Lorraine Ali

Stories by Lorraine Ali

  • A Passage For India

    When you ask the neo-soulstress India.Arie how she feels about her recent seven Grammy nominations, she just breaks up laughing. "It's beyond cool that I even produced a blip on their radar," says the 26-year-old, who a mere year ago was still playing clubs in her hometown of Savannah, Ga. Arie is among a small pack of underdogs, including the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and eccentric rappers OutKast, who were surprise contenders for the Grammy's prestigious album-of-the-year award. The newcomer's chances may be slim--she's also up against Bob Dylan and U2--but Arie is still floored by her good fortune. ...
  • Newsmakers

    The Kindest CutJustin vs. Jar JarSlow Hand's Fast Oneand
  • A Record Year

    What will make you watch the Grammys this year? After all, it wasn't a particularly crazy or revolutionary 12 months of music. ...
  • Music: Ten Cds You Need To Own

    No Doubt"Rock Steady" (Interscope)Before you shy away in fear of another goofy ska album, consider that most of this CD is driven by much cooler and palatable dancehall beats, hip-hop rhythms and linear, simple '80s pop. The change of pace, coupled with some of the best production around (they teamed up with everyone from Prince to the Neptunes), makes "Rock Steady" the band's best album to date. The songs are strong and focused yet the band still manages to have fun. My prediction--it will remain one of the freshest albums of 2002.Lina"Stranger on Earth" (Atlantic)It's unfortunate that this up-and-coming singer's debut dropped around September 11. Lina would never have eclipsed the superstar likes of Christina or Beyonce, and that's fine with her. She exists in an entirely different league--as a welcome alternative to the paint-by-numbers R&B crooners. She alternates seamlessly between Billie Holiday-style jazz, operatic arias and edgy street slang while the music keeps in step...
  • Far Beyond A Shadow Of No Doubt

    When No Doubt's bouncy ska hit "Just a Girl" popped up like a big yellow daisy on the otherwise gloomy grunge landscape of 1995, it seemed the band would be as short-lived as a mall fad. The Anaheim, Calif., quartet--who grew up in the shadow of Disneyland and named its breakthrough album "Tragic Kingdom"--was goofy, colorful and cartoonish. In short, No Doubt was a quintessential one-hit wonder. But two multiplatinum records later, the frenetic suburban band has outlived its most respected chart-topping peers and sold more than 18 million albums. Now it's on the verge of releasing its best record yet, "Rock Steady.""I didn't even think we'd make it this far," admits Stefani, who is sitting in the living room of her Hollywood Hills home with bassist and former boyfriend Tony Kanal. Her other bandmates, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young, are driving back to their homes in Orange County after a daylong photo session. "We surprised everyone, including ourselves."Thanks to...
  • Hello Again

    Sometime during the past 10 years, Neil Diamond went from being the leather-clad heartthrob your mother loved to a crooning favorite of the post-Nirvana generation.Consider the massively successful reinterpretations of his songs in films such as "Pulp Fiction" (Urge Overkill's "Girl You'll be a Woman Soon") and "Shrek" (Smash Mouth's "I'm a Believer"). Decades after career highs like "Sweet Caroline" and the 1980 movie "The Jazz Singer," twentysomethings still make up half his concert audience (he just completed the longest tour of his life). Earlier this year, his album "Three Chord Opera" made Billboard's top 15. And most telling of all, he's been widely parodied by comic Will Ferrell, who's impersonated the brooding singer-songwriter not just on "Saturday Night Live" but also in a recent Gap ad.Diamond's lasting impact is no accident. The 60-year-old began carving out his niche as a sensitive yet gravelly voiced entertainer in the mid-1960s, and his unique sound has kept him...
  • The Fella From Astoria

    Tony Bennett is one of the few singers around who still show up for work in a suit and tie. Always the cool professional, he dropped into a recent recording session for his new album "Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues" spot on time, popped a catered strawberry into his mouth and formally addressed his band: "Hey, guys, what's up?" Pulling a stool in front of the mike, Bennett began snapping his fingers and announced, "Let's roll." And with that the 75-year-old cut a swinging track with guitarist B. B. King in less than 20 minutes.After 50 years in the business, Bennett doesn't need to try, but lucky for us, he still does. Rather than live off his catalog of 90-plus albums, he returned to the scene in 1986 with "The Art of Excellence," and later charmed a whole new generation of fans with his 1994 Grammy-winning album of the year, "MTV Unplugged." Now he's back with a smooth and entertaining CD of spruced-up blues standards that finds him harmonizing with some unlikely...
  • Princess Of Soul

