Tag Archives: Christina Aguilera

Backstage Secrets, Dick Clark — Producer Larry Klein Looks Back at 40 Years of American Music Awards

Larry Klein and Christina Aguilera

The 40th Annual American Music Awards will mark the passing of its creator and godfather, Dick Clark, with a tribute to the TV Academy and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who died this past April.  However, “It’s not going to be a long, drawn-out thing,” promises producer Larry Klein. “It will be short and sweet.  That’s the way Dick would have wanted it.”

Klein would be the man to know.  He’s been working on the show since he got work as a production assistant on the very first AMAs. Even after Clark sold his company a decade ago, along with the American Music Awards show, Klein says no year would pass without his getting together with best buddy Dick and chatting about the event. 

This year’s show will feature performances by some 17 chart-toppers, including Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Usher, No Doubt, Nicki Minaj, Pink, Carrie Underwood, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera and Linkin Park.  Bieber is up for three awards this year including Artist of the Year.  Bieber’s mentor, Usher, is also in the running with three nominations and the two will face off against each other in the category for Favorite Male Artist: Pop/Rock.  Rihanna  and Minaj lead the nominees with four nods apiece. Drake, Maroon 5 and One Direction have three nominations each.

Things have changed a lot, notes Klein, from the days when the likes of Helen Reddy and John Denver would “would come in and ask, ‘What should I sing?’  What does Dick want me to do?’  Now, I walk in and say, ‘I’m the producer.  Just tell me what you want,’” says Klein with a laugh. 

The special anniversary edition of the AMAs will bring us some highlights of their storied history, such as Prince’s Purple Reign prancing, Michael Jackson’s thrilling moves, and Axl Rose’s unprintable acceptance speech.  Not surprisingly, some of the moments Klein finds most memorable took place off camera.  There have been gargantuan backstage clashes, talent that had to be kept in dressing rooms that were far apart and all that sort of thing, he cheerfully acknowledges, refusing to name names.  And there’ve been heart-stopping near-misses and eleventh-hour changes.  Klein recalls that “a few years ago, the person who opened the show, at the five second mark was not on her mark – through no fault of her own.  She was supposed to be in a container, but there had been problems with it, and when the countdown started, I realized she was behind me.” 

That performer was Mariah Carey, and she did manage to whisk into the egg-shaped, spinning container at the very last second, and start the awards.  “Thank God she had the stage presence to keep her cool.  She could have freaked out,” Klein says. 

  Even though they’ll be glancing back, however, the 40th awards will be focused on today.  Klein says that every one of the 17 acts that will be performing will have its own environment.  “That’s one of the things that sets us apart.  Because of me wanting every artist to have their own atmosphere, their own look – nothing repeated — we have carts containing set pieces stretching out for six to eight blocks in downtown L.A. on show day.”  This year, he says, viewers will get to see some of the backstage action.

The hardest part must be squeezing in everything they want to do.  How does Klein manage?  “We just do it, “ he says.

‘The Voice’ Stars Not Out to Rip Anyone, Even the Competition

Interesting, the jockeying for position among singing competition shows before the kickoff of the 2012-2013 season.  While Simon Cowell has been teasing his new “X Factor” judges by letting the world know Britney Spears has turned out to be Quite Mean, NBC’s “The Voice” team made a point of stressing that they have no desire to be mean — or negative at all.

“We’re not interested in being on a show where we rip people.  That was a common theme,” said Adam Levine, who turned out to talk to press about the show at producer Mark Burnett’s posh Malibu home the other day, along with his fellow “The Voice” music superstar coaches — Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, as well as host Carson Daly.

“And it proved something.  The blind auditions replaced the need to find terrible singers and rip them,” added Burnett, referring to the early audition rounds full of non-talents and scathing critiques so familiar to “American Idol” audiences.

“I really have been averse to it,” Levine went on.  “I personally have never experienced a positive feeling — I don’t like to see that.  It looks like someone getting bullied and it makes me sad, it really does.  I don’t like to watch.” 

His fellow coaches – remember, on “The Voice,” they’re more into coaching than judging –agreed.

Aguilera even had kind words for Britney, who, of course, she’s been getting sized up against since their “Mickey Mouse Club” days together. 

 “I know she’s a pro and she’s going to give, I think, great advice,” said the pop star, resplendent with blond and lavender hair for the panel.  “I don’t know the format of the other shows.  I just know the format of the show I’m on. But I welcome these very talented women.  Especially in my genre of pop, the media gets in there to pit us against one another and women against women, this and that, and you know, I’m just not down for that at this point in my life.  I have no patience for it, so I’m like, come on, the more the merrier.  She’ll have fun with it.”

