Meet Emeli Sande – The Scottish Aretha Franklin

On stage: Emeli Sande's Live At The Albert HallOne year ago this week, Emeli Sandé’s first album entered the charts at number one.  Twelve months on, Our Version Of Events is enjoying its 53rd consecutive week in the Top Ten – a record for a debut bettered only by The Beatles’ Please Please Me in 1963 – and the woman behind it is a household name.

The Scottish singer-songwriter crowned an exceptional year on Wednesday night by winning two Brits – best female and best album – while her debut was the only album to sell a million copies in Britain last year. She performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, while next month’s UK tour is a complete sell-out. Strangest of all, the 25-year-old managed to achieve all this without exploiting her sexuality or getting embroiled in a celebrity scandal.

An old-fashioned pop star, she has kept her private life to herself.

With Sandé, it is all about the songs, a virtue emphasized by this week’s release of her first live album. Recorded last November, Live At The Royal Albert Hall is a CD and DVD double-pack that reiterates the qualities that have made the singer pop royalty. It features hits such as Heaven and Next To Me, and wraps her soulful, heart-stopping voice in atmospheric strings and seductive rhythms.Monochrome: Sande arriving at the ceremony on the red carpetWith intimate, piano-led songs her forte, the centerpieces are the ballads Clown and River, back-to-back tracks that are simultaneously sad and uplifting. On Clown, she admits to being a novice pianist, but her performance is still mesmerizing.

Other highlights include a haunting take on the Cup Final hymn Abide With Me (as sung at the Olympics opening ceremony) and a note-faithful cover of Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.

‘From the age of eight, she’s been my inspiration,’ says Emeli.

As live albums go, it isn’t perfect. Emeli has the soulful voice and songwriting abilities of Simone, but she has yet to acquire the stagecraft that is a hallmark of her other great influence, Alicia Keys. While the New Yorker will fall back on her inner showgirl when she plays a big venue, the naturally reserved Sandé can seem overwhelmed by the occasion.

‘Wow, I’m playing the Royal Albert Hall,’ she says. ‘This is my wildest dream come true — and it’s all happened so quickly.’

Her fans, however, react warmly to her girl-next-door charm, especially when she touchingly dedicates songs to her watching mum, dad and sister Lucy. Trim figure: Emeli debuts her slimmer figure after slimming down before trying to crack the USIf the tender, reflective nature of Sandé’s material threatens to make this album slightly one-paced, the singer is inspired in her choices of collaborators, and guest appearances by rapper Professor Green (on Read All About It) and singer Labrinth (on Beneath Your Beautiful) ensure that the energy levels soar at the end of the evening.

Beyond her undoubted artistry, though, what has made Sandé such a star?

The thing that sticks out the most about the singer is how down to earth she still is. In an era of TV-created idols, she offers something different:

The daughter of a Zambian father, Joel, who moved to Britain on a scholarship and now teaches engineering, and an English mother, Diane, from Cumbria, she was raised in a small, conservative village in the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Dramatic weight loss: Singer Emeli Sandé cuts a slimmer figure on the red carpet at the pre-Grammy party on Saturday night, and seen right at the MOBO Awards last NovemberFrom there, she went not to stage school but the University of Glasgow, where she completed a medical degree, specialising in Clinical Neuroscience.
In the final year of her studies, she spent time in hospital wards meeting patients with spinal injuries and schizophrenia. Had she not taken up music, she would now be a qualified junior doctor.

‘My intention was always to become a doctor,’ she said ‘I specialized in neurology, and I found medicine a real challenge. ‘It was something that was going to stretch me, because I wasn’t just stuck in a research laboratory.’

‘I was in a hospital, and I got to see people at their most vulnerable. Ultimately, though, I wanted to try music.’

There is a touch of steel to Sandé, too, along with the strong work ethic that is a prerequisite for any modern pop star.  The singer concedes she was ‘headstrong’ as a child, and, in her teens, she declined a record deal after winning a Radio 1 talent contest, preferring to cut her musical teeth by writing hits for Cheryl Cole and Susan Boyle.

Her approach has won her the admiration of her peers. Jay-Z praised her ‘unique sound’, Rihanna asked her to write a song for her, and Dido, when I interviewed her recently, was quick to acknowledge a singer she sees as a kindred spirit, not least for the fact that Sandé, like Dido.

Even amidst the prying eyes of the paparazzi, she managed to get married to marine biologist Adam Gouraguine in a very private ceremony.

‘I think she’s brilliant,’ Dido told me. ‘It’s voices that resonate with me, and I love hers. She’s the most exciting female artist of the moment. She never gets boring, either, because I don’t know anything about her private life, which is great.’

Slim and healthy: A radiant looking Aretha Franklin attended the New York Knicks game last night at Madison Square GardensSandé herself is already looking ahead, with this live set previewing two songs from her forthcoming second album. The first, Enough, is a big, flowing piano ballad. The second, Pluto, looks more to the Massive Attack-style strings of her debut single Heaven. On the evidence of these, the stunning success of Our Version Of Events is no fluke.

‘You have a duty to be a positive role model, especially when some of your fans are young girls,’ she says. ‘You get 13- and 14-year-olds thinking they have to dress a certain way to get on.

But my inspirations were Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. With them, the music always came first.’

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From The Heart: X-Factor Star Alexandra Burke Talks Organ Donor and Mother’s Kidney Disease….

Charity: Alex has used her fame to campaign for good causes, including this one for Breast Cancer Awareness WeekFor over five years, Alexandra Burke has looked after her ailing mother Melissa Bell, who is battling severe kidney failure brought on by diabetes and is on life-saving dialysis eight hours a day.

The 24-year-old former X Factor champion buys her mum food, has spent £20,000 renovating her house so she can have the dialysis treatment there rather than in hospital, and is paying thousands more to send her on a doctor-approved holiday to Egypt for her birthday next month.

But the one thing Alexandra can’t give her mother is the only thing she really needs – a new kidney.

The need for a kidney…

That’s not to say Alex, as her friends and family know her, hasn’t tried. In fact, she’s tearfully offered her mother – the former lead singer of 80s Grammy Award-winning group Soul II Soul – her organ on more than one occasion even though it could impact on Alexandra’s chances of having children herself.

‘I’ve tried three or four times,’ she says as her eyes well up with tears.

‘But Mum made the choice and shut down the discussion because the doctors said it could mean I wouldn’t be able to conceive. She didn’t want to restrict me from having my own life. But I was willing to adopt because I want to do that anyway.’

Melissa has said that asking her famous daughter to give away a kidney would be ‘downright wicked and selfish’.

Alexandra says she responded by telling her: ‘I don’t think it would be a selfish choice. It’s been offered to you. I’m your daughter. Take it!’ She adds: ‘I’ve tried to meet her doctor privately to be tested to see if I’m a match, but he wouldn’t see me because my mum wouldn’t allow it.’

Emotional: Alex’s X Factor triumph in 2008 came just days after her mother’s diagnosis was revealed
Emotional: Alex's X Factor triumph in 2008 came just days after her mother's diagnosis was revealed
‘I’ve even had some of my fans offering their kidneys and going for tests. I’ve been very down about the situation. This might be selfish, but I’m not ready to let my parents go. After all, Mum’s still young – she’s only 48.’

Waiting for  a transplant…

Melissa is one of 10,000 people in the UK awaiting an organ transplant. Sadly, ten per cent of these die while they’re on the waiting list. One of those statistics was Alex’s Auntie Verna.

‘She was waiting for a heart for eight years. The moment it came in she died,’ she says quietly.

Despite the statistics, only 31 per cent of the British population have put themselves on the NHS Organ Donor Register – a much lower figure than in many other countries.

That’s why Alex and her mum agreed to be star guests on From The Heart, a major ITV entertainment special next week hosted by Dermot O’Leary and featuring Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Jools Holland. The show is the centerpiece of a week of programming on ITV to raise awareness of the shortage of donated organs.

‘I was nervous about taking part initially,’ Alex admits. ‘It’s a subject that’s so personal to me I find it very emotional talking about it. I only put myself on the register a year ago. I decided they can take everything from me when I die, apart from my eyes. I don’t think I’d feel happy without them, even in death.’

The diagnosis…

In 2008 Alex saved Melissa’s life after returning to the family home in Islington, north London, to find her collapsed in bed after going into kidney failure.

She called 999 and her mother was rushed to hospital. Soon afterwards she gave one of The X Factor’s best ever performances, an unforgettable duet with Beyoncé of the superstar’s song Listen, before being crowned the winner.

When her mother’s illness went public, former Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed offered to pay for the treatment she needed privately.Dazzling: Since her brilliant duet with Beyonce Knowles in the 2008 X Factor final, Alex' career has gone from strength to strength

‘She didn’t accept it,’ Alex says. ‘It was a genuine offer but the NHS advised her against switching to private care as they had been treating her so long. I’ve offered to pay for her treatment since as well.’

‘But it’s not about money. Money won’t buy her a kidney. You just have to wait.’

Alex has no idea how far down the waiting list her mother is. ‘She’s a rare blood type, which makes it harder for her to get a match.’

‘The waiting game is the hardest thing. They’ve said she can survive for 25 years on dialysis but she’s not living a proper life. She’s hooked up to a machine for eight hours a day and can’t really move.’

‘I know there’s a family history so I’m very strict about my diet and I work out all the time,’ Alex sighs. ‘I’m a bit of a health freak, completely unlike what my mum used to be. But she’s on a diet now and doesn’t even touch sugar.’

Her childhood…

Alexandra’s family relationships have always been fraught. Her father David had an affair with an underage girl while Melissa was pregnant with Alex. The case went to court and Alex effectively lost contact with him until after she won The X Factor. (‘We’re very close now,’ she insists.)

As a result, Melissa was a single mum to Alex and her sister and two brothers.

