Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • The True Believers

    Why would anyone still be devoted to Michael Jackson? He's on trial for child molestation. He hasn't had a no. 1 hit for a decade. Look at the face. Look at the life. These hard-core fans people call Jacko's Wackos--what are they ? They told us.
  • BARRY HOT

    The first time Barry Manilow played Carnegie Hall was in 1972, as pianist for the burgeoning cabaret star Bette Midler. It was quite a step up from the gay bathhouses they'd been playing to pay the rent. "I remember standing behind the curtain and hearing the audience roar," recalls Manilow, sitting in a bistro near his home in Palm Springs, Calif. "Bette and I just looked at each other, like, 'What is that?' It was so..." He stops, and laughs. "Wait a minute. Here I am telling you the story of my life, like anybody gives a s---. If they do, I'm amazed. Really, I am. I shouldn't be talking to NEWSWEEK right now, I should be playing a Chuck E. Cheese in Covina."You'd have trouble finding an American over the age of 20 who hasn't cracked a Barry Manilow joke--and that includes Barry Manilow. The operatic pop ballads. The questionable hairdos. The flouncy-sleeved jumpsuit. Manilow was the '70s. But he still sells 1.5 million records a year, just had a No. 1 single on the dance-club...
  • The Grammys Get a Clue

    Last year one of my favorite artists actually won album of the year. Outkast's "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" reigned supreme and for a few days, I was really happy. Then it dawned on me. The Recording Academy, the most clueless panel of judges until "American Idol" reared its empty head, liked what I liked. In fact, they loved it. Something was clearly wrong. Either I had totally lost my critical edge or the Recording Academy had finally found some taste (I know, I'm a snob). My one saving grace? I did not think "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" was Outkast's best album. 2000's "Stankonia" was nominated in the same category four years prior and it should have won, but Outkast's 2004 victory was like a make-up Grammy--kind of like "The Aviator" being nominated for best picture at this year's Oscars. Yes, Martin Scorsese was a great director and no, "The Aviator" is not even close to his best work or the year's best film. It's what I call the Sorry-We-Missed-You-The-First-Time-Around Award...
  • First Person: Voting in Iraq's Election

    As the daughter of an Iraqi, NEWSWEEK'S Lorraine Ali was able to vote in Sunday's election. Why she did--and why she hopes her relatives inside Iraq did not.
  • GIRLS DON'T CRY

    Years before Clint Eastwood chose Hilary Swank to star in his new film, "Million Dollar Baby"--years before she won the 2000 Oscar for playing the struggling Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry"--she was a small-town kid living in a trailer park. Swank wanted to be an actor and took every opportunity to hone her skills. "I remember sitting at McDonald's and watching this man eat," says Swank, 30. "I counted how many times he chewed his burger, watched the way he sipped his Coke and copied how he dipped his french fries in the ketchup. My mom had to elbow me: 'Hilary! Stop staring.' She repeated that demand a lot throughout my childhood. It was pretty much her mantra."Swank learned long ago what Hollywood's been slow to figure out: that there's more to working-class America than trailer and Twinkies jokes. She brought a great complexity and humanity to her role as Brandon Teena, sweeping even mainstream audiences up in the story of a poor cross-dresser's struggle to survive in a redneck...
  • THE MOUTHS THAT ROARED

    There's been a wealth of music to celebrate this year, though we had to scour albums from San Francisco to Senegal to find it. Here's a list of contenders who should find their way to your heart, or at least your CD player.1 Kanye West, 'College Dropout' West's phenomenal "Jesus Walks" is '04's best single, and "College Dropout" its most original hip-hop CD. The mega-successful producer raps about everything but the usual BET/MTV fare. Yes, he's an egomaniac--for good reason.2 Bill Cosby and Quincy Jones, 'The Original Jam Sessions 1969' and 'The New Mixes Vol. 1' Outkast's most bizarre efforts seem tame compared with these vintage jams. The instrumentals, which Cosby helped produce for his shows, are funky, experimental and at times hilarious. The new mixes are by varied producers, including Cornershop.3 Green Day, 'American Idiot' Forget ironic indie throwbacks like Franz Ferdinand--former MTV sellouts Green Day made the most daring rock album of the year. This punk-rock opera is...
  • TOTALLY LUDACRIS

