Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • NOBODY'S FOOL

    Avril Lavigne is ready to hit the mall. As her tour bus pulls into the parking lot of the Somerset Collection, a shopping center in Troy, Mich., the singer yanks up her sagging tube socks and slips on a pair of retro Vans sneakers. She drags a comb through her long hair, spot-checks her makeup and heads in. The 19-year-old Lavigne would love to drop into Rampage and try on baby T's or maybe pick up a pair of Converse Chucks at Foot Locker, but she's actually here to play songs off her forthcoming album, "Under My Skin," and it's hard to shop with hundreds of screaming fans in tow. There are girls everywhere. They're packed around the impromptu stage, waving homemade AVRIL WE LUV U banners from the tiers above, shooting cell-phone photos from the escalator. They sport looks from videos off Lavigne's multiplatinum debut, "Let Go"--the sideways baseball cap of "Sk8er Boi," the tank top and tie from "Complicated." An army of Avrils has invaded the upscale suburban mall, and nothing--not...
  • HIP HOP BIG TOP

    "Rolleeecoasta... of luv" sings the crowd, and the Poppin' Soul band cranks up the volume, sending vibrations through the bleachers. "Rolleecoasta, oh, oh, oh, oh." It's Tuesday night in Georgia, and 2,300 people have come to Savannah State University to see what has to be the coolest circus around. Ringmaster "Casual Cal" Dupree points to the curtain and announces, "Here come the girls!" Bunny, Minnie and Wimpy saunter into the arena wearing nothing but their red headdresses and red anklets. Someone in the bleachers screams, "Shake it, sisters!" The elderly couple in the front row look downright scared. Apparently they've never seen three elephants twisting their tremendous backsides to the Ohio Players.The UniverSoul Circus is the only black-owned-and-operated traveling circus in America, and the only place you can watch double-Dutch jump-roping under a 70-foot-high big top or a Chinese bungee-jumping troupe sailing through the air to the hip-hop grooves of OutKast. Though black...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT

    MusicAmerica's SweetheartCourtney LoveLove is far more present on this solo debut than she has been in court. She's back to her raw beginnings, screaming out pop-punk "melodies" over garagey, psychedelic guitar reverb. Her lyrics are smart, sarcastic, scathing and funny, especially when she sings about Julian Casablancas, the hipster heartthrob of the Strokes: "Remember when your phone went dead, well that was me on the other end." Be afraid, Julian, be very afraid.Virginia CreeperGrant-Lee PhillipsIf Grant-Lee Phillips were 19, pouty and far more pedestrian, he would surely beat out John Mayer as this generation's premier singer-songwriter. The former leader of L.A.'s Grant Lee Buffalo has been playing his pleasingly off-kilter tunes to an underground following for a decade, and he seems to only get better, and more eccentric, with each CD. Lee plays everything from violin to piano to banjo on this country-folk-accented album; pedal steel guitar and the sweet lilt of his tenor...
  • REVIEW: JONESING FOR HOME

    It's not easy being jazz's biggest crossover star in decades. Now Norah Jones must maintain the mystique that made her debut, "Come Away With Me," a welcome "TRL" antidote, and continue catering to the almost 8 million listeners who bought the disc. The 24-year-old singer-pianist, who got her start in tiny Manhattan joints, was clearly freaked out when she won eight Grammys and beat out "The Boss" for best album last year. "I never, ever thought the music I made would become popular music," she stammered, and added that it would be impossible to follow up her 2003 success. Even then Jones knew to cut herself some slack.On "Feels Like Home," Jones clearly tries to steer clear of the seamless melodies and soft-sanded edges that made her last album such a draw for casual listeners. Jesse Harris, who wrote most of "Come Away With Me," now simply plays on two songs. Instead, Jones and her boyfriend/bassist, Lee Alexander, wrote half of "Home," and relied on material from other bandmates...
  • ENTERTAINMENT SHORTS: TELEVISION