Heartbroken: X Factor star Alexandra is finding her mother's illness hard to cope withAlex’s relationship with her mother has also been tumultuous. Melissa once said of her daughter, ‘To be honest, I’m a better singer than she is. But she’s thinner than me. It’s all about image these days, more than talent.’

However, Melissa’s illness has brought the pair closer. ‘Our relationship is not feisty at all any more. I’ve seen a drastic change in my mum. I feel we’re more like friends now, rather than mother and daughter,’ she explains.

Now it’s Alexandra who supports her family financially. ‘I’m 24 and I’m the backbone of my family. I pay for everything. But it’s what I live for and I don’t think it’s a burden. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a bed of roses all the time. But I feel it’s my calling.’

Unlucky in love…

Alex has already developed a reputation for being hopelessly unlucky in love. She’s rumored to have dated high-profile suitors, ranging from comedian James Corden to England footballer Jermain Defoe, but most of her relationships appear to end in heartbreak.Concerned: Alex is desperate to raise awareness of organ donation in the hopes that her mother will eventually get a kidney transplantMost recently she’s been linked with Hollywood actor Jeremy Piven, the star of ITV’s period drama Mr Selfridge. At 47, he’s 23 years her senior. Last month, the pair arrived together at a party in London for fashion designer Tom Ford.

Later, they were spotted entering London’s Corinthia Hotel in the early hours of the morning, sparking speculation they’re a couple. The last time I met Alex she told me she wanted to meet ‘someone who’s 42 and probably old enough to be my father.’

She hoots when I remind her of this, burying her head in a pillow. ‘Oh my God! If I was white, I’d be bright red right now,’ she says, clearly embarrassed. ‘Maybe that’s what happens when you put things out there to the universe!’

She claims she’s just ‘close friends’ with Piven but it’s clear to me, and I know her well, that there’s more to it.

‘Jeremy’s lovely,’ she says, still blushing. ‘I’ve known him for a few months now. We met when I performed at the Samuel L Jackson ball in London. He’s lovely. We hang out a lot when we can.’

She quickly remembers to add: ‘I have no intention of being in a serious relationship because of my focus on my career. It’s difficult for me to be in a relationship. It has to be with someone who understands my lifestyle, and that my career and family come first. I’m in no rush to get married.’

So what attracts her to older men? ‘It’s a maturity thing. I want a man to be serious. I don’t go for looks. You would also hope an older man would have done their mucking around with other women.’

Alex has always been wise beyond her years. ‘I’ve always been responsible. When I left school, I told my mum and dad I was going to be a singer. I moved out of home and I paid my own bills. That’s a different mindset to many girls my age.’

‘A lot of my girlfriends are in their 30s and 40s and I learn from them. I remember when I was 16 and first auditioned for The X Factor, Simon Cowell said to me, “You’re not 16, you must be 25. Show me your passport!”‘

The future…

Alex is serious about her plans to adopt in the future, although she would also like her own family.

‘I’ve traveled and seen kids across the world. Even though I can have my own children, I really want to adopt a girl from China because of their one child rule. I can’t wait to do it.’

One thing Alex is not is a stereotypical pop puppet. She is the first X Factor winner to make the decision to voluntarily break away from show supremo Cowell and sign with RCA Records, another division of music giant Sony.

‘It was a brave move but the right move. He was going to be busy with X Factor USA and trying to make that work. He had to concentrate on that.’

I wonder how hard it is to be known as the winner of the talent show, given how many people seem to want to see them fall flat on their face.

‘In general, people want to tear The X Factor down and I don’t think that’s right. I didn’t just get where I am from the show – I’d been working at it since I was nine. But I would never say I wanted to move away from The X Factor. If Simon ever offered me an opportunity to be a judge, I would do it in a flash.’

Alex is now recording her third album, taking piano lessons and considering trying out for a lead role in the West End after a successful one-off stint playing Eponine in the London version of Les Misérables to raise money for Children In Need.

‘I want to do as much as I can to further my career. I want to see myself being nominated for a Grammy Award one day. I’m not there yet and I’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s why marriage and children will have to wait until I’m 30.’

‘But what would make me happier than anything else would be for my mum to get her kidney. We believe this will be the year.’

An Interview With Rapper Eve: Career, Love and More…

Eve photoshootAfter rapper Eve fought to leave her record label Interscope to escape a “horrible deal” with EMI, she’s now working hard on her music which is being released on her own label and loves it. The 34-year-old “Tambourine” chick is making her way back on the scene.

And based on her interview with ‘The Breakfast Club‘ on Tuesday, February 5, 2013, she will be toruing soon. She’s also looking forward to getting back into acting as she misses Hollywood. The rapper has featured in both film and TV.

Read an excerpt from her interview with ‘The Breakfast Club’ below:

Eve and the breakfast club

Eve and the breakfast club 2

On the pregnancy rumors…

‘I’m not pregnant. That was that puffy coat. I’m not pregnant, not yet. But hopefully soon….knock on wood. People lie and say my friend said this but I don’t know what friend that was. But I want kids. Kids will never hold you back. To me, that’s the ultimate blessing.’

She also said she and her man aren’t necessarily trying to have babies, but they’re not trying NOT to either.

On Beyonce’s Superbowl performance and people hating on Michelle Williams

‘She murdered it. I loved it and I think it was really good. And I think Michelle is doing other things but it was nice seeing them together.’

On why she wants to come back to the rap game…

‘I been wanting to come back it’s just the situation hasn’t been right. As far as label stuff, management, lawyers, literally the whole situation. And now it’s the right situation. I know it’s been a minute but I miss my music. It’s my first love and I still got sh*t to say.’

Eve and Maximillion Cooper - Gumball promotionOn her man Maximillion Cooper

‘He’s not a billionaire. He’s completely comfortable. Here’s what his Gumball 3000 company is all about. This is the 15th Anniversary. I’m into cars because I love cars and it’s my tomboy side. So the first year I did it, I was Team Puma. And that’s how we met.’

‘Now I love it. It’s a lifestyle. 150 people enter and do it once a year. You just drive. Some people do it for charity or some people do it because they’re in an office all day and want a release. And they’re also running countries–a lot of kings and princes do it. It’s 7 days and next year it’s in Copenhagen and ends in Monaco. It’s a clothing company too. He’s turned a lifestyle into something big.’

‘It’s my first time dating a white guy. I love my black men. I used to be engaged to an African and you can’t get blacker than an African. But this just happened. I really wasn’t looking for a white guy, but this just happened. He holds me down so hard and is so supportive.’

On Maximillion friends not accepting him dating a rapper…

‘His friends started sending him wild links about me and asking him why he’s dating this rapper chick, since he comes from a certain type of place. We had to talk about that, but now he doesn’t care. He’s good.’

On “Love & Hip Hop” (reality TV show)…

‘I’m scared to watch it. I’ll hurt my eyes and brain. Even before Stevie J was on it I was scared to watch it. But when I was younger I was a wild child [like the girls on the show]. (And she said she’s too scared to do realty tv herself…and no wedding special when that time comes.)’

On being modest about living a millionaire’s lifestyle…

‘I’m living the life I’m supposed to live. I’m chillin. I can’t be all that extra in your face chick. I’m a laid back chick unless you’re in my face and you get on me.’

On moving to London…

‘I moved to London for love. And I needed a change. And I’m glad I did it because now I see things differently. But now, I’m back in NY and I love it.’

On people not liking her new “She Bad Bad” song…

‘A lot of people didn’t like it. I didn’t want to do the same thing you all have already heard from me. But it’s going to take a while for people to warm up to me again. But I had a million views on the video so that’s all care about.’

On getting Azealia Banks on her album…

‘I like her word play, but I just don’t like the drama. That bothers me. We tried to holla at her to get on the album and I think she was one of the ones who said, “I think I’m busy.”‘

On Nicki Minaj

‘It’s not all my cup of tea. I’m proud of her, I don’t know her, but she’s doing her thing and you can’t be mad at that. I love hearing her on certain records–like on “Girl On Fire.” But you can’t hate on someone that’s successful.’

Eve is set for a May 14th release date for her upcoming album ‘Liplock’. The album will feature rap songs with guest appearances from artists like Jeremih, Chrisette Michele, Snoop, Juicy J and Pusha T.

Dr. Dre & LeBron James: When ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’ Conquered The Locker Room…

Dr. Dre and Lebron James for ESPN Magazine's Music Issue

How did ‘Beats by Dr. Dre‘ conquer the locker room?

Dr. Dre and Lebron James for ESPN Magazine's Music Issue 4LEBRON JAMES IS on the floor, on his back, beginning his pregame stretching routine, in which outsize body parts will be yanked this way, then that. It is riveting, and it is redundant, because it is the same thing every night, in every city, before every game, save for one detail: The songs do not remain the same.

So here now is LeBron on his Samsung Galaxy Note II, flexing his DJ muscle as trainer Mike Mancias works him over in the visiting locker room of Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

Tonight’s soundtrack is all raw, aggressive rap by Young Jeezy, ASAP Rocky, Rick Ross, Chief Keef, the songs carefully selected by LeBron for LeBron based on how LeBron happens to be feeling — and how he wants to feel when the game begins. “I’m ’bout to go ape s–!” he shouts, making like the rapper Fat Joe, which will help him make like LeBron James.

LeBron James’ Playlist

Trap Back Jumpin T.I. iTunes
Get Right Young Jeezy iTunes
I’m Different 2 Chainz iTunes
Diamonds (Remix) Rihanna iTunes
Remember You Wiz Khalifa (feat. The Weekend) iTunes
Clique Jay-Z, Big Sean, Kanye iTunes
Gone Wiz Khalifa (feat. Juicy J)
Conflicted Jerreau
long.live.a$ap A$AP Rocky iTunes
Still D.R.E Dr. Dre iTunes
Rock on at espn.com/music

If you want to know how the three-time MVP prepares to play, you have to get inside his headphones. Tonight, the custom-designed pair of Beats by Dr. Dre that James wore into the arena have been replaced by a Beats by Dr. Dre speaker, which several teammates are trying to tune out by covering their ears with their own Beats.