    Angie Stone has always been slightly ahead of the curve. In the 1980s, when many Americans were still grooving to the Gap band, the singer formed an all-girl hip-hop trio. By the time Lil' Kim was busting her first rhymes, Stone was mixing vintage soul with rap. She paved the way for chart-topping neo-soul artists such as Alicia Keyes with her highly regarded 1999 debut "Black Diamond," and even discovered R&B hunk D'Angelo was hot before the rest of us did--he's the father of her 4-year-old son.Now Stone's new album "Mahogany Soul" has critics calling the thirtysomething (she won't be more specific) singer the "princess of soul," and the only candidate worthy of Aretha's throne. "A lot of people follow trends, and will do whatever it takes to become a star: 'OK, I'll give you any-thing you want, even if it means faking the funk'," says the New York-based Stone. "A lot of those artists are miserable. They may be large, but they're spiritually broke."Not that the gospel-trained...
  • Off The Wall

    When Michael Jackson's luster began to fade in the early '90s, he buffed his image by becoming the self-proclaimed King of Pop. Now, as the 43-year-old makes his comeback following a decadelong absence, Jackson's decided that he--and his new album--are "Invincible." Given all the baggage in tow, it's not going to be a moonwalk. When he sings songs on the record about "The touch of your body next to mine" and "making love all through the night," or brags to comedian Chris Tucker about his ability to snag a "bangin' girl" on the new single "Rock My World," it's not only unbelievable, it's downright creepy. The artist and his freak-show life have collided, and it's now impossible to separate them. Sexy and fun songs just aren't as fun and sexy when there are germ-repelling face masks, disfiguring surgeries and, worst of all, child-molestation allegations in the mix.Still, Jackson the Entertainer soldiers on. "Invincible" reportedly took six years and $30 million dollars to make, is...
  • Something To Sing About

    "The Long Road to Freedom: A Black Anthology of Music," comes with a long history of its own. The new five-CD box set lovingly put together by Harry Belafonte features 20th-century musicians resurrecting African-American music from the late 17th century all the way up to the advent of recording. But it was cut over 30 years ago and sat forgotten in RCA's vaults due to the vagaries of record-industry bureaucracy."I must admit I thought it would come to fruition much sooner," says Belafonte. "But like so many other things in this country that I thought would have happened by now, it never seemed to come into being."Yet the civil-rights activist, actor and "King of Calypso" says he never lost hope the recordings would be released. A few years ago, RCA's archival sub-label Buddha Records rediscovered them. Executives there were floored by the sounds of late singer Bessie Jones and a tribe from Ghana (RCA had flown them in for the session) performing the songs of early African slaves,...
  • Muslim Warriors--For America

    Suheira hadn't cried in public until that moment. The New York-based writer had steeled herself when she got the news that acquaintances had been killed in the World Trade Center attacks. She had remained strong for her immigrant parents, who, after 10 years on Staten Island, were being shunned by neighbors because of their Arab ethnicity. But as she walked by a newsstand and saw a front-page photo of an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean, her emotions rushed to the surface. Her brother Ahmed, 24, joined the Navy four years ago. The family had been worried about a possible war somewhere in the Arab world; now it had come. A kind passerby offered her a hug, and she broke down. "My brother's in the Navy. And we're Palestinians. Muslims," Suheira said, sobbing. The stranger's response was sympathetic but blunt: "Oh, honey, you got double trouble." Little comfort there.Ahmed's family is concerned that he may be "racially" profiled within the military, just as other Arab...
  • A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery Inside A Song

    Songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips has always been a strange bird. In 1994 the honey-voiced singer, then fronting the band Grant Lee Buffalo, appeared in a video dressed as a canary swinging on a perch. On one of the group's albums, the Los Angeles-based artist sang with starry-eyed sincerity about a love affair between incarcerated characters named Jupiter and Teardrop, and used his most sensitive falsetto to compliment a lover with the words "you're so fuzzy." Now on the cover of his highly awaited solo album, "Mobilize," the cherubic-looking singer wears a doe-eyed expression, yet dons a Napoleonic hat and jacket. "I've always had the feeling of being an enigma," says Phillips, 37. "But I say to myself, 'Hell, there must be a tiny corner of the universe for what I do.' I always entertain the idea that there's enough fringe for me to occupy."Phillips has done more than simply dangle from the fringe. The film-school dropout is now a cult-music hero of sorts, packing clubs from L.A. to...
  • The Road Rave