    The L Word, 10 p.m., Sundays, ShowtimeShowtime's latest oversexed drama is about lesbians--the jock, the rocker, the couple, the closet case--in every shape imaginable, as long as they're gorgeous and willing to take their tops off. A few years ago, this might have been daring, especially when the one straight woman gives in to her bi side within an hour. But now it feels like titillation masquerading as politics, a humorless effort to give the Sapphic sisters a place on the dial with "Queer Eye," "Queer as Folk" and TV's other beloved queer boys. Because beyond that, "The L Word" is just an all-girl "Melrose Place. " Not that there's anything wrong with that.--Marc PeyserBands Reunited, 10 p.m., Mondays, VH1When you think of the bands you'd have liked to see reunited, you think the Beatles, the Beach Boys, maybe Guns N' Roses. How about--Dramarama? No? Don't let that keep you from "Bands Reunited," a hilarious nostalgia trip of a show that brings together has-been bands and gets...
  • Alchemizing Pop

    Everyone is someone at Beverly Hills's Four Seasons Hotel. But here comes this tall, thin, gawky guy who looks like a computer techie, and none of these Hollywood types are giving him a second look. Pharrell Williams walks with the self-conscious slouch of a high-school geek braving a quad of sneering cool kids. In fact, he's a producer with the golden touch, and hip-hop's newest celebrity entrepreneur, complete with record label and clothing line. His two-man production team The Neptunes--whose other half is Williams's hometown buddy Chad Hugo tied Jay-Z and Beyonce for the most 2004 Grammy nominations (they all got six). Talk about the revenge of the nerds.The Neptunes were the brains behind Britney Spears's "I'm a Slave 4 U," Nelly's "Hot in Herre," "Frontin" with Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You." They're alchemists who specialize in reinventing pop stars. Take Britney. "I didn't want people to feel like a pedophile for looking at her," says Williams, 30. "There...
  • Q&Amp;A: Jack White

    The White Stripes are the little indie duo that could. They're up for an album-of-the-year Grammy, and leader Jack White is emerging as the new weirdo to watch. He spoke with Lorraine Ali.Were you nervous about working with Loretta Lynn?I would've been, but we became instant friends. But the fact that I was allowed to produce and arrange the record--I can't believe I got away with it.Did you take her sound back to its mountain roots?Yes, ma'am [Southern drawl].It's amazing T-Bone Burnett pulled you in to do "Cold Mountain's" music.I know. If someone casually listened to the White Stripes, they might say we're just punk or rock. It's flattering he heard our love for American folk music.Was it terrifying to work with big-name actors?There's a scene where I run down a mountain to tell Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger something. I was on a hill in Transylvania, waiting for them to call "action," thinking, this is very strange, this thing I'm doing.Now you and Renee are tabloid fodder...
  • The Marketing Of Missy

    Ask any kid who watches BET, MTV or just TV, and you'll hear that Missy Elliott is at the top of her game. Over the past 10 years, the producer turned rapper has established herself as queen of the freshest beats around and commanded artistic respect in a world of T&A video. She's the hip-hop Madonna--except Elliott, 32, writes and produces all her own hits (in addition to singles for Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce), and she's built her credibility on floor-shaking beats, not taboo-busting controversy.But ask Elektra Records or Elliott's management, and they'll tell you Missy isn't quite there--yet. True, her new album "This Is Not a Test!" is another winner, with her bizarre but catchy staccato rhythms, her cockeyed wordplay and guest spots by Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and Nelly. Good music, though, isn't good enough anymore. Elliott's handlers hope to turn their lucrative artist (nearly 7 million albums sold) into a celebrity brand name, like Madonna, P. Diddy-...
  • Does The Kid Know How To Rock?