“You don’t want no problems!” James barks, now making like Dom Kennedy, whose song “My Type of Party” is blasting. “You don’t want no problems!” he repeats.

He appears to be getting frothed up, an hour before tip-off. Routine stuff, he says: “I know where I want to be before each game, and the music is how I get there,” he says. “I allow myself to feel the music and get lost in my preparation.”

It works. James scores 21 of his 25 points in the first half of a blowout win against the Warriors on Jan. 16. He logs his 5,000th career assist in the first quarter. Late in the second quarter, he becomes the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points. He Tebows on his way back to the locker room at the half.Dr. Dre and Lebron James for ESPN Magazine's Music Issue 2

The phenomenal about ‘Beats’…

YOU’VE NOTICED ALL these people wearing seamless, U-shaped headphones with little b’s on the big ear cups, right?

Beats by Dre are ubiquitous, which surprises even the Doctor himself.

“We were just trying to uplift sound and change the way people listen to music,” says Dre, the rap icon who started Beats with music mogul Jimmy Iovine. “Our thing was to make music sound the way we hear it in the studio. We had no idea this was going to happen.”

Has he seen the Internet photo of the guy who’d shaved his head and left a hair-on-scalp b-branded headphone above his ear? He has. He chuckles.

“That’s crazy,” Dre says. “That means something.”

It means that Beats has gone from zero to full-blown cultural phenomenon in less than five years.

Four years ago, $59 million worth of premium headphones — those priced at $99 and up — were sold in North America, according to market research firm NPD Group. In 2012 $850 million worth were sold across the continent.

Nearly two out of every three pairs carried the iconic Beats by Dr. Dre logo, a lowercase b in a custom font based on Avant Garde Gothic. Today the company — officially known as Beats Electronics — makes six over-the-ear headphones (the cheapest sell for $200 a pair), four earphones and three speakers.

It has partnered with Chrysler, HP and HTC to put its Beats Audio technology in cars and computers and on mobile devices, and recently announced plans to launch a Beats music-streaming service.

Dr. Dre and Lebron James for ESPN Magazine's Music Issue 3In the market-share game, 64 percent is a mercy-rule-level rout. It’s also an indication that Beats, which does more than triple the business of second-place Bose, is selling more than mere product. Behold Beats brand affinity.

“Think about Apple,” NPD analyst Ben Arnold says. “They sell great hardware and a great platform, but there’s also the strong identification with the brand. That’s happening with Beats as well. I’ve even seen tattoos of that ‘b’ logo. That’s a logical step.”

He’s not laughing. “Remember in the ’90s when Polo shirts were huge and guys were getting the horse tattooed on their chest?” Arnold asks. “Or they were getting the Jordan Jumpman cut into their hair? People are doing that with Beats too.”

As music migrated to mobile, Beats became an athlete’s must-have accessory — Breathe Right strips for the ears, only more stylish, as fashioned by ex-Apple designer Robert Brunner and his firm, Ammunition.

Tune into any sporting event and you’re likely to see a team getting off the bus with half the roster crowned in Beats, individual players doing warmups in Beats, guys sitting in locker room folding chairs, in uniform, in game-prep mode, in Beats.

Tom Brady wears them. Matt Kemp wears them. Serena wears them. Beckham wears them. Most of the NBA wears them.

F— Sneakers, LET’S make SPEAKERS!!!

“F— SNEAKERS, LET’S make speakers,” Iovine is said to have told Dr. Dre in 2006, when the rap legend was thinking about getting into the celebrity-shoe game. Iovine had another idea, centered on the pair’s core competency: sound.

In 2008 James and Iovine had gotten together with their shared financial adviser, Paul Wachter, to discuss a documentary film project. Iovine was simultaneously developing the headphones, and he knew that James was fanatical about music, that he’d grown up listening to Dr. Dre’s proffer, that he was an ascendant cultural influencer. He was the perfect Beats test subject.

So Iovine gave a prototype of Beats Studio headphones to James’ manager, Maverick Carter, to pass to James while he trained for the 2008 Olympics. James asked for more, to outfit the entire U.S. Olympic basketball team before it left for Beijing. 

The hype was immediate. TMZ noted that Dr. Dre “influenced the USA Olympic basketball [team] as much as Dr. J.” Other media coverage followed. So did queries from other athletes, James says.

“I started hearing from people who wanted to know: What are they? Where did I get them? What’s that ‘b’?”

Then they asked how they could get their own. Eventually James, Iovine and Dre entered into a formal business relationship; the details have never been disclosed, and the company, which is privately held, will say only that James “has a business stake in Beats.”

He is profiting from the brand’s explosive growth while promoting the idea that the right set of headphones (theirs!) can heighten your focus and, in turn, help you become a better athletic performer. In fact, James has been better, according to almost every statistical measure in the four-plus seasons since he began wearing Beats, than he was in his first five in the league.

James has won all three of his NBA Most Valuable Player awards in that period, and he has played in the NBA Finals twice, winning once.

Gotta be the Beats! Gotta be hocus-pocus too, no?

Iovine, a sports nut who has courtside Lakers season tickets, has become convinced that Beats can “really help these guys focus and get them to push even further because they have more emotion and feeling than other headphones.”

And, he says of athletes, “these f–ing guys feel everything.”

I wondered whether there was any scientific merit to the idea. After all, aren’t they just headphones? Looking for a neutral opinion, I call Dr. Greg Dale, the director of sports psychology for Duke athletics.

“It’s really a great marketing idea,” he says. “It’s not much different from when Air Jordans came out and everybody started wearing Michael Jordan’s shoes. But it’s not 100 percent hocus-pocus.”

“Typically, when you ask an athlete what it looked and felt like when they played their best, they’ll say things like ‘smooth’ and ‘fluid’ and ‘rhythmic.’ If you can use music to help feel those sensations, that’s huge.”

As with other noise-canceling headphones, Dale says, Beats might be beneficial in another way.

The headphones could enhance your ability to drown out external noise and help you focus on what’s relevant to you. That’s critical to consistently high levels of performance.

But just because you use this equipment doesn’t mean you’re going to lock in like LeBron James. He’s disciplined himself to get into game mode using music.

‘Beats’ Headquarters…

THE ENTRY WAY TO the Beats empire is a white-walled lounge that looks like a giant storage box and smacks of curated cool:

The magazines at the receptionist’s desk are about sports and music, and the coffee-table books are all urban art and graphic design. Beats is headquartered in a glass office complex two miles inland from the Santa Monica pier.

The staff has ballooned from 35 to 209 people in the past year, prompting Beats to lease a second floor in the building; soon it will move to a larger space across town, out of the shadow of the Interscope Records offices where Beats was birthed.

The action is centered in an open area that’s littered with sports and music paraphernalia — baseball bats, BMX bikes, Lil Wayne cardboard cutouts. Omar Johnson, the high-energy multitasker who was hired away from Nike to run the marketing department, occupies a glass fishbowl in the corner and scribbles strategy ideas on his windows. Beats has been celebrated — and derided — as a triumph of marketing, but that’s the wrong narrative, Johnson says.

Beats stand out because they’ve been tuned by Dr. Dre and Iovine, music men with golden ears.

Before Beats, Iovine says, people in headphones weren’t hearing new recordings the way they should be heard — modern music is often recorded much differently from songs made in earlier decades, with digital instrumentation, the introduction of subwoofers and so forth.

“Even in good headphones,” he says, “there was a lack of feel for contemporary music.”

In other words, old-school headphones didn’t do enough to pump up the bass, a criticism that could never be leveled at Beats. In fact, audiophiles complain there’s too much boosted bass in Beats, and they have charts to prove it.

But Dr. Chris Kyriakakis, who researches audio signal processing at USC and co-founded an audio technology company called Audyssey, says the bass levels are key to Beats’ success.

In focus groups, he says: “untrained listeners are sold on elevated bass, just like untrained viewers are sold on televisions that are brighter.”

Iovine says critics are enamored with charts when they should be using their ears. “It’s a human thing, not a math problem,” he says of tuning. “We’re not deaf.”

It doesn’t hurt that Beats look good; even the company’s most vocal critics tend to give them points for style, which is important to Iovine, who complained that headphones used to look like medical equipment. The secret ingredient to getting Beats on sport stars’ heads, though, is the athlete-relations program Iovine started and Johnson has ramped up.

Or, as Iovine says, “Omar put it on steroids.” Because when icons and influencers wear Beats, others follow. Kobe Bryant wore the first pair of customized Beats to a news conference in late 2008. Today the company keeps in contact with scores of athletes and often designs personalized headphones using information gleaned from conversations with them.

“They’re telling me about their grandfathers, about their grandmothers, their wives, their girlfriends, their kids,” Johnson says. “They tell us what motivates them.”

One football player shared a favorite quote from his grandfather, and Beats etched it into a pair of headphones for him. Others share details even their wives don’t know. Sometimes players take off their shirts in Johnson’s office to show off tattoos, which gives the marketing team more clues.

“I always tell my team: You’ve gotta get the s– that’s not in Wikipedia,” Johnson says.

Every week of the season, the company sends a unique pair to Cam Newton; the colors change, as do the customized messages and designs. They might have a Superman theme, or they might say fear me on the underside of the band.

“I’m like a kid on Christmas Day when I open that box every week,” Newton says. “It’s an exclusive club.”

IT’S MIDDAY TUESDAY at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, and Dr. Dre is making a rare house call. He has jetted up to San Francisco with Iovine to visit with James, who has a day off between road games. The music is blaring, and LeBron is too, rapping along — decently, and at high volume — to “All Gold Everything,” by Trinidad James.

“Let’s go into the studio, man!” Dre says. Everybody laughs.