Considering the fact that this year, “X Factor” will be going toe to toe with “The Voice” – “The Voice” launches Sept. 10 and “X Factor” two days later — Aguilera is likely going to find comparisons impossible to avoid.  (“American Idol” returns mid-season.)

The wide-ranging talk, accompanied by the sounds of surf and sea birds near the beachside grounds of Burnett’s home, also covered the topic of celebrity mentors.

Green talked about reaching out to artists with whom he has personal relationships and friendships, like Prince and Rob Thomas, to work with his up-and-comers.  Levine has Mary J. Blige.  Aguilera has Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

Armstrong wasn’t a friend, she said, when she went after him to be a mentor for her team.  But they did have mutual respect.  With his “punk, badass” persona, “He brings a whole different energy and different advice than I would give from a female pop star perspective.  He comes from a completely different world and kind of puts a whole new spin on everything,” she observed.

Blake Shelton’s bringing in Michael Buble.  Their paths have converged a surprising number of times, considering they, too, are from different musical worlds.  Shelton noted that he had a country hit with a Buble song, then they worked together on a David Foster special, and a Shelton Christmas album.  “We’ve become friends – as close friends as you can be when he lives in Vancouver, and I live in Oklahoma,” Shelton said.  When it came time to adding a new mentor for “The Voice,” “I thought, ‘This is a no-brainer.”

The joking, teasing, competitive camaraderie between the coaches that is one of “The Voice’s” greatest assets was also on display. Talking about their crammed schedules, Burnett noted that Shelton had been juggling tour dates, and in fact had just made a whirlwind trip back and forth to Washington. 

“Is that what Blake told you?  You guys are so gullible.  Tour!” cracked Levine – who was, himself, leaving for South America tour dates the next morning.  The show’s social media maven, Christina Milian, noted that the four singers can do dead-on imitations of one another.

Daly noted that we’ll see more of Green, Aguilera, Levine and Shelton performing this coming season, “because that’s what they do.” 

But what about “The Voice” come spring?  Burnett admits that the “matrix of tour dates of these artists is a producer’s nightmare” in terms of scheduling.  “We’re all talking, all the time.”

“I want to do it,” said Green.

“We all want this to work,” said Levine.

But there is a chance that the current foursome might help bring in substitutes for themselves to fill in.  “The good news is we’re all friends; we’re all openly talking about it all the time,” said Burnett, who stressed that he and his team knew what they were signing up for when they became involved with touring musical stars at the top of their game.  “This is really like family.” 

Miley Cyrus Latest Disney Darling to Go From Virginal to Vixenish

Miley Cyrus at 2009 Teen Choice Awards

As Miley Cyrus contemplates her disappointing “Can’t Be Tamed” album sales and absorbs response to her latest stream of “Let Me Prove to You I’m a Grownup” antics – lap dancing with a director, vamping it up in tarty outfits on stage – we can’t help but compare her journey to those of so many Disney darlings before her.

What is it about crashing a sweet, virginal image to smithereens that makes it so inviting?

Of course, Britney Spears leaps to mind.  Miley has made it clear she’s a huge fan of  the 28-year-old superstar whose rollercoaster life has provided careers for tabloid writers and bloggers and paparazzi since 1999, when the former Mousketeer caused a stir with a Rolling Stone magazine cover in which she appeared lying on her bed clad in shorts, bra, and open top.  The American Family Association called for a boycott of stores selling her albums.  Shades of Miley’s Vanity Fair Lolita-esque photo brouhaha.

Christina Aguilera, Britney’s fellow former Mousketeer, traded in her girl-next-door wholesomeness for piercings, a neck tattoo, and a string of raunchy songs and videos.

Older audience members remember original Mousketeer Doreen Tracy, who posed for the men’s magazine Gallery wearing her Mousketeer ears and not much else, and who came out with a book, “Confessions of a Mouseketeer.”

Sadly, there is the train wreck that is once-promising Disney movie star Lindsay Lohan.

Somehow, “Princess Diaries” star Anne Hathaway managed to transition to adulthood in such a deft and sophisticated way, her audience accepted her doing nudity in movies and handling exceptionally gritty material – as in her Oscar-nominated turn in “Rachel Getting Married” – with little turmoil

Which is more than can be said for Hathaway’s onscreen grandma, the Queen of Genovia herself, the great Julie Andrews.  Globally adored after successes including “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music,” she was delighted when her husband, Blake Edwards, put her in his 1981 satire “S.O.B.” as a goody-goody actress who makes a musical that flops and is then re-shot as a pornographic film.

“Mary Poppins Goes Topless” screamed headlines.  It created a furor at the time, but was eventually granted grudging acceptance.  Sure, she did it – but we’d rather watch the movies that have our Julie practically perfect in every way.