    The album in question: Kid Rock's latest CD is a self-titled ode to Southern rock. The 32-year-old, who popularized white-trash rap with his 1998 major-label debut, "Devil Without a Cause," leaves hip-hop behind and now sings about life on the road, whisky bars and ladies who've done him wrong. The songs are still played by his Twisted Brown Trucker Band and range from hillbilly stomps to hard-lovin'-man ballads. The CD, out this month, includes a guest appearance by Hank Williams Jr. and a cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love."LORRAINE ALI: Did your manager explain what we're doing?KID ROCK: An interview?Not exactly. I review the album, and you listen. Then you tell me if I'm right, wrong or totally clueless.Oh, I had no idea. I just got this sheet here that says, "Call NEWSWEEK between 10 and 12, Lorraine Ali." But I'm sure whenever this story comes out, my dad will bring it right over. He'll say, "That's big time, Bob, when you're in NEWSWEEK!"OK, well, here's your...
  • Fast Chat: All You'd Ever Want

    Tom Jones has a new CD, "Reloaded," an upcoming cameo on the Cartoon Network--and was featured in Scorsese's blues series. He talked to NEWSWEEK's Lorraine Ali about his newest moment in the spotlight."Reloaded" is a mix of greatest hits and new songs?I've done duets with young bands that were hits in Europe. The songs represent different eras, but the most important is "It's Not Unusual." That started it all in 1965. Without that hit, I'd still be looking for one.Why were you included in the blues series?My foundation, my style, is really the blues. But once I did "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New, Pussycat?" people knew me as a pop singer.Do you like today's pop?I can't say I'm a fan. They're all about keeping their dance moves up to snuff. Though some people might say Tom Jones is a Vegas act, I'm less Vegas than a lot of new acts. I just have my band. No dancing girls.Except for those in the audience, and they're often screaming.Yes, I must say it happens.You recently teamed up...
  • Gotta Jet

    At a recent New York music conference, where hundreds of bands played dozens of clubs, one of those standard-issue angry, tattooed singers screamed, then threw down his mike to signal the set was over. The audience knew it was their cue to clap and wait for the next rap-metal band to assault their senses. Instead, a cute, scraggly young Australian foursome called Jet took the stage, looking more like Bad Company than Limp Bizkit, and launched into a tune tailor-made for transistor radio, circa 1971. Starry-eyed girls headed for the front, and the cool kids planted themselves in the back, arms folded, toes secretly tapping.You may have heard Jet's single "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" in the new iPod commercial and figured it was by some brilliant '60s band that never got its due. Unabashedly derivative, Jet's debut CD, "Get Born," not only borrows from the Stones, Beatles, Kinks, T-Rex and AC/DC, but lifts licks from their equally sticky-fingered predecessors Oasis. They funnel the...
  • Snap Judgement: Music

    Try ThisPinkThe sneering bad girl of MTV and "Moulin Rouge" fame changes her musical style as often as her hair color (it's blond now, or is it black?). With a multi-platinum R&B and pop album under her low-slung belt, Pink stage-dives into punk with a little help from Rancid's Tim Armstrong. Thanks to boot-stomping tempos, hissing guitar and rough-and-tumble melodies, the music finally matches Pink's acerbic lyrics and overall bad attitude. The weakest moment here comes in the form of a gauzy, Zeppelinesque ballad. In Pink's case, it pays to be mean.So Much for the CityThe ThrillsThe first song is called "Santa Cruz," the second is "Big Sur," the third's about a lazy day on the beach and the fourth name-checks San Diego. So naturally, the five members of this blissfully retro, California-obsessed band are all from ... Dublin. It's unclear from their transporting debut CD if the Thrills have heard anything recorded since 1968. But listening to this sun-soaked love letter to the...
  • Bringing Up Britney

    Britney Spears rips open a bag of extra-cheesy Doritos, dips one into a bowl of tuna salad, crunches loudly then wipes off the excess orange dust on the thighs of her hip-hugging jeans. "Sorry, I'm just stuffin' my face here," she says in a perky Louisiana accent, then jams another chip into her mouth. It's one of the few breaks the performer gets today between rehearsing numbers for "Saturday Night Live," posing for a magazine photo shoot and taping an upcoming Britney special for ABC. She takes a swig off her Pepsi (not Diet), then looks at her cracked, unpainted, stubby toenails. "I do need a pedicure, don't I," she says. But who cares--when the scantily clad, hip-gyrating, crotch-grabbing Spears hits the stage, no one in America but Britney's choreographer will be concentrating on her feet.Sex appeal is to Britney Spears what special effects are to "The Matrix." Just last week Madame Tussaud's unveiled a wax figure of the star--it doesn't sing, but it straddles a pole and has...
  • The Artists: It's The Music, Stupid

