect on your personal network of friends and co-workers. You are surrounded by supportive vibrations, and you’ll be counting your blessings by the end of this busy week! Soul Affirmation: It’s bad only if I see it that way.
Find a way to love the work you do this week. Use your creativity and wonderful sense of humor and you’ll be finished with chores early enough to relax. Use your energy wisely. Soul Affirmation: I let worry fly away.
A romantic partner returns and wants to pick up the past and start over. Friends are good to have, but this particular friend will be best kept as just that . . . a friend! Enjoy your ability to choose what’s best for you. Soul Affirmation: My spirit gives me limitless possibilities.
This week is a week to let your diplomatic side work for you. Forcing will get you nowhere. No man or woman is an island. Focus on togetherness even if you are annoyed with people. Soul Affirmation: Charm is my middle name this week.
You have wonderful ideas about interior decorating. Be ready to accept a great opportunity at work. Money doesn’t matter this week. Don’t make finances more important than they need to be. Soul Affirmation: I appear to others what I know myself to be.
Keep all your ducks in a row this week. No mixing work with fun or business with pleasure. Save your affection for the home front and stay focused on the work in front of you on the job. Things are working out perfectly. Soul Affirmation: This week I find joy in the gifts that life has already given me.
Why not take each perfect moment as it comes? You are struggling to find a solution that time can and will provide. Perform your tasks cheerfully this week and let the future take care of itself. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy each now moment. Soul Affirmation: Worry will only create more worry. I stop all worry.
Your anxiety about an important issue can now be seen as needless. You don’t have to worry! Have faith that things are working out perfectly and they will! This week especially consider all options before you make decisions. Soul Affirmation: I am uplifted by the presence of friends.
November 08, 2012
Jermaine Jackson wants to change his name to something a little brighter. He’s asking a court to allow him to alter his famous surname and become Jermaine Jacksun.
The older brother of Michael Jackson filed a name change petition on Tuesday in Los Angeles, stating the switch was for “artistic reasons.”
The filing doesn’t elaborate, but Jackson’s friend Steve Dennis, who was speaking on the singer’s behalf, said it’s not unheard of for artists to change their names. “Phonetically, it changes nothing,” he said.
“It is something he has chosen to do, and it's fair to say that you cannot blame this one on the boogie, you’ve got to blame it on the sunshine,” Dennis said, in a play on the Jackson 5 disco hit, “Blame it on the Boogie.”
Jackson has been touring with his brothers in recent months and has been promoting his book about his superstar brother titled “You Are Not Alone.”
A hearing on whether Jackson will become Jacksun is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Los Angeles.
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