“Aw, tsssss,” James says. “But hey, listen, if Doc lay the track and my big bro Jay [as in Jay-Z] write me some lyrics? I would absolutely do it. I can’t fail. How can I lose?”

There are no advanced statistics to prove it, but LeBron James just might lead the NBA in music affinity. He’s obsessed with listening to it, talking about it, trying to find the next new thing that he might use to help him get into game mode. He has difficulty articulating what, exactly, he’s looking for.

But he knows it when he hears it, and it’s usually a rap song with a hard edge and lyrics that would make your mother blush — though, he says, he pays more attention to “rhythm and feel. It’s that loud motivation, where you’re just like:

“Okay, let’s get it.”

“Same for me,” Dre tells him. “It’s how it makes me feel.”

Often, James says, he’ll pick songs to try to rally his teammates — “a song that will hit home and help us prepare for battle.” During Miami’s title run last season, James began playing Big K.R.I.T.’s Southern rap anthem “I Got This” with regularity in the locker room. It became the Heat’s unofficial theme.

“I listened to it all the time,” James says. Why? “The words, the beat, the feel — all of it worked for me.”

“That record is about dealing with all the doubts,” Big K.R.I.T. says. “It’s like, ‘Yo, I handle my biz, I got this — even when people don’t believe.’ It probably hit home for LeBron because of the amount of hate he’d gotten and the Heat had gotten.”

Visiting with Dr. Dre has turned James into a kid again. And James still listens to at least one Dre song regularly: “Still D.R.E.,” now 13 years old, maybe more relevant to him than ever.

“It’s not just the music but what he’s actually saying,” James says. “People are always trying to throw rocks or say you’re not the best. I love that song, man. I listen to it at least weekly.”

Dre grins. James does the same, then adds a coda, speak-singing a Snoop Dogg lyric from the song: “I’m representing for them gangsters all across the world.”

“Mission accomplished,” Dre says.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Feb. 18 Music issue. Subscribe today!

The 2013 Grammys: A Night of Talents…

List of Winners:

  • Set Fire to the Rain earns British favorite her latest Grammy
  • Best Country Solo performance goes to Carrie Underwood for Blown Away
  • Song of the Year goes to Fun. with Janelle Monáe for We Are Young
  • Mumford & Sons win for their long-form video, Big Easy Express
  • The Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album goes to Frank Ocean for Channel Ocean
  • Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys wins producer of the year
  • Best rock performance goes to Lonely Boy by the Black Keys
  • Best Pop Vocal Album goes to Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
  • Best Rap/Sung Collaboration goes to No Church in the Wild with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The-Dream
  • The Grammy for Best Country Album goes to Uncaged from Zac Brown Band
  • Fun are awarded Best New Artist
  • Record of the Year is Somebody That I Used to Know performed by Gotye and Kimbra
  • Album of the Year goes to Babel from Mumford & Sons

Highlights:

  • Just a little bit of a star: Prince came out to present Record of the Year to Gotye for Somebody that I Used to Know, and the crowd went wild
  • Bruno Mars then kickstarted a Bob Marley tribute with his own song Locked Out Of Heaven.
  • Sting then arrives with his own Walking on the Moon before Rihanna and Ziggy Marley step out singing the late great reggae star’s, Could You Be Loved.
  • Damian Marley joins them as the camera pans to audience members like Taylor Swift soaking up the magic.
  • The Lumineers anthemic, Hey Ho, comes next, followed by rock legend Jack White with Love Interruption and Freedom at 21.
  • Next Katy Perry takes to the stage to introduce Best New Artist and says: ‘I was never even nominated in this category and I have my own eyelash line.
  • The winner is Fun, who are embraced by Girls star Lena Dunham, who is dating band member Jake Antonoff, as they make their way to the stage.
  • Prince finally arrives present the Grammy for Record of the Year.
  • The award goes to Somebody That I Used to Know performed by Gotye and Kimbra.
  • Elton John then returns to lead a rendition of The Band’s The Weight, along with Mavis Staples; Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes joined on the verse in what was one of the stand-out performances of the night.
  • Frank Ocean then wandered out to a roar and launched into his hit, Forrest Gump.

Best performance:

Dapper dancer: The Social Network actor wore an immaculate Tom Ford suit both on the carpet and on stageIt’s been five years, but Justin Timberlake made a triumphant return to the music scene on Sunday night. The singer turned actor stepped in front of a screaming crowd at the Grammy Awards to give a winning performance. Backed by a big band, with support from rapper superstar Jay-Z, he showed all his old charm.

Despite leaving music behind to focus on his acting career, The Social Network star proved getting people dancing is like riding a bike – you never forget how to do it. Looking dapper in a black Tom Ford suit with with a bow tie and cummerbund, the star temporarily transported viewers back in time with the picture turning into sepia tones.

With trumpets blaring Justin performed his new single Suit & Tie showing off his dance skills much to the joy of the crowd – all of whom were on their feet. The screams then exploded as Jay-Z, who also got suited up for the performance, got up from his seat in the audience to join the actor for the end of the song.

Not content with just playing one song Justin then went on to perform a new track from his forthcoming record The 20/20, Little Pusher Love Girl.

Watch Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake perform ‘Suit & Tie below:

Geometric: Beyonce took her choice of outfit into the 21st century with a black and white pantsuitYou can’t keep a good girl down, and so it was perhaps no surprise that the 55th Grammy Awards opened with inimitable British chantreuse Adele walking away with her NINTH award from the coveted ceremony.

But in typically adorable style, the 24-year-old acted like it was her very first after accepting the spoils from J-Lo and Pitbull, and talked about being nervous ahead of the Oscars. She’s done it again! The first big award of the night when to Adele for Best Pop Solo Performance for her song Set Fire To The Rain at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

This time, the honor was for Best Pop Solo Performance being awarded to her for Set Fire to the Rain (Live). Dressed in a red vintage-inspired dress by Valentino that divided opinion on the carpet, the London-born singer was overwhelmed to receive the award.

Coming up roses: Adele cut a striking sight in a knee length red and pink floral knee length dress and matching shoesComing up roses: Adele cut a striking sight in a knee length red and pink floral knee length dress and matching shoesBig moment: Pitbull and J-Lo watch as Adele makes a speech after they present her with the awardBig moment: Pitbull and J-Lo watch as Adele makes a speech after they present her with the award Valentino vixen: Adele showcased her trademark style at the event, but the veteran award winner and new mother was as excited to be honored as everValentino vixen: Adele showcased her trademark style at the event, but the veteran award winner and new mother was as excited to be honoured as ever Nervous: But in the press room shortly afterwards, she admitted that she’s ‘sh***** herself’ about singing at the Oscars later in the month, she’s nominated for her Bond song, SkyfallLadies in red: Adele and Rihanna were both stunning scarlet Sheer delight: Rihanna’s custom made gown featured some see-through panels and neatly matched the Grammys red carpetSheer delight: Rihanna's custom made gown featured some see-through panels and neatly matched the Grammys red carpetMint green goddess: Perry told Ryan Seacrest she was inspired by Priscilla Presley’s 1960s style for the red carpetMint green goddess: Perry told Ryan Seacrest she was inspired by Priscilla Presley's 1960s style for the red carpetLights, cameras action: Perry was the centre of attention in her figure hugging gown in front of the world’s pressLights, cameras action: Perry was the centre of attention in her figure hugging gown in front of the world's pressStrutting her stuff: Swift admitted she was feeling a little nervous before performing at the star-studded ceremonyStrutting her stuff: Swift admitted she was feeling a little nervous before performing at the star-studded ceremony Plus one: Lopez brought along her toy boy beau Casper SmartPlus one: Lopez brought along her toy boy beau Casper Smart, while Keith Urban arrived with wife Nicole KidmanPlus one: Lopez brought along her toy boy beau Casper Smart, while Keith Urban arrived with wife Nicole KidmanPlus one: Lopez brought along her toy boy beau Casper Smart, while Keith Urban arrived with wife Nicole KidmanCountry darlings: Keith and Nicole posed with singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in the cloudy L.A. weatherCountry darlings: Keith and Nicole posed with singers Tim McGraw and Faith HillSpaniard: Janelle Monàe was inspired by ‘Toreador En Garde’ in this matador-style suit jacket from MoschinoJanelle Monae 2013 GrammysTamia: Opted for a turban with her dress Tamia 2013 GrammysGoing green: Solange Knowles also sported an emerald floor length numberGoing green: Florence Welch wore a custom made floor length green dress, while Solange Knowles also sported an emerald floor length numberBest supporting act: Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen arrived with her boyfriend of 18 months, musician Matthew Koma, who gave her a kiss on the red carpetCarly Rae Jepsen and musician Matthew Koma We’re in fashion: Estelle and Kelly Osbourne happily posed together with Estelle showing off the eye-catching gown she helped designWe're in fashion: Estelle and Kelly Osbourne happily posed together with Estelle showing off the eye-catching gown she helped design Positively blooming: Ashanti showed off her black and floral full skirted dress on the red carpetPositively blooming: Ashanti showed off her black and floral full skirted dress on the red carpetBlown Away: Carrie Underwood was tickled pink to be honored so early in the ceremony for Best Solo Country Performance while, Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal Album for StrongerBlown Away: Carrie was tickled pink to be honoured so early in the ceremonyBlown Away: Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal Album for StrongerBlown Away: Carrie Underwood was tickled pink to be honoured so early in the ceremony for Best Solo Country Performance while, right, Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal Album for Stronger But the British invasion continued apace with Mumford & Sons, who came out to perform their smash hit, I Will Wait. Their album, Babel, is expecting to be one of the stand out successes of the night.   A guy riding a tricycle with a flame-thrower attached and a company of mime clowns helped Taylor Swift open the Grammy Awards on Sunday night.

Swift dressed as the Mad Hatter in white top hat, tails, shorts and tall boots during the surreal version of her hummable hit We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.