    The music industry can sue every middle-schooler from Poughkeepsie to Palo Alto, but record labels will not cure their woes if they continue to churn out cut-rate albums at top-rate prices. For the past five years, they've been pedaling anti-art: boy bands, Britney and "The Thong Song." Judging by sales numbers, kids finally figured that a lot of artists were only as good as their Svengalis, or that an entire album by 98 Degrees was really just a single with filler. "Who expects a 12-year-old girl to buy a $20 record with her baby-sitting money for one good song?" says singer-songwriter Michelle Branch, 20, whose 2001 single "Everywhere" is still one of the top swaps. As a teen, she lifted some of her favorite singles off the Internet. "Why not download the one song you like?"Few top-grossing musicians want to criticize file sharing since Lars Ulrich of Metallica was verbally attacked by fans and peers for condemning piracy at a Senate hearing in 2000. In fact, many labels didn't...
  • Another Party Gets Started With Pink

    Pink examines her face in the rearview mirror and tries to wipe off a layer or two of the makeup from a recent photo shoot. "God, I look like a drag queen," she says in a sandpaper voice that makes her sound like a waffle-house waitress pulling night shift. "So maybe the rumors are true." The plush carpet of her top-of-the-line Range Rover--which she insists on calling her "truck"--is littered with empty Newport packs, the dashboard dusted with ash, the back crammed with boxes of unidentifiable junk. She's sitting here in the driveway of her house in suburban Los Angeles with the engine and air conditioner running, because she's finally agreed to share some of her upcoming album, and the stereo inside the house is "too crap to play anything on." She bangs on the steering wheel in time to "Trouble," the closest she's ever come to exposing her punk-rock roots, then begins swaying to a surprisingly gauzy ballad called "Waiting for Love." "This is my first love song," she says. "I've...
  • An Angel On His Shoulder

    Ibrahim Ferrer didn't become famous until he was in his 70s--even though he made his debut much earlier. "My mother was pregnant with me at a dance," he says, speaking in his old-school Cuban Spanish, "and when the music began, she started having contractions. I think I was even singing inside the belly of my mother." Ferrer, now 76, often speaks of an angel on his shoulder; when you hear his story, it's hard not to believe somebody has been watching out for him.In the 1940s and '50s, Ferrer sang on dozens of Cuban big-band records, but was never credited by name; eventually he ended up shining shoes on the streets of Havana. Then, when he was 70, the Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos and the American guitarist and producer Ry Cooder tracked him down and recorded him with an all-star collective of forgotten Cuban musicians; the 1997 "Buena Vista Social Club" album gave Ferrer his first platinum record--and his first credit. Wim Wenders's "Buena Vista" documentary film made Ferrer's...
  • Muumuu No More

    There are plenty of things to fear when pregnant: excessive weight gain, natural childbirth and--worst of all--frumpy maternity clothes. Tentlike floral blouses, creased stirrup pants and Keds really are terrifying. But by mixing the hippest new maternity wear with select non-preggie pieces, it's possible to preserve your sense of style. For the first two trimesters, try super-low-rise jeans by Seven or Lucky Brand, but buy them a size bigger, so they ride well below your bump. When civilian jeans become too tight (and they will), japaneseweekend.com offers an extensive line of maternity pants--from flares to summer Capris--with discreet stretch waistlines that almost look normal. Or try Gap's maternity denim skirt. Pair them with Diesel's spring line of roomy, low-cut blouses or clingy, long tank tops. Or toss on a men's baggy hoodie from Brooklyn's hip-hop clothiers Triple 5 Soul. If you're willing to bare some belly, go with its tighter, cropped sweat jackets Triple5soul.com)....
  • Gooooooal!