    On Ludacris's fourth CD, "Red Light District," the Atlanta rapper leaves the 24/7 party behind for more experimental, emotional terrain. He still tangles with "manicured and pedicured" ladies, and takes a jab at Bill O'Reilly (the Fox host's tirades once cost Ludacris a Pepsi endorsement), but they're remnants of his past.LORRAINE ALI: Let's start from the beginning. On "Number One Spot" I love how you rap over that groovy Austin Powers melody.LUDACRIS: Wait, what about the intro? Aren't you supposed to go through each and every track? You just skipped one.We can jump around. I'm impressed that just seconds into your CD you say your sales are bigger than Elvis's. You're a master boaster.Thank you. That's nice to hear.On "Number One Spot," I love how you manage to rhyme "Nevada" and "Impala": "Ludacris is hotter than Nevada/I'm ready to break the steering wheel on your Impala." But I was expecting more drama on the O'Reilly front.I talked about him on the last album, and I'm over it....
  • DON'T PUSH ME 'CAUSE I'M CLOSE TO THE EDGE

    Ignore the iPod commercial--U2 has not morphed into a hipster rave outfit for dreadlock-flipping twentysomethings. For one thing, they already tried that with 1993's "Lemon" (and it was). And anyhow, why change course when you're the biggest band in the world?The iPod-ification of U2 is an attempt to make the aging rockers look relevant among a younger generation of pop artists unfamiliar with such relics as the guitar. But this latest marketing strategy is ridiculous. U2 are (once again) at the top of their game and probably couldn't make a bum album if they tried. On "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," they apply that winning U2 formula: Bono's raggedy vocals, the Edge's shimmery guitar and plenty of Guinness (OK, I guessed on that last one). The songs already feel like FM classics--just slightly tweaked (some industrial grind here, some Spanish influence there) to set them apart from the bazillion other U2 songs you know."Love and Peace or Else" (co-produced by Brian Eno) is the...
  • THE FAKE SLIM SHADY

    It's not easy being Eminem these days. You're competing for headlines with Scott Peterson and Fallujah, and no matter how sexually corrupt you claim to be, at least one stay-at-home mom has probably topped your most sordid tale on "Oprah." So what's a bad boy to do? Easy. Load your new album, "Encore," with fart noises, dis Michael Jackson and poke fun at foreigners for having weird accents. If you can't shock parents anymore, at least you can make their kids giggle.Eminem does take some risks here, like the superpoliticized single "Mosh." He's the only MTV/"TRL" icon to take a clear stand on the war and George W. Bush's policies in song and video, and he even dropped the single early to encourage his audience to vote. But judging by most of the album, Eminem--like so many other rappers--still thinks bagging on bitches, homos or anyone who's not in his camp qualifies as fighting the power. He ranks on The Source, the hip-hop magazine that's been highly critical of him, spends at...
  • A WHOLE NEW RAP

    Jin knows better than most that your success as a rapper depends almost entirely on your delivery--even when people expect that delivery to be lemon chicken with a side of rice. "I'd show up at these M.C. battles with my book bag and the guys at the door would say, 'Uh, I think there's been some sort of mistake'," says Jin Au-Yeung. " 'We didn't order any food'." The Chinese-American rapper never took offense--he simply walked onstage and slayed his rivals with some of the sharpest rhymes around. Now, at 22, Jin is the first Asian rapper in the United States to land a major-label deal. His debut, "The Rest Is History," is cool, quick-witted and, most important, a hit with Jin's parents. "They used to hate rap, but now they've crossed over," says the New York-based artist. "They keep all the clippings of the Chinese newspapers I appear in. They're the presidents of the Jin fan club."The Au-Yeungs emigrated from Hong Kong to Miami before Jin was born. They ran a restaurant and Jin was...
  • SNAP JUDGEMENT: MUSIC

    R.U.L.E. Ja RuleSensitive thug Ja Rule almost retired after his 2002 hip-hop domination gave way to an ugly beef with 50 Cent and sluggish sales on his next album. But "R.U.L.E." finds Ja back in the game making pop-rap hits rather than trading barbs. He rhymes about the old 'hood, his mistrust of fame, hoochies and the money they love. His raspy foghorn voice rolls over crunchy club beats and alongside Ashanti's girly vocals on more "sentimental" numbers. He even manages to come up with rhymes for every curse word in the book. There's no substitute for Rule's raw talent.Dear Heather Leonard CohenOne of the pleasures of Cohen's recent albums has been hearing his corroded voice juxtaposed with cheesy soft-rock: sax solos, angelic choruses and so on. Here the formula wears thin, and the lyrics don't mesmerize the way they used to, though "Because Of" titillates: "Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mystery, women have been exceptionally kind to my old age." (The song...
  • VOTERS: A DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT

    When George W. Bush addressed issues like profiling with a Dearborn, Mich., crowd in 2000, he became the first presidential candidate to openly woo the Arab-American and Muslim vote. Exit polls showed it paid off: he won 45 percent of the Arab vote nationwide and swept 70 percent of the Muslim vote. So why isn't he aggressively courting the estimated 3 million Arab-Americans or the 5 million to 7 million U.S. Muslims now? "The dissatisfaction among these communities on key issues is too great," says James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. "Those concerned about Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or their civil liberties are not going to vote for him." The detainment of thousands of Arabs and Muslims under the Patriot Act, the bloodshed in Baghdad and Bush's support of Ariel Sharon have eroded his credibility among a group that could be a real factor in this tight race. A Zogby poll of Arab voters in four swing states shows John Kerry leading Bush 49 to 32 percent, while a...
  • GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

    Back in 1993, rap icon Queen Latifah challenged the growing misogyny of hip-hop by demanding, "Who you calling a bitch!?" in her hit single "U.N.I.T.Y." The music she loved was changing, and so was she. Now you can call the 34-year-old just about anything--sitcom star, talk-show host, entrepreneur, Oscar-nominated actor. Well, anything but a rapper. On her first album in six years, Latifah trades her hip-hop moniker for her given name, Dana Owens. Even stranger, she swaps her rapid-fire raps for crooning.Anyone who saw Latifah as Mama Morton in "Chicago" knows that the New Jersey native can sing. But this record, a collection of standards such as "I Put a Spell on You" and "Hello Stranger," is still a potentially humiliating move--even for somebody who sang a duet with Rod Stewart not so long ago. On "The Dana Owens Album" she lights up decades-old songs and makes them her own. Her voice is so smooth, deep and steady, you get the feeling she could sing most of this stuff in her...
  • Media: He Can't Pay For A Cab

    There should be a New York Press award hanging on the wall of Hussein Ibish's office, but the 41-year-old Lebanese-American and Washington correspondent for the Arab world's most prominent English-language paper, the Daily Star, hasn't had time to put it up. He picks up the plaque off his cluttered desk and reads it aloud: "BEST TV SPOKESMAN FOR THE ARAB CAUSE. It's really flattering," he says, "but it's a bit like being named the tallest skyscraper in San Clemente."As the former communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Ibish has pioneered a new type of Middle Eastern advocacy and become a hero among civil libertarians and Arab-Americans alike. When the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to Muhammad the Prophet as a "demon-possessed pedophile" on CNN's "Crossfire" after the 9/11 attacks, Ibish decided all logical argument was out the window. "I called him an idiot, plain and simple," says Ibish. He received a standing ovation from the studio audience.On...
  • SOUL AND ALL THAT JOSS

    Blond, 17, supercute and accompanied by a ton of hype, Joss Stone fits the profile of the next big Miss Thing--except that she wears far less makeup than Hilary, far more clothing than Jessica and actually sings the blues rather than lip-syncing for the "Blue's Clues" crowd. This almost too-marketable British singer is the music industry's biggest hope since Norah Jones, and bets are she'll connect with listeners her own age as well as their parents. Judging by the hip feel and down-home appeal of her new CD, she might just do it."Mind, Body & Soul" is Stone's second album, but it's her first collection with original material. It's a tribute to some of the '70s' best R&B: from the groundbreaking funk of Stevie Wonder to the troubled soul ballads of Roberta Flack. But can a white girl from the United Kingdom keep up with such neosoul contemporaries as Angie Stone (no relation) or Jill Scott? As hard as it is to admit, the answer is yes. Sure, she's a novelty who has already...
  • WOW, WHAT AN 'IDIOT'!

    It's not easy growing older when immaturity is your shtik. Green Day were MTV's class clowns for much of the '90s. They played a kind of ding-dong-ditch--demanding your attention by annoying the hell out of you. They replaced punk's hard-core social rebellion with soft-core potty humor, making "Dookie," "Nimrod" and other CDs classics among Slurpee-chugging chuckleheads.Green Day's members are all older than 30 now. If the title of their first studio album in almost four years, "American Idiot," suggests yet another adolescent spit-wad, don't be fooled. This is one of the best rock albums and the biggest surprise of the year--a punk-rock opera and one of the only mainstream offerings to really address the emotional, moral and political confusion of our times. The 19 tracks, two of which are more than nine minutes long, tell of a suburban kid's stumbling toward adulthood and contending with war, "one nation controlled by the media," his divorced parents, the neighborhood drug dealer...
  • Voices Carry

    Pop Eccentric Bjork Vocalizes With Newsweek's Lorraine Ali About Her Instrument-Free Album
  • IT'S MY LIFE