The A Team: Ed Sheeran got a bit of help from Sir Elton John for his performance, no biggieThe A Team: Ed Sheeran got a bit of help from Sir Elton John for his performance, no biggie What’s going on here? Elle DeGeneres appeared to admire Katy Perry’s form as she and wife Portia De Rossi enjoyed the nightWhat's going on here? Elle DeGeneres appeared to admire Katy Perry's form as she and wife Portia De Rossi enjoyed the night Ready for his comeback! After taking a break from singing to pursue a successful career in music, and marry, Justin Timberlake performed with Jay-ZReady for his comeback! After taking a break from singing to pursue a successful career in music, and marry, Justin Timberlake will be performing at tonight's Grammys Black and white delight: Justin teamed his black suit with matching black and white shoesBlack and white delight: Justin teamed his black suit with matching black and white shoesBlack tie double date! Hip-hop king and queen Jay-Z and Beyonce held court front row at the Grammy Awards Sunday night alongside newlyweds Justin Timberlake and Jessica BielBlack tie double date! Hip-hop king and queen Jay-Z and Beyonce held court front row at the Grammy Awards Sunday night alongside newlyweds Justin Timberlake and Jessica BielPower couple pow-wow: The famous foursome were in a celebratory mood and dressed to the ninesPower couple pow-wow: The famous foursome were in a celebratory mood and dressed to the ninesPass the flute! The 43-year-old rapstar was freely pouring champagne and courvoisier for his friends while still seated in the packed Staples Center, much to the amusement of the beaming Mrs. TimberlakePass the flute! The 43-year-old rapstar was freely pouring champagne and courvoisier for his friends while still seated in the packed Staples Center, much to the amusement of the beaming Mrs. TimberlakeFront row fashion: Justin was in head-to-toe Tom Ford, Jessica was in a one-shouldered Oscar de la Renta, and Beyonce wore a b&w Osman crepe pantsuitFront row fashion: Justin was in head-to-toe Tom Ford, Jessica was in a one-shouldered Oscar de la Renta, and Beyonce wore a b&w Osman crepe pantsuitMr. & Mrs. Carter: The high profile couple coordinated outfits and looked stunningSitting pretty: The Grammys were a makeshift double date for the power couplesMr. & Mrs. Timberlake: Justin’s comeback has been well received so farSitting pretty: The Grammys were a makeshift double date for the power couplesStunning introduction: Beyonce and Ellen DeGeneres introduced the star’s big performanceStunning introduction: Beyonce and Ellen DeGeneres introduced the star's big performanceGet excited: The pair amped up the crowd with Beyonce declaring, ‘This performances marks a man who was born to make music’Get excited: The pair amped up the crowd with Beyonce declaring, 'This performances marks a man who was born to make music'He’s back: Justin Timberlake returned to music at the Grammy Awards on Sunday nightHe's back: Justin Timberlake returned to music at the Grammy Awards on Sunday nightGetting them dancing: Justin got a standing ovation from the celebrity studded crowdGetting them dancing: Justin got a standing ovation from the celebrity studded crowdFlying high: Jay-Z got up from his seat to join the singer on stageFlying high: Jay-Z got up from his seat to join the singer on stageIn their suits and ties: The pair went for similar suit looks for Sunday night’s performanceIn their suits and ties: The pair went for similar suit looks for Sunday night's performanceQueen Bey: The Houston-born singer paired her daring geometric jumpsuit with a Swarovski clutch bag and Lorraine Schwartz jewelryQueen Bey: The Houston-born singer paired her daring geometric jumpsuit with a Swarovski clutch bag and Lorraine Schwartz jewelleryCongrats! When greeting the press after her win, the 31-year-old exposed her gleaming prize for best traditional R&B performanceCongrats! When greeting the press after her win, the 31-year-old hilariously peeked behind the curtain while partially exposing her gleaming prize for best traditional R&B performanceOdd couple: Later on the 16-time Grammy champ, real name Shawn Carter, joined Justin on stage for a rousing performance of his new song, Suit and TieOdd couple: Later on the 16-time Grammy champ, real name Shawn Carter, joined Justin on stage for a rousing performance of his new song, Suit and TieNew mothers: Adele, dressed in a pink-and-red Valentino floral dress, greeted Blue Ivy’s motherNew mothers: Adele, dressed in a pink-and-red Valentino floral dress, greeted Blue Ivy's motherMuppet smiles: Beyonce introduced her husband and Timberlake with funnywoman Ellen Degeneres and alter accepted her 18th trophy for her hit Love On TopMuppet smiles: Beyonce introduced her husband and Timberlake with funnywoman Ellen Degeneres and alter accepted her 18th trophy for her hit Love On TopThe white stuff: Chris Brown proved a striking sight in a all white suit and matching shoes but walked the red carpet without girlfriend RihannaThe white stuff: Chris Brown proved a striking sight in a all white suit and matching shoes but walked the red carpet without girlfriend Rihanna Songstress: Rihanna to the stage for a performance of her song Stay and Could You Be Loved, changing into a black dressSongstress: Rihanna to the stage for a performance of her song Stay and Could You Be Loved, changing into a black dress LBD change: Rihanna performed onstage with Sting, Bruno Mars, and Ziggy Marley and won the Grammy for short form music video for We Found LoveLBD change: Rihanna performed onstage with Sting, Bruno Mars, and Ziggy Marley and won the Grammy for short form music video for We Found LoveThey’re back: Like it or not, the Grammys also marked the triumphant return of turbulent couple Chris Brown and RihannaThey're back: Like it or not, the Grammys also marked the triumphant return of turbulent couple Chris Brown and RihannaAll is forgiven: Four years ago the 23-year-old star brutally attacked the Barbadian pop star, leaving her bloodied and bruised after a pre-Grammys partyAll is forgiven: Four years ago the 23-year-old star brutally attacked the Barbadian pop star, leaving her bloodied and bruised after a pre-Grammys party

Could You Be Loved: Musicians Ziggy Marley, Bruno Mars and Rihanna perform a tribute to BobCould You Be Loved: Musicians Ziggy Marley, Bruno Mars and Rihanna perform a tribute to Bob Oh baby: Rapper Wiz Khalifa and girlfriend, pregnant model Amber Rose arrived on the red carpet togetherOh baby: Rapper Wiz Khalifa and girlfriend, pregnant model Amber Rose arrived on the red carpet togetherBack to black: Alicia Keys showed off her curvy figure in a strappy leather top and full skirtBack to black: Alicia Keys showed off her curvy figure in a strappy leather top and full skirt, while model Chrissy Teigen wore a midriff-flashing gown Always together: Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz make a striking pairAlicia Keys and Swizz Beatz 2013 GrammysBack to black: Model Chrissy Teigen wore a midriff-flashing gownBack to black: Alicia Keys showed off her curvy figure in a strappy leather top and full skirt, while model Chrissy Teigen wore a midriff-flashing gown Highly acclaimed: Multi-nominated star Drake stuck to more conventional black attireHighly acclaimed: Multi-nominated star Frank Ocean sported a smart blue suit, while Drake stuck to more conventional black attire Coordinated: Adam Levine and his band Maroon 5 looked striking in matching black suits and shirtsCo-ordinated: Adam Levine and his band Maroon 5 looked striking in matching black suits and shirtsFooling around: Singer RedFoo of LMFAO couldn’t resist the chance to joke around in front of phographers as he arrivedFooling around: Singer RedFoo of LMFAO couldn't resist the chance to joke around in front of phographers as he arrivedPopular winner: Kelly Clarkson brought her trademark joy to her performancePopular winner: Kelly Clarkson brought her trademark joy to her performance It seems that some audience members find it hard to forget that he’s still on probation for beating her ahead of the Grammy Awards in 2009. But The Black Keys distract everyone by winning best rock performance for Lonely Boy and best producer for Dan Auerbach. Maroon 5 swiftly follow to perform Daylight.

Stronger: Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal Album and was extremely excited about it, as you can tellStronger: Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal AlbumBest of British: Marcus Mumford, left, and Winston Marshall, of musical group Mumford & Sons perform I Will WaitBest of British: Marcus Mumford, left, and Winston Marshall, of musical group Mumford & Sons perform I Will Wait

An Interview with singer Tamia: Talks Grammy nomination, parenting and more…

tamia hott mommaWhen the Grammy Award nominations were announced in December, biracial singer Tamia’s mind was elsewhere. For one thing, the velvet-voiced Canadian R&B singer was on tour. She runs her own record label, so touring means more than strutting across a stage every night — she’s equally as focused on the minutiae of promoting gigs, shuffling gear from one venue to the next and managing the staff that helps her.

She also has a busy family life, two daughters and her husband, NBA star Grant Hill, whose own demanding schedule necessitates that the couple stay in constant contact, their calendars as tightly joined as the interlocking teeth of a zipper.

The Grammy nomination…

Tamia at the 4th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In MusicSo when she was roused out of sleep at her hotel after a long day of rehearsals by her producer Claude Kelly around 10 p.m. by the news that she had been nominated for two Grammys for Beautiful Surprise, her first album in six years, her first instinct was that it was a joke.

“I think I even told him: ‘Stop playing,”‘ she recalled, noting that she then verified and called her tour manager to tell him the news. “He immediately said: ‘I’m calling everyone. Come downstairs. We’re partying on the tour bus.’

“So I immediately got dressed and went downstairs and partied on the tour bus for the rest of the night. So it was good. I really wasn’t even thinking in that realm about Grammy nominations,” she adds. “I was concentrating on the tour.”

“And obviously I have two kids and a husband and trying to juggle all of those things, certainly that wasn’t on my mind like that. But that was the best wake up call that day, for sure.”

The Grammy nominated song…

These nominations, for best R&B album and song, for Beautiful Surprise and its title track respectively, are not the first in Tamia’s long career.Tamia

She was singled out for three nominations back in 1997, when she was a three-octave ingenue whose You Put a Move On My Heart was working a move of its own on the hearts of listeners.