    Jess is having one of those dreams that make her kick the covers off the bed. She's embroiled in a crucial soccer match, her teammate, U.K. football hero David Beckham, at her side. The stadium goes wild as she maneuvers past packs of grunting players. Then whack! She kicks the ball past a flummoxed goalie, and the 5-foot-3 Indian girl from suburban London scores the winning goal for Manchester United.Indians--let alone Indian girls--don't play on English soccer teams. It's a scenario found only in dreams, and in Britain's unlikely, irresistible indie hit "Bend It Like Beckham." The movie, which was directed by Gurinder Chadha, is the story of 18-year-old Jess (Parminder Nagra), a tomboy who wants to play soccer but is forbidden by her Sikh parents. Jess dodges finger-wagging, sari-clad mums and leering British boys. She befriends a blond London girl named Jules (Keira Knightley), who's bent on bolting to America because her homeland doesn't have a pro team for women. She acts a...
  • The Second Coming

    It didn't take a burgeoning local scene, or even a foreign invasion of pouty-lipped bands, to ignite 2001's garage-rock revolution. The raunch- and-reverb revival was largely spearheaded by an enigmatic duo from Detroit called the White Stripes and their breakthrough album "White Blood Cells." It also didn't seem to matter that the band's arty blues rock was overrated; a proliferation of fizzy pop and ham-fisted rap metal made the White Stripes sound like music's newest messiahs. They stood out, and that's all that mattered. Ooh, and they were "enigmatic"--a pasty, poker-faced duo who dressed only in red, white and black, did not appear in their debut video (they used LEGOs and animation instead) and left people guessing about whether they were husband and wife or brother and sister.Jack and Meg White dress like ghoulish parodies of Tammy Wynette and George Jones on the cover of their follow-up album, "Elephant." The CD was made in two weeks, recorded entirely with equipment that...
  • 'Love Makes Me Go Haywire'

    Lisa Marie Presley has been a de facto celebrity since she was born to Elvis and Priscilla 35 years ago. But the L.A.-based mom--she had a son and daughter with her first husband, musician Danny Keough--has avoided the spotlight, marriages to Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage notwithstanding. Now the reluctant pop heiress is set to release a debut CD of bluesy rock, "To Whom It May Concern." The album is hard-hitting in spots, middle-of-the-road in others, but her lyrics are honest and revealing, and Presley has an appealingly deep, smoky voice. In one of her first solo interviews ever, she talked candidly about life with Michael and living in the shadow of the true king of pop--her father.Your parents divorced when you were 4, and your father died when you were only 9.I feel like I've lived four lives in one. I dealt with death early on. It wasn't just my father, it was my grandma, my grandpa, my great-grandfather, my aunts--all in a two-year period. I didn't have much of a runway...
  • 'We Love This Country'

    When the doorbell rang around 6 p.m. last Monday at Basam Al- hussaini's home in San Dimas, Calif., the 39-year-old Iraqi-born engineer and his wife had been half-expecting the visit. "We'd heard from other Iraqis who were interrogated, so we knew they'd be here sooner or later," says Alhussaini, a U.S. citizen whose wife emigrated from Iraq in 1996. "They flashed their badges and said they weren't there to interrogate. They said, 'We just want to get to know you and make sure you are OK in case of hate crimes.' They later asked questions like 'Do you know anyone who has weapons of mass destruction?' I said, 'Yes, Saddam Hussein'."The Alhussainis are just two of the 15,000 Iraqis in America whom the FBI plans to interview as part of the Homeland Security Department's two-week-old Operation Liberty Shield. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, 6,700 Iraqis--most of them recent immigrants who fled after the first gulf war--have already been interviewed. "We hope to get...
  • Music: Caught Between Rock And A Hard Place