    Svelte, blond Gwen Stefani walks into the upscale Miu Miu boutique in Manhattan sporting a tartan kilt, a Virgin of Guadalupe T shirt and a mustache of cappuccino froth. She eyes a near-perfect pair of shoes: plaid stilettos that are sexy, cool and a little quirky--a perfect fit for No Doubt's frontwoman. She holds the shoe up in the sunlight and a gasp escapes her crimson lips. "Oh. My. God." She's spotted something even more amazing outside the window: a pack of picture-snapping paparazzi and gawking pedestrians--who have all spotted her. She strikes a charm-school pose, casually plucks a dress off a nearby rack and heads for the dressing room. Once out of their sight she breaks up laughing. "If only they knew what a dork I really am."Stefani may be a dweeb at heart, but everyone else knows her as pop's No. 1 glamour girl. At 34, she's part 1940s pinup and part 1980s punk, and the one viable heir apparent to Madonna. When she burst onto the scene in 1995 with No Doubt's video ...
  • Marriage: The New Infidelity

    Overworked and underappreciated, more American wives are seeking comfort in the arms of other men
  • The Secret Lives of Wives

    WHY THEY STRAY: WITH THE WORK PLACE AND THE INTERNET, OVERSCHEDULED LIVES AND INATTENTIVE HUSBANDS--IT'S NO WONDER MORE AMERICAN WOMEN ARE LOOKING FOR COMFORT IN THE ARMS OF ANOTHER MAN
  • The Little Band that Could

    Train wreck? Car crash? Trailer Park in a Tornado? Any of these would have been a more appropriate name than Velvet Revolver. This supergroup, comprising some of rock's most notorious bad boys--Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses, singer Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots--spent the past year working hard on an album that everyone just knew would never happen. After all, Weiland had been busted on drug charges three times in the past decade, traded punches with STP band mates onstage during their final tour and was in and out of rehab during the recording of Velvet Revolver's debut, "Contraband." Slash, McKagan and Sorum had also been in and out of rehab, and they hadn't played together since their band imploded and Slash left in 1996. But against all odds, "Contraband" is out this week, and the first single, "Slither," is already in the top five on the rock charts, and the album is even being embraced--rather than eviscerated, as expected--by critics. The band is...
  • MOVIES: AL-JAZEERA FROM INSIDE

    The Arab news station Al-Jazeera has been described by the Bush administration as a "mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden," by Middle East leaders as a conduit for American propaganda and now by film critics as a catalyst for the most successful documentary of the year. "Control Room," directed by American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, broke documentary box-office attendance records in New York when it opened May 21 and is expected to pick up more steam (and get more people steamed) when it opens nationwide in select theaters Friday. "The name Al-Jazeera is of automatic interest to Americans," says Noujaim, 30, who graduated from Harvard and coproduced the award-winning documentary "Startup.com." "It's so demonized, even hated, yet no one really knows anything about it. But you figure if they're pissing everyone off--Americans and Arabs--they must be doing something right."The film documents the beginning of the second Gulf war from Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar and introduces us to the...
  • Newsmakers

    Neil Sedaka wrote some of the most indelible hits of the '60s and '70s --from "Calendar Girl" to "Love Will Keep Us Together." Now he's back on the charts thanks to American Idol Clay Aiken's covering his "Solitaire," and back onstage with his own tribute to Yiddish song. Sedaka spoke with NEWSWEEK's Lorraine Ali:How does it feel to be competing on the charts with people like Usher? ...
  • Found: 'Land Of The Lost'

    Do you dream of being chased by Sleestaks? Searching for Pylons? Teaching Cha-Ka to speak English? If so, you're one of millions whose TV heritage includes the '70s kid series "Land of the Lost." Now you can relive the Marshall family's accidental journey back in time with Rhino Home Video's three-DVD boxed set "Land of the Lost--The Complete First Season," out June 29. The 17-episode set includes such classics as "Follow That Dinosaur," plus commentary by creators Sid and Marty Krofft. "People said we must be on drugs to create such weird shows," says Marty Krofft, who was also behind "H.R. Pufnstuf," "Lidsville" and "Bugaloos." "But we weren't. Am I scaring you now?" The show ran from 1974 to 1977 and included such characters as the Pakuni (half man, half monkey), Dopey the dinosaur and, of course, the seven-foot-tall reptilian humanoids known as Sleestaks. Little-known fact: the Kroffts drafted many of their 'Staks from high-school basketball teams, including future Detroit...
  • Snap Judgement: Music