That year, she soared into the glitzy Grammys tucked under Quincy Jones’s wing — and while that’s an enviable spot for any fledgling R&B singer to find him or herself, Tamia certainly didn’t have autonomy over her career at that time.

She was in her early ’20s, and very much along for the ride. “I was so young in the business,” she said.

“I’d just really gotten started and I’m not even sure if I really understood all that it took to get Grammy nominations, and what it meant from your peers to be recognized. This time around, it was that much sweeter to be recognized for the work I’ve been doing.”

Taking time off…

tamia and kidsAnd that’s in part because she now has ultimate control over every element of her career. Although each of her first three albums were certified gold, she split with her major label after 2004′s More and released 2006′s Between Friends independently via her own label, Plus One Music Group.

She subsequently took time away to have her second child in 2007 but released Beautiful Surprise the same way. Of course, Tamia had been used to being a prized asset on a wealthy major record label back in the days when major record labels were still wealthy.

The last time she hit the road on the dime of a major imprint was 2004, when she toured with Missy Elliot, Alicia Keys and Beyonce.

“It was a fun, amazing tour,” said the singer, who took her husband’s last name of Hill. “But I could tell you that I was with a major label and I don’t know how much it cost. I don’t know if I ever got paid. I just sort of got on the bus.”

“This tour,” she says, referring to a recent jaunt, “I know how much it cost me, how much everyone was getting paid, what I needed to do to make money, and all these things. I mean, there is a lot more involved in it.”

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think it’s important to know all facets of the music business, and certainly it’s important to keep track of your money and where it’s going and what’s coming in … to be the one to be able to make decisions on where the money is being spent.”

“The artist doesn’t want to know those things,” she continued. “The artist in me wishes she could just go onstage and sing, but I can’t do that. And overall, I’m much more happy that I can understand all aspects of it before I get on that stage.”

The music comeback…

With no “big machine” behind her, Tamia’s career now feels like a more modest mom-and-pop-type operation, a labor of love that isn’t necessarily lucrative. And without a massive marketing budget, her success relies upon “one person telling another person telling another person telling another person” about her latest project.

That’s part of why she’s so thrilled about the Grammy nominations, a coup for any artist but particularly one who makes music without the implicit validation of a massive corporation actively backing her work.

“We’re just like the little engine that could,” said Tamia, who grew up in the inner city of Windsor, Ont.

Singer/wife/mom…

To some degree, however, it seems Tamia relishes not only the autonomy but the demanding nature of her dual roles.

“I think she actually enjoys all the wearing of the different hats and the stress and the problem solving,” said her biracial husband, Grant Hill, chatting before a recent Los Angeles Clippers game.

“Just to be a career woman, to juggle the career, the running of her label, being a mom, being a wife, that’s not an easy thing to do…. Each one on its own is difficult, but to do all those things at once — you know, it’s pretty amazing.”

Of course, given that from time to time both parents can be trekking around the continent simultaneously, theirs is a unique union.

Juggling it all…

The Hills are meticulous in their scheduling.

They also grasp opportunities to spend time together when they can — for instance, the past U.S. Thanksgiving when a fortuitous coincidence had Tamia playing a show in New York around the same time Grant’s Clippers were taking the court in Brooklyn.

The whole family came in and spent the holiday together, before their careers again intervened, and the girls came along with Tamia to see her perform her next date in Washington, with their grandparents looking on.

“Oh, we’re crazy,” Tamia laughed when asked how they manage. “We’re certainly unconventional. It’s a lot of scheduling. We have a lot of calendars.

“I think as a working mom, you’re constantly juggling things,” she added. “And sometimes you drop the ball but you pick it up and hope no one’s looking. And you start juggling where you left off. You just hope no one saw you drop it — you pick it up and sneak it back in.”

Songwriting…

In the video for her buoyant ballad Beautiful Surprise, Tamia cavorts mostly solo, cooing the song’s decadently sweet lyrics, which could have flowed from the pen of a starry-eyed first-time lover, until she and her husband are reunited for an intimate moment together.

Tamia says that she told Hill that he’d better take that opportunity to appear in one of her videos, since he might not want to associate himself with one of her scorned-lover screeds — like Stranger in My House, a top 10 hit Stateside after its 2000 release.

And Grant admits that he tends to prefer her more upbeat tracks. He admires her ability to write vividly identifiable love songs:

“I think she’s able to cover all the different feelings and emotions that come with love, so the heartbreak, the disappointment, the betrayal, the excitement, the love. All the highs and lows,” he says — but notes that the lyrics are so real, some people presume they’re autobiography.

“I enjoy the upbeat ones, because people automatically assume — with Stranger in my House or Me, songs like that — that I did something to create that drama,” the seven-time NBA all-star said with a smile.

“So not all the negative songs are inspired by me. At least I don’t think they are. I hope they’re not.”

Dealing with multiple sclerosis…

Tamia’s work ethic is perhaps particularly impressive when one considers that she’s been dealing with health challenges for the past decade, since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003.

She’s been an active spokesperson for the inflammatory disease (which affects the communication between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord), sharing her story in the hopes of inspiring others. She wants her tireless drive to serve as an example of what’s possible with the condition, although she acknowledges that she must stay aware of her limits.

“It’s been an interesting ride with MS — I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. If anybody had any doubt about how I’m doing, I think seeing me do 30 cities with as many as four shows a night singing live.”

“I think that sort of squashed any doubt about how I’m feeling and things like that,” she said, adding that prior to this interview she’d just wrapped playing two hours of tennis.

“For me, the diagnosis of MS was sort of a wake-up call, to not run myself into the ground, to stay balanced mentally and physically, to sort of listen to your body, know when you need to rest, and know when you can push yourself and you can keep it going. I just try to live in a balanced way, and that’s been working for me.”

Asked if she plans to take time off following her next tour dates (the specifics have yet to be announced), she’s emphatic: “No way!” She re-entered the music business gingerly after her maternity-inspired hiatus, writing songs slowly with Kelly without necessarily knowing the end result.

Part of what inspired her comeback was the desire to show her daughters that there was more to their mom than they realized.

“They (didn’t) recognize me as mommy the singer, they recognized me as mommy the chauffeur,” she said, laughing. “Every now and then I have to let them know.”

Her husband will be rooting for Tamia from afar when she attends the Grammys in Los Angeles this weekend, since his Clippers will be in New York. So Tamia’s bringing her daughters along, allowing them another glimpse at their multi-faceted mom doing something quite out of the ordinary.

“They’ll be excited to go to the Grammys,” she says. “It’s like a once in a lifetime thing, right?”

Well, for most people.

First published in ‘O-Canada

Super Bowl XLVII – Ravens vs. 49ers: The Performances

Alicia Keys‘ moving performance of the Star Spangled Banner

Taking centre stage: Alicia followed in the footsteps of Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson by performing the anthem With her long red gown, chic hair style and gold necklace, Alicia Keys cut a striking figure as she sat down behind a silvery white grand piano in the middle of the field at the Super Bowl on Sunday. And the star delivered on her promise to delivered an all-new version of the Star Spangled banner before kick off in New Orleans.

Alicia showed no nerves as she confidently sung a mellow, jazzy rendition of anthem in front of an estimated audience of more than 150 million. The anthem was interspersed with shots of American soldiers overseas spliced with emotional watching athletes. At the culmination of her performance, Alicia closed her eyes and held her arms aloft in a type of victory salute.

Taking centre stage: Alicia followed in the footsteps of Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson by performing the anthem Following the furore of Beyonce lip syncing to the Star Spangled Banner at President Obama’s Inauguration, the pressure was on Alicia to deliver.

‘I’m really excited about it, I can’t even lie,’ the singer told The Huffington Post prior to Sunday’s performance. ‘I have to rehearse it totally, as if it’s a brand-new song, because it is actually a brand new song in the style that I’ll deliver it. I’m actually rehearsing it like a maniac.’

Luckily, Alicia’s rendition went off without a hitch, unlike Christina Aguilera’s notorious line fluffing back in 2011. She follows in the footsteps of stars including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks in performing the anthem. She was spotted making her way onto the sidelines with husband Swizz Beatz prior to her performance.

Earlier, the singer shared her pre-performance ritual with her fans on Twitter this morning, saying: ‘Just finished a beautiful, calming yoga session. My intention is 2 enjoy every piece of this special day! What’s urs?’

She also tweeted several pictures of herself getting ready on Sunday morning including a snap of her wearing a white robe, and another one admiring her reflection in the crimson gown.