    Rock and country have traditionally been as divided as doves and hawks in times of war. During the Vietnam era, the Who sang "Won't Get Fooled Again" while Merle Haggard celebrated his redneck American roots in "Okie From Muskogee." Not much has changed: platinum-selling rockers System of a Down's video "Boom" is a montage of antiwar protests, while country crooner Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" calls for the support of U.S. troops in the Middle East. But what if you're a band that exists between the two worlds?The Dixie Chicks are a little bit VH-1 and CMT, but their country contingency is less than happy with the trio these days. Why? Because Chick Natalie Maines told a London audience on March 10, "We're embarrassed the president of the United States is from Texas." Country stations from Dallas to San Diego stopped playing their new album, "Home," fans called the band unpatriotic and a Louisiana station used a tractor to destroy a pile of Dixie discs (Operation Ignoramus?)...
  • 'She's Just Not Vegas'

    Frank. Sammy. Dino. Celine. Celine? Though Celine Dion's Las Vegas show, "A New Day... ," won't open until March 25, it's already touted as the biggest spectacle since the Rat Pack. Consider the Canadian crooner's custom-built, $95 million Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace, or her three-year, five-night-a-week contract that pays about $80,000 a show. And then there's the billboard: it even eclipses the one for Siegfried and Roy. "This lady is like an extraterrestrial," one big-name Vegas headliner told NEWSWEEK, "landing her spaceship here for a few years, sucking up all the oxygen and then flying away. You'll never see her showing up at other people's openers and that sort of thing. She's just not Vegas."While the tight-knit group of current hotel headliners work hard just to keep their names above the $9.99 surf-and-turf specials on the marquee, Dion is waltzing in as the top-selling female pop star in recording history. What's in it for her, besides the money? No grueling tours...
  • Strange Days In Indio

    We were surrounded by men in fezzes and women in harem garb, yet it was pretty safe to say that my dad--a Baghdad native--was the only real Arab at the 1973 Indio National Date Festival. The other men at this annual county fair were not swarthy sheiks but sunburned local date farmers celebrating the February harvest in this desert community just 130 miles outside Los Angeles. Ever since date trees were imported from Algeria around 1900, the sweet fruit had become a main source of revenue, and the locals developed a love affair with all that was Arab. They lived in cities called Mecca and Oasis, drove down streets named Arabia and attended schools with mascots such as the Coachella High Arabs. Indio was one of those places where American tradition happily intersected with the lore of the Middle East. At the fair, we'd whoop and holler at the camel races and marveled at the pyramid of dates in the Taj Mahal building--India? Arabia? who cared?--and ate corn dogs next to freckled kids...
  • 'G' Hits The Funny Spot

    It's unlikely that former attorney general Richard Thornburgh knew what he was getting into when he agreed to be interviewed about American law by a self-proclaimed British hip-hop journalist named Ali G. "Yo diggity," G begins. He's wearing a bright yellow FUBU tracksuit, a Tommy Hilfiger skullcap and enough bling--gold teeth, rings and chains--to finance a small nation. "I's here wit my main man Gov. Dick Thornburgh, former attorney general. Him is here to explain about the law. So, when is it legal to murder someone?" "Never," the stunned Thornburgh answers. "What if they call your mum a ho? Is it all right to murder them then?" Ali G persists. "You can't use as a defense any kind of verbal provocation," Thornburgh explains patiently. "What if they say your mum is a ho and I know 'cause I done it with her?" Ali G retorts. "Surely then you can pop a cap in their ass." Thornburgh pauses. "It's a terrible thing to say," he allows. "But you can't take another's life for slander." ...
  • Can Norah Beat Bruce?

    There are always going to be those who feel Bruce Springsteen can do no wrong. He is the Boss, the voice of the working man, the hero of middle-aged rockers who wish they too could get away with wearing tight jeans and belting out tunes about being born to run, even though by now, they perhaps have a bad knee or two. And when it comes to the Bruce's popularity with Grammy voters--basically music industry professionals who are older than Bruce--the ethos is no different. There are already predictions o' plenty that he'll sweep at this year's awards ceremony Sunday in New York, even though "The Rising" is by no means his best album to date.But frankly, I don't think I can stand another predictable sweep by a familiar old shoo-in. It's not that I disrespect Bruce, it's just that if he wins for best album and song, I'll despise the Grammys even more than I do now. It will conjure up the days when Steely Dan won for best album, and no, it wasn't 1974, it was 2000. It will remind me that...
  • The Svengali And The Starlet