    Here's a quick quiz to see if you're ready for a rave vacation. Does dancing in the blazing Mediterranean sun at high noon in a cotton-candy-pink wig, vinyl chaps and melting body paint sound appealing? Is a sleepless week filled with pounding house music and disco "foam rooms" your idea of a getaway? Do you like the idea of spending an intimate evening under swaying palms with a crowd of 5,000, sweating to the sounds spun by DJs Sasha and Digweed? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be ready to join the estimated 1.5 million visitors who will flock to the Spanish island of Ibiza this year between June and September to hit all-night dance clubs and get roasted at booming beach parties to sets by such superstar DJs as Fatboy Slim, Paul Oakenfold and Moby. Or you could catch up with the 50,000 who will attend the Full Moon dance parties in Thailand this winter, or visit London's infamous Gatecrashers party on New Year's Eve. Then there are the year-round trance clubs in...
  • We Still Want Our Mtv

    A cacophony of teenage "wooohhhs!" fills the studio as MTV's most popular show, "Total Request Live" ("TRL"), begins rolling. Show host Carson Daly jumps to the task of entertaining like a boxer responds to the bell, while a producer eyes the studio audience for the next kid who will enthuse about his or her favorite track du jour. As each video plays back on the show, boxes called "mortises" periodically appear at the bottom of the screen and, inside, a screaming fan tells America why she loves the artist currently airing. It goes something like this: my name is Kendra, and I requested 'I Wanna Be Bad' by Willa Ford 'cause she's totally hot. Woooohh!!! During the next commercial break, the producer auditions a petite girl who looks younger than the show's required on-air age of 18. She starts off strong, but muffs the climactic howl. "OK, thanks," the producer says coolly, and moves on. After all, it's MTV's 20th anniversary year, and only the loudest wooohh will do.On Aug. 1, MTV...
  • The Glorious Rise Of Christian Pop

    With Big Best Sellers, New Movies And Religious Rock, The $3 Billion Christian Entertainment Industry Is Exploding. On Tour With Young Believers
  • Movie Soundtracks, Sizzling Sales

    It's the song of the summer. But it hardly comes from the biggest movie of the year."Lady Marmalade," a hit currently inescapable on pop radio, is only the first single off the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack. It features Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot, Pink, Lil' Kim and Mya-some of the biggest names on today's charts-and has already helped drive sales of the soundtrack to nearly the 1 million mark. At the same time, box office for the PG-13-rated movie hasn't been nearly as sizzling; after five weeks in theaters, it's only made $43 million. It's a good bet that a large portion of "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack buyers haven't even seen the film.The popularity of movie music has peaked this year, with the sales and abundance of quality soundtracks at its strongest point ever. The "Moulin Rouge" CD is just the latest example of a movie-compilation album that eventually outsells more traditional pop records. Earlier this year, soundtracks for "Save the Last Dance" and the raunchy "Coyote Ugly"...
  • Little Boy Blue

    If you love listening to the sensitive singer-songwriter who taps your deepest feelings in so many heart-wrenching lines, Rufus Wainwright is not your man. The pouty-lipped son of folk royalty Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle is far too self-absorbed to care about reaching the inner you. Instead, he's the witty scenester spotted bantering with celebrities at the most fabulous parties. The foppish, tortured artist who looks like a Kenneth Cole model. Frankly, the dashing 27-year-old is not interested in speaking to you because he's busy looking over your shoulder for something, or someone, far grander.That's why his second album, "Poses," finds Wainwright in his element. Appropriating the spirit of a Broadway musical, he spins the tale of a creature very much like himself: a handsome gay man who comes to New York to be recognized as the star he knows he is. But the character soon becomes lost in his own desire and ego, his lofty aspirations melting into a swill of alcohol...
  • Lucinda Straight Up