    "I don't want to be a star, just want my Chevy and an old guitar," croons Kravitz on his gazillionth album, but the singer clearly wants to be Prince--or even better, James Brown. Consider his latest retro-R&B hairdo and songs with titles like "Minister of Rock and Roll" and "Baptized." The problem is that the Beverly Hills High alum has spent more time crafting his new "authentic artist" image than forging a fresh style. He's mastered the recycled funk riff and pop-rock hook combo. Predictable? Yes. But Kravitz is too busy playing the anti-star to notice.Betty RulesThe off-Broadway musical "Betty Rules" (which just opened in Chicago) is the autobiographical tale of a 17-year-old unsigned girl band from New York. The alterna-rock show, directed by "Rent's" Michael Greif, is performed by original Betty members Alyson Palmer and Amy and Elizabeth Ziff. Now the soundtrack is out, which, like the show, follows Betty through dingy venues, lame boyfriends, drug addiction and...
  • The Not-So-Mean Street

    Unlike 50 cent or Eminem, the British rapper called The Streets would rather rhyme about lazing on his girl's sofa than drinking magnums of Cristal or killing his mum. He raps about the dull buzz of everyday life with candor, style and wit. On his new CD, "A Grand Don't Come for Free," he brings the listener on a journey through the life of a party-wrecked twentysomething who battles bad luck and a frail ego, among other woes. The kickoff track, "It Was Supposed to Be So Easy," follows The Streets as he ventures from his mum's flat to return a DVD (alas, the case is empty), to the ATM (insufficient funds), and back out to a busy corner where he tries to use his cell. "Oh s--t, the battery's flat."This unaffected, hands-in-pockets demeanor, coupled with his clumsy British cadence and homemade beats, make The Streets, a.k.a. Mike Skinner, a novelty among the action-packed lyrics and sonic pyrotechnics of mainstream hip-hop. His 2003 U.S. debut, "Original Pirate Music," attracted white...
  • Newsmakers

    Another Diva by Design ...
  • Get Back Home, Loretta

    There are at least half a dozen sequined gowns stuffed into the small closet on Loretta Lynn's big purple tour bus. "I like this one a whole lot," she says, running her hand down the shiny satin skirt of a beaded yellow number. The singer's gearing up for a tour to promote her new album, "Van Lear Rose." She reaches in to find another favorite, but accidentally pulls out a worn pink chenille robe instead. "Here she is, folks," she says, waving her hand over the tattered material. "The fabulous Loretta Lynn!"Lynn may be a country-music legend and an American icon, but she's still the scabby-kneed Appalachian girl who married at 14, played one of her first gigs on the lawn of a sanitarium and had six kids before scoring her first top 10 hit. The 5-foot-2 Grand Ole Opry star sang songs for overworked housewives, such as "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" and "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," and by 1971 became a household name with "Coal Miner's Daughter,"...
  • GET BACK HOME, LORETTA

    There are at least half a dozen sequined gowns stuffed into the small closet on Loretta Lynn's big purple tour bus. "I like this one a whole lot," she says, running her hand down the shiny satin skirt of a beaded yellow number. The singer's gearing up for a tour to promote her new album, "Van Lear Rose." She reaches in to find another favorite ("that nice blue one"), but accidentally pulls out a worn pink chenille robe instead. "Here she is, folks," she says, waving her hand over the tattered material. "The fabulous Loretta Lynn!"Lynn may be a country-music legend and an American icon, but she's still the scabby-kneed Appalachian girl who married at 14, played one of her first gigs on the lawn of a sanitarium and had six kids before scoring her first top 10 hit. The 5-foot-2 Grand Ole Opry star sang songs for overworked housewives such as "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" and "Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," and by 1971 became a household name with ...
  • PARTY LIKE IT'S 2004

    A technician is sound-checking the trademark purple guitar, and the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince is growing impatient. The 5-foot-2 singer adjusts the long poet sleeves of his white blouse, strokes his goatee, fidgets with his diamond-encrusted pendant and taps his platform heel on the concrete of this sports arena in Reno, Nev. Finally, he leans over to me and whispers, "I'll give you 20 bucks if you yell 'Freebird.' C'mon," he says with a nudge, "25 if you shout 'Skynyrd, dude!' "Prince may be joking about his biggest nightmare--playing rock anthems to lighter-brandishing fiftysomethings at county fairs--but he's taking no chances. On his first nationwide arena tour in almost a decade, he'll still be performing his own anthems, such as "Purple Rain" and "Little Red Corvette." But he's using the old Prince--who busted sexual taboos on such albums as "Dirty Mind" --to introduce the new Prince, a Jehovah's Witness whose new album, "Musicology," is an...