    An eccentric, rich has-been tycoon. A buxom, blond B-movie actress. A call to the cops by the chauffeur. A shooting death in a hilltop mansion. It's a 1940s L.A. noir movie--about all it needs is the shadow of Venetian blinds--but it happened last week. The legendary producer Phil Spector and the struggling ex-starlet Lana Clarkson crossed paths at the House of Blues, on Sunset Strip, in the early hours of last Monday morning; shortly after 5 a.m. police found the six-foot-tall actress lying in a pool of blood in the foyer of Spector's 33-room mansion, the Pyrenees Castle. She'd reportedly been shot in the head. And they found Spector standing there. According to police, he struggled, was restrained and led away, disheveled and sweaty, in handcuffs; he was booked on suspicion of murder, and released on a $1 mil-lion bond. After a search of the mansion, Capt. Frank Merriman, head of the L.A. County sheriff's homicide unit, told NEWSWEEK, "We recovered a gun that we believe was the...
  • Hit Or Miss

    Ten-year-old Hallie Wilson used to be a Britney fan, but that was eons ago, when she was a kid of 8. Now, instead of dancing around her house in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Spears's syncopated beats, the fifth grader listens to pop punkster Avril Lavigne and makes fun of Britney. Recently, Hallie made a Frankenstein-like collage of her former idol from magazine clippings, pasting various girlie body parts together--legs in high heels, a torso in a push-up bra--and gave the singer an almond for a head. "Brittney Spears is such a nut head," she wrote next to her artwork. "Well, she is," explains Hallie. "She's so fake, like Barbie, and sings really stupid things like 'I'll be your slave.' Not even the fourth graders like her now."Hallie and her friends aren't the only ones discarding Britney like last year's Razor scooter. Pepsi recently dropped Spears as its spokesgal. The platinum-selling star's last album failed to move even a third as much as her debut CD. Her peers, who were also created...
  • Anarchy On Mtv? Tough Gals, Rejoice.

    Avril Lavigne is a good 15 minutes late, which is very unlike her, says her manager. Finally, thundering footsteps, hysterical screams and uncontrollable giggles echo in the corridor, the door of her hotel room swings open and the breathless 18-year-old singer barrels in. "I just got chased down the hall," she gasps, flinging down the camouflage lunchbox she uses for a purse. "Before, when they'd say, 'Oh my God, it's Avril Lavigne,' I'd be like, 'How do they know me?' Now it's just like, 'Don't think--run'."Lavigne's life has changed drastically in the three years since she was a Faith Hill sound-alike singing Christmas songs at the local mall in Napanee, Ont. Now the scrappy 5-foot-1 skater chick plays pop punk, sells 100,000 albums a week, has beaten out Pink as MTV's premier tomboy and is a good bet for best new artist at next year's Grammys. Her throaty voice and anti-Aguilera sound--somewhere between Alanis Morissette and Green Day--helped move 4.9 million copies of her summer...
  • Welcome To The Occupation

    In Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman's "Divine Intervention," a sexy Arab girl saunters through a military checkpoint like a supermodel down a catwalk, a sweating Santa is chased by knife-wielding kids and an apricot pit tossed carelessly out a car window blows an Israeli tank to smithereens. These bizarre, disturbing comic fantasies pepper the otherwise quietly oppressive life of E.S. (played by Suleiman himself), a Euro-suave Palestinian who lives an excruciating checkpoint away from his love in Ramallah, and way too close to his ailing father in Nazareth. This is one of the few feature films--let alone black comedies--to arise out of Arab Israel, and it goes where nightly news clips can't. It maneuvers through occupation and war (i.e., everyday life) with a cinematographer's eye, a satirist's wit and a secular Palestinian's skepticism, blurring the lines dividing pointed political drama, art-house abstraction and over-the-top sketch comedy."Divine Intervention's" impact extends...