    It bothers me that people think I'm so difficult," says Lucinda Williams, the singer-songwriter revered for her Marlboro-stained voice, vivid storytelling and stubborn unwillingness to just take things as they come. She refuses to fit in, instead carving out a niche somewhere between the converging worlds of rock, country and folk. She also refuses to settle for anything that seems less than perfect, releasing only five records in 22 years, going through band members and record labels like disposable razors and walking out of various photo and video shoots simply because "it didn't feel right."But anything less tumultuous would be disappointing. The 48-year-old's embattled persona and tough, weary demeanor is behind some of the most heart-wrenching, raw and beautiful songs in recent memory. Her last album, 1998's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," gave hope to those numbed by Nashville's modern, slick offerings and tired of rock's current creative sag. It was a breakthrough for a woman...
  • Music: It's In The 'Air': French Pop Never Sounde

    For the last half of the 20th century, one of the worst insults you could hurl at a rock or pop band was to say they had that "French" sound. The otherwise cultured nation was as synonymous with bad music as England once was with taste-free cuisine. The French cornered the market on embarrassing Eurotunes--from cut-rate disco to painfully self-conscious new wave to shockingly bad house music. But the past few years have brought about a French revolution of sorts. Ruling American and British DJs such as Moby and Fatboy Slim may now have to watch for the Parisian invasion. The city is the newest creative hotbed for electronic music, and home to such critically acclaimed artists as MTV's newest electronic darlings Daft Punk, Madonna's "Music" producer Mirwais and society DJ Stephane Pompougnac. And in a surprising turnabout, their hybrid of kitschy French pop and cutting-edge techno is now influencing the styles and studio techniques of British and American artists.At the forefront of...
  • A Date With Destiny

    Destiny's Child have just begun their daily four-hour makeover, an event that's become as commonplace as breakfast for this R&B supergroup. Primped and polished, Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland will scarcely resemble the young women who, earlier in the day, might have tried to upstage one another in burping contests. The Houston trio are marvels of self-transformation, looking as fabulous in animal-fur bikinis and Grammy gowns as they do in army fatigues. They are players in a seeming fairy tale: the story of a band that rose up from legions of faceless girl groups and "Star Search" contestants to amass a following of millions. ...
  • An Arab In America

    Sometimes I feel like part of a new experiment. I am an Arab-American, one of an estimated 2 million who are slowly becoming a recognized political and social force in the United States. Unlike many, I am not a new immigrant but rather the American-born daughter of an Iraqi father and American mother. In less cocky moments, I jokingly refer to myself as a fake Arab, one who knows little about my Middle Eastern heritage, or a half-American who's still oblivious to some basic U.S. customs. ...
  • Arts Extra: French Revolution

    Paris-city of high fashion, fine food and some of the worst pop music ever made. While America gave birth to rock and rap, and England offered up early punk, France contributed cheesy Europop and seemed to call it a day. But thanks to the electronica duo Daft Punk, as well as other like-minded DJs and producers such as Air and Mirwais (producer of Madonna's "Music"), the city on the Seine is now considered one of techno's hottest ports. ...
  • Operators Are Standing By

    Used to be that anyone who bought a television-marketed album of pop hits was considered a loser, pitied for his misguided musical taste. It was one thing to be suckered by the commercial's "groovy" K-TEL couple--the romantic beach strolls, the self-conscious dance moves--but another to dial the 800 number and order stale hits from Bread, Chicago or Eric Carmen. Today's direct-response music buyers can at least feel hipper thanks to the chart-topping compilation series "Now That's What I Call Music!" By featuring up-to-the-minute Billboard hits (the newest installment, "Now 6," includes songs by J-Lo, Destiny's Child, Britney and Coldplay) and marketing it with MTV-style, prime-time commercials, "Now" makes K-TEL's crude collections and ads seem like Americana kitsch. ...
  • Newsmakers

    The 73d Annual Academy Awards featured something Oscar's audience hasn't seen in years: credits. Taking a frills-free approach to speeches and dance numbers alike, the Academy pulled off one of the biggest surprises in recent Oscar history by ending three minutes early. But without any one-handed push-ups or a "Saving Private Ryan" tap number, the evening was short on shock as well. Julia Roberts and "Gladiator" both won as expected. Original-song winner Bob Dylan's lyrics were predictably indecipherable. Jennifer Lopez in her sheer Chanel top had the fashion police groaning with pleasure again, while pop's reigning risk taker, Bjork, had them howling at her ugly duckling of a dress. But if there weren't too many moments with teeth, at least there were some good ones involving them. Danny DeVito--apparently filling in for Jack Nicholson as the unofficial host's sidekick--spent so much of the evening munching on carrots and celery that host Steve Martin stopped the show to deliver...
  • Diamond In The Ruff

    Suite 420 at the tony St. Regis Hotel in L.A.'s Century City looks like the scene of a dastardly crime: draped across the satin couch are crisp white towels splattered with violent red streaks. The urgent rings and annoying beeps of a mobile phone, house phone and pager go unanswered. A silver Fendi bag lies open on the table, its contents spilled onto the marble surface. Other pricey designer items--pairs of Chanel and Gucci shoes, a fur jacket--are strewn about, as if rifled through then rejected for something even more valuable. Then Eve walks out of the bathroom with a piece of torn, red-stained cloth tied around her head. In a movie this would be the moment the leading man would beg Eve to hang on, "for the fans' sake!"But all drama is dispelled when the barefoot rapper casually adjusts her stretch jeans and plunks down on the couch. "I gotta dye my hair like twice a month," says Eve Jihan Jeffers, crimson liquid running down her temple, hairdresser hovering behind her with a...
  • The New Invasion

    While critics are busy deconstructing exactly what it means to have Eminem and Elton perform a duet at this year's Grammys, they are also secretly thanking some higher power for the distraction. It does, after all, keep them from focusing on the scant musical offerings of the past year--a dismal period in terms of new creative genius, or even mildly original schlock. The billion-dollar success of plastic pop, clumsy metal and predictable, playa-style rap has left little to rave about, and caused parents to shake their heads in disgust, stupefied at the bland or even bad taste of their very own kids.So who would have thought it'd be the Beatles, a band 30 years gone, who'd come to the rescue? The undeniable force of the Fab Four, a musical constant in the ever-changing sea of carefully marketed trends and controversy, is once again in play. Since "The Beatles 1," a collection of 27 chart-topping British and American hits, was released last November, it has sold more than 7 million...
  • Mood Music: Instrumental Rock For The Drinking An

    The last time indie hipsters decided to drop the singer and go instrumental, it meant resurrecting cheesy lounge music and culture: vibraphone, tiki lamps and rash-inducing polyester slacks. Itch no more, as the new instrumental underground offers an array of bands that prefer artful moodiness to quirky kitsch. Godspeed You Black Emperor is at the forefront of the heady-music pack, offering dreamy then belligerent melodies with complex instrumentation--violins, horns, bells, etc. Japancakes specializes in melancholy slide guitar over woozy tunes, while Tortoise melds guitar reverb with synthesizer acrobatics. Then, of course, there's Drums & Tuba (as bizarre as the name suggests). Singers, beware: you're as passe as a soggy drink umbrella.
  • Can't Stop The Monotony

    While the big question leading up to the 43rd Grammy Awards was "Will Eminem win for Best Album?," the one going out of L.A.'s Staples Center was, "Steely Dan put out a CD this year?"The veteran band's victory for Best Album was an anticlimax that wrapped up an already intensely dull ceremony that had been predicted to be the most exciting in years. Many attendees may still have no idea if Steely Dan even made an acceptance speech, there were so many people fleeing early to get a jump on the best hors d'oeuvres at the ensuing Grammy parties.There were no heckles from the audience, no ODB rushing the stage, no cries of "D'Angelo was robbed" (unless you count the ones in my head) as they read the nominee list for Best New Artist and Best Album. Just a politely interested audience fidgeting in their once-a-year dress-up clothes, and Macy Gray struggling with the cumbersome likes of a full-length, white fur jacket.Defiantly old school and stubbornly out of touch, the Grammys once again...
  • Nowhere To Hide From Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez is about to upstage oxygen in the everywhere-all-the-time department. The next few weeks mark the release of her album "J. Lo"; the opening of "The Wedding Planner," in which she has a leading role, and her possible testimony in boyfriend Sean (Puffy) Combs's trial on gun-possession and bribery charges. Add this to MTV's perennial Lopez worship and all those million-dollar-butt jokes (no joke: it's insured), and she wins this month's Most Ubiquitous Celebrity award.What's left? Perhaps she can marry a British film director to one-up Madonna, or simply stick by her album's "TRL" -tailored tunes and see just how high J. Lo can go.Jennifer Lopez'J. Lo' Epic Records