Watch Alicia Key’s sing the Star Spangled Banner below:

All new: Alicia Keys impressed fans with her emotional all-new version of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana on SundayAll new: Alicia Keys impressed fans with her emotional all-new version of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana on SundayFlying the flag: The star showed no nerves as she sat down behind her silver pianoFlying the flag: The star showed no nerves as she sat down behind her silver piano Saluting the crowd: Alicia held her arms aloft at the culmination of her performanceSaluting the crowd: Alicia held her arms aloft at the culmination of her performance Refreshment break: The star had a drink next to her in a special holder during her performanceRefreshment break: The star had a drink next to her in a special holder during her performance Glamour girl: Alicia looked stunning in a red floor length gown and gold chocker necklaceGlamour girl: Alicia looked stunning in a red floor length gown and gold chocker necklace Lady in red: Alicia showed off her svelte figure in the fishtail crimson gownLady in red: Alicia showed off her svelte figure in the fishtail crimson gown Millions watching: Last year, the Super Bowl audience was estimated to be 177 million with an equal amount expected to tune in on SundayMillions watching: Last year, the Super Bowl audience was estimated to be 177 million with an equal amount expected to tune in on Sunday Ready to go: Swizz Beatz joined his wife as they made their way to the sidelines prior to her performanceReady to go: Swizz Beatz joined his wife as they made their way to the sidelines prior to her performance Getting ready: Alicia clutched a drink as she made her way to the fieldGetting ready: Alicia clutched a drink as she made her way to the field Hugging it out: Alicia embraced a friend following her acclaimed performanceHugging it out: Alicia embraced a friend following her acclaimed performanceShe’s ready! Alicia Keys tweeted a shot of her sporting her glamorous floor length red gown ahead of singing the Nation Anthem at the Super Bowl on SundayShe's ready! Alicia Keys tweeted a shot of her sporting her glamorous floor length red gown ahead of singing the Nation Anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday Gearing up: Alicia tweeted a snap of herself in a white robe with the stadium in the background earlierGearing up: Alicia Keys tweeted a snap of herself getting ready ahead of her performance of the national anthem at Sunday's Super BowlIn rehearsal: Earlier in the day, the star posted a snap of her rehearsals, where she is seen sitting at a silver piano in the middle of the football pitch, presumably taken the day beforeIn rehearsal: Earlier in the day, the star posted a snap of her rehearsals, where she is seen sitting at a silver piano in the middle of the football pitch, presumably taken the day before Getting ready: Alicia’s excitement was palpable as she tweeted before the big eventGetting ready: Alicia's excitement was palpable as she tweeted before the big event Getting ready for the big occasion: Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson posed for a photograph together at rehearsals on SaturdayGetting ready for the big occasion: Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson posed for a photograph together at rehearsals on Saturday

Jennifer Hudson performs an emotional version of ‘America The Beautiful’ with choir of children from Sandy Hook gun massacre school…

Close to her heart: The Smash star wore a ribbon honouring the children lost at Sandy HookIt’s a cause that is dear to Jennifer Hudson’s heart – after having lost her family to gun violence. And on Sunday the singer paid an emotional tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at the Super Bowl.

Hudson was joined by the chorus from the Newtown, Conn. school as they opened up for the nation’s biggest football event with an emotional performance of America The Beautiful. The Oscar winner adorned her black leather Monika Chiang top with a green ribbon in honor of those lost at Sandy Hook and showed off her curvy figure in a white button front L’Wren Scott skirt.

Close to her heart: The Smash star wore a ribbon honouring the children lost at Sandy HookJennifer was flanked by over two dozen children from the school which was devastated by a shooting rampage last December where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed. Moments before stepping on stage the 31-year-old Grammy winner tweeted her excitement to be performing in New Orleans.

‘Such a privilege to be performing w the Sandy Hook elementary chorus at the #SuperBowl today. We go on just before kick off!’ 

She also thanked God as she neared her emotional performance.

‘From my heart to yours! Such an Emotional roller coaster [and] So close to home.’ She continued: ‘NoNo matter who or what we r, we must pray! Thank u lord for this day! May thy will be done! Have your way , oh God!!

The Dreamgirls star herself has been the victim of tragedy, after she was devastated four years ago when her mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson were gunned down in her home town Chicago. Her seven-year-old nephew Julian King was reported missing from the home, but was found dead in the back of an abandoned SUV days later.

Her brother-in-law William Balfour was sentenced last year to three life sentences without the possibility of parole, followed by 120 years for other crimes.

Watch Jennifer Hudson perform ‘America The Beautiful’ below:

It’s personal for her: Jennifer Hudson performed with the choir from Sandy Hook Elementary School at the Super Bowl on SundayIt's personal for her: Jennifer Hudson performed with the choir from Sandy Hook Elementary School at the Super Bowl on SundayClose to home: The singer lost her mother and nephew to gun violence in 2008Close to home: The singer lost her mother and nephew to gun violence in 2008Such a privilege: Jennifer tweeted that the performance was an emotional roller coasterSuch a privilege: Jennifer tweeted that the performance was an emotional roller coasterWe must pray: Jennifer has been an outspoken critic against violenceWe must pray: Jennifer has been an outspoken critic against violenceHeavenly praise: ‘Thank you lord for this day,’ she tweetedHeavenly praise: 'Thank you lord for this day,' she tweetedStanding strong: The children attend the same elementary school that lost 20 first-graders in a shooting last DecemberStanding strong: The children attend the same elementary school that lost 20 first-graders in a shooting last DecemberA great loss: The children have since returned to schoolA great loss: The children have since returned to schoolShowing off her curves: The singer has lost over 80 pounds since starting her careerShowing off her curves: The singer has lost over 80 pounds since starting her careerHappy family: Jennifer looked full of joy as she posed with her mother Darnell, sister Julia and nephew Jason before the 2008 tragedyHappy family: Jennifer looked full of joy as she posed with her mother Darnell, sister Julia and nephew Jason

Lady in leather Beyonce sets the stage on fire as she’s joined by Destiny’s Child in show-stopping half-time Super Bowl performance…

Making her mark: Critics were hailing Beyonce's half time performance as one of the Super Bowl's bestShe was under pressure to deliver a brilliant performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl following the recent lip syncing controversy at President Obama’s Inauguration.

And Beyonce took to the stage with trademark style, with an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular greatest hits set for the half time show, which culminated in her being joined on stage by Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.

The 31-year-old singer sported a plunging leather corset and skirt which she stripped off to reveal a lace underlay during a slick, energetic show packed with special effects at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Looking up to the stars: Beyonce's spectacular show was witnessed by millions of viewers worldwide However, her show may have taken up a large amount of electricity, with the power in the stadium going out shortly after the 14 minute set. She emerged onstage singing lines from her R&B hit Love on Top under a giant lit up silhouette of herself, with a group of fans running on to the field to watch next to the lit up stage in the shape of two facing profiles of the singer.

Vigorous: Beyonce put in an energetic performance complete with fireworks, synchronised dance moves and even a partial strip Black over-the-knee socks over fishnet tights and high heeled ankle boots completed Beyonce’s sexy outfit designed by little known New York based Rubin Singer. The stage was dark while fire and lights burst from the sides as she began hit Crazy in Love, complete with a guitar flaming as it played out its solo.

The clearly pumped up star even blew a kiss to the crowd, before beginning her show in front of fireworks and light effects on video screens. Beyonce’s spectacular performance provided an elaborate contrast to the on-field sporting action between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, with special effects including a light show, fireworks, and kaleidoscopic multiple video footage of the star.

Her background singers helped out as Beyonce danced around the stage throughout most of her performance. There was a backing track to help fill in when she wasn’t singing – and there were long stretches when she let it play as she performed elaborate dance moves with a swarm of background dancers and band members.

Vigorous: Beyonce put in an energetic performance complete with fireworks, synchronised dance moves and even a partial strip Beyonce performed a number of hits including End of Time, and Baby Boy before being joined by Michelle and Kelly who wore similar revealing black outfits. Kelly sported a leather leotard with identical stockings and boots, while Michelle sported a ultra short black miniskirt over her slinky leather number. Michelle had previously denied the band would reunite for the event, saying she had a prior commitment to appear in the musical Fela.

So there was clear delight from the crowd when they took the stage, singing with the diva on their massive hits Bootylicious and Independent Woman, along with Beyonce’s smash hit Single Ladies.

To close the 14-minute set, Williams and Rowland left Beyonce to perform emotional show-stopper Halo.
She asked the crowd to put their hands toward her as she sang the slow groove on bended knee – and that’s when she the performance hit its high note.
‘Thank you for this moment,’ she told the crowd. ‘God bless y’all.’

Tribute: Beyonce posted a note on her Tumblr page saying how proud she is of her fellow Super Bowl performersThe pressure may have been on, but Beyonce looked happy and confident throughout, showing no sign of nerves despite the size of the occasion, with many non-football fans tuning in just to see her half time show. The star was performing in front of up an estimated 76,468 people – the seating capacity of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – as well as millions more throughout the world. The Ravens ended up narrowly beating the 49ers 34 points to 31.

Watch Beyonce’s halftime performance below:

Lady in leather: Beyonce looked striking in a plunging leather corset as she performed a medley of her hits with Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams at the Super Bowl in New Orleans on SundayDestiny's Child are back! Lady in leather Beyonce sets the stage on fire as she's joined by bandmates in show-stopping half-time Super Bowl performanceBeyonce’s angels! The trio danced in synchrony as they performed a medley of their hits to the excited crowdLady in leather: Beyonce looked striking in a plunging leather corset as she performed a medley of her hits with Destiny's Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams at the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Sunday Surprise surprise: Williams had previously denied that she and Rowland would be sharing the stage with their Destiny’s Child bandmateSurprise surprise: Williams had previously denied that she and Rowland would be sharing the stage with their Destiny's Child bandmate What a tease: Williams and Rowland started out with their backs to the cameras before turning around to reveal their facesWhat a tease: Williams and Rowland started out with their backs to the cameras before turning around to reveal their faces Victory salute! Beyonce was clearly pumped up during her energetic performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and held her hands aloft to her fansVictory salute! Beyonce was clearly pumped up during her energetic performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and held her hands aloft to her fans Stage on fire! The trio were in perfect synchrony as they performed in front of a lit up stage in the middle of the arenaStage on fire! The trio were in perfect synchrony as they performed in front of a lit up stage in the middle of the arenaMulti-Beyonce: The singer sung in front of a screen of the star mirroring her movesMulti-Beyonce: The singer sung in front of a screen of the star mirroring her moves Crazy in love: A dramatic silhouette of the singer contained cheering fans watching her take center stageCrazy in love: A dramatic silhouette of the singer contained cheering fans watching her take centre stage Hologram: Beyonce was given the striking hologram treatment at one point in her performanceHologram: Beyonce was given the striking hologram treatment at one point in her performance Many hands make light work: The half time show featured plenty of impressive tricks and effectsMulti handed: The half time show featured plenty of impressive tricks and effectsHair’s how: Michelle, Kelly and Beyonce whipped their hair back and forth on stageHair's how: Michelle, Kelly and Beyonce whipped their hair back and forth on stage Dressed for success: Beyonce danced alongside a group of scantily clad dancers as she performed a medley of her greatest hitsDressed for success: Beyonce danced alongside a group of scantily clad dancers as she performed a medley of her greatest hitsStage with a view: One striking photograph on the singer’s Tumblr showed the Destiny’s Child trio looking out at the vast crowdStage with a view: One striking photograph on the singer's Tumblr showed the Destiny's Child trio looking out at the vast crowdSmoking hot: The singer looked extremely focused on her performance as she sang alongside a group of female musiciansSmoking hot: The singer looked extremely focused on her performance as she sang alongside a group of female musicians A touch of fame: Fans grab at the star’s hands during the energetic show in a picture posted to her Tumblr pageA touch of fame: Fans grabbed at the star's hands during the energetic show A commanding performance: Beyonce is shown confidently strutting around the stage in her slinky leather outfit in another post on her TumblrA commanding performance: Beyonce is shown confidently strutting around the stage in her slinky leather outfit in another post on her TumblrLight show spectacular: A highlight of the show involved video of the singer lying down in a circle, while the real singer danced alongside a guitarist in the centerLight show spectacular: A highlight of the show involved video of the singer lying down in a circle, while the real singer danced alongside a guitarist in the centre No sign of nerves: Beyonce looked excited, happy and confident during her performance in front of thousands of stadium fansNo sign of nerves: Beyonce looked excited, happy and confident during her performance in front of thousands of stadium fans Hair swinging good: The star wore her long curls loose around her shoulders and used it to maximum effect during her performanceHair swinging good: The star wore her long curls loose around her shoulders and used it to maximum effect during her performance Lights, camera action: Beyonce takes a breath in front of dramatic black and white video screensLights, camera action: Beyonce takes a breath in front of dramatic black and white video screens Smoking hot: Beyonce strikes a sultry pose alongside a female guitarist whose guitar sparked with fireSmoking hot: Beyonce strikes a sultry pose alongside a female guitarist whose guitar sparked with fireFan love: Beyonce lay back on the stage at one point, while fans clamoured around her as they watched inside the lit up silhouetteFan love: Beyonce lay back on the stage at one point, while fans clamoured around her as they watched inside the lit up silhouette The night of a thousand stars: Beyonce’s performance came after Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson sang before kick offThe night of a thousand stars: Beyonce's performance came after Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson sang before kick offLight show spectacular: Beyonce’s striking Super Bowl performance from the airLight show spectacular: Beyonce's striking Super Bowl performance from the airBeyonce lights up the stage during the half-time show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New OrleansBeyonce lights up the stage during the half-time show of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New OrleansBootilicious: The star was clearly pumped up for her performanceBootilicious: The star was clearly pumped up for her performance Congratulations: Beyonce is hugged by husband Jay-Z backstage following her successful performanceCongratulations: Beyonce is hugged by husband Jay-Z following her successful performance Show of support: Jay-Z, pictured sporting a grey T-shirt and glasses joined his wife backstage after her acclaimed performanceShow of support: Jay-Z, pictured sporting a grey T-shirt and glasses joined his wife backstage after her acclaimed performance

 

Music Spotlight: Nicole Scherzinger Debuts New Video ‘Boomerang’

She’s been opting for a demure look of late, choosing elegant gowns over the skimpy ensembles she used to favor during her days as a Pussycat Doll. But Nicole Scherzinger returned to her racy roots in the video for her brand new single, Boomerang.

Ensuring her incredible figure got maximum exposure in the raunchy shoot, the 34-year-old singer paraded her killer legs in a pair of barely-there leather hotpants. Strutting her stuff in a pair of skyscraper heels, the star left little to the imagination with her skimpy choice of clothing as she got her groove on in time to the beats.

Watch the video for Boomerang below:

Strutting her stuff: Nicole Scherzinger paraded her incredible pins in a pair of skimpy leather hotpants in her video for new track BoomerangStrutting her stuff: Nicole Scherzinger paraded her incredible pins in a pair of skimpy leather hotpants in her video for new track BoomerangRacy: The 34-year-old singer certainly didn’t hold back as she showcased her incredible figure in a decidedly skimpy ensembleRacy: The 34-year-old singer certainly didn't hold back as she showcased her incredible figure in a decidedly skimpy ensemble Vampy: Nicole teamed her sexy hotpants with a fierce dog-tooth check jacket and skyscraper heelsVampy: Nicole teamed her sexy hotpants with a fierce dog-tooth check jacket and skyscraper heels Working it! Nicole have her all as she strutted her stuff in her skyscraper heelsWorking it! Nicole have her all as she strutted her stuff in her skyscraper heelsTeaming her tiny black shorts with a fierce dog-tooth jacket and vampy leather gloves, Nicole proved she was back to her sexy best by writhing around on the floor as she belted out the pop-tastic tune. In another scene, the X Factor judge had her long raven locks transformed into corn rows as incredible CGI effects made the dreams of most men come true by projecting scores of images of the star on to the screen.

Although this was a much more demure look, Nicole made sure to suitably flash the flesh in a plunging top and form-fitting black trousers which emphasized her toned legs. While in one shot, the former Pussycat Dolls singer displayed her curves in a vampy PVC skintight dress, another saw her show off her ballerina-like grace, jumping up into the air to perform a series of incredible moves.

She’s got The X Factor! The star paraded her incredible pins in a pair of vampy leather hotpantsShe's got The X Factor! The star paraded her incredible pins in a pair of vampy leather hotpants Scher-mazing! Nicole shot the racy video in West London late last yearScher-mazing! Nicole shot the racy video in West London late last yearShe means business! Nicole certainly looked like she was the boss as she strutted her stuffShe means business! Nicole certainly looked like she was the boss as she strutted her stuff Vampy: The star flaunted her curves in a form-fitting PVC dress, which she teamed with a trendy top knot and gold hoop earringsVampy: The star flaunted her curves in a form-fitting PVC dress, which she teamed with a trendy top knot and gold hoop earrings Later in the video, the raven-haired beauty switched into a slinky robe and fierce leather knee-high boots as she showcased her incredible dance skills. It was a change of direction for Nicole, with her more recent videos showing off her demure side and natural beauty.

Throughout most of the shot, the star made sure to grab attention in a daring mesh dress and fishnet dress, which certainly left little to the imagination when it came to her incredible figure.

Dancing queen: Nicole showcased her graceful ballet movesDancing queen: Nicole showcased her graceful ballet moves Sexy: In one scene, Nicole opted for a daring plunging topSexy: In one scene, Nicole opted for a daring plunging topChange of direction: Nicole transformed her usually flowing raven locks into a corn row styleChange of direction: Nicole transformed her usually flowing raven locks into a corn row style Seeing double: Nicole’s image was transformed into a dazzling display thanks to CGI effectsSeeing double: Nicole's image was transformed into a dazzling display thanks to CGI effects

Proudly introducing the new video on her Twitter page, she wrote: ‘It’s here! #Boomerang is live now only on @VEVO_UK!’ Thanking her fans for their support, Nicole wrote on her Twitter page: ‘Thanku so much 4 ur love n support today for my new single #BOOMerang.’

And despite her apparent ease in front of the camera, Nicole confessed to Fabulous magazine that she isn’t always so confident.

Fierce: Nicole changed into a skimpy robe and leather knee-high boots as she performed a series of sexy movesFierce: Nicole changed into a skimpy robe and leather knee-high boots as she performed a series of sexy movesThe dream: The star was surrounded by a number of mirror images of herselfThe dream: The star was surrounded by a number of mirror images of herself Her big comeback: Nicole proudly announced her new video via her Twitter page on Friday morningHer big comeback: Nicole proudly announced her new video via her Twitter page on Friday morning Daring: The singer left little to the imagination in a mesh and fishnet minidressDaring: The singer left little to the imagination in a mesh and fishnet minidress

She said: ‘I get very shy if I have to go to an event or walk a red carpet and be around a lot of people. It takes me a while to come out of my shell. I’m a loner – in the [Pussycat] Dolls, when I was in college, always a loner.’

‘I think it’s because I’m always in work mode with a million things in my head,” Nicole continued. “It’s just how I was made. It’s got me to where I am today.’

Neon brights: The star covered up her raunchy dress with a brightly-coloured biker jacketNeon brights: The star covered up her raunchy dress with a brightly-coloured biker jacketBold: Nicole swept her raven locks off her face into a high ponytail and wore a slick of fuchsia lipstickBold: Nicole swept her raven locks off her face into a high ponytail and wore a slick of fuchsia lipstick On the prowl: Nicole left little to the imagination in the tight mesh dress as she promotes her latest singleOn the prowl: Nicole left little to the imagination in the tight mesh dress as she promotes her latest single Daring: Nicole showed off her incredible curves in the dress, which left little to the imaginationDaring: Nicole showed off her incredible curves in the dress, which left little to the imagination Shocking: Nicole’s dress certainly showed off her slim figure in the dress, which made a VPL very difficult to avoidShocking: Nicole's dress certainly showed off her slim figure in the dress, which made a VPL very difficult to avoid

Boomerang is the lead single from her second solo studio album, the follow-up to 2011’s Killer Love. The music video is expected soon after the song’s debut.

Celebrity Spotlight: Diva Mariah Carey Talks Motherhood and Career…

Mariah Carey 2Mariah Carey may have a small army of assistants and handlers at her disposal, but that doesn’t make her impervious to the difficulties of parenthood.

The diva is back in the studio working on a new album, and now that she’s started her live-television debut as a judge on “American Idol,” things can only get busier.

“It’s super difficult,” the superstar told Wonderwall of balancing her career and her duties as a mother of 21-month-old twins Monroe and Moroccan Scott, with husband Nick Cannon. “It’s really exhausting.”

Mariah on balancing work with motherhood…

mariah and nick cannonThe challenge has also proven to be incredibly rewarding:

“The best is when everything runs smoothly and you come to work and do your job and then you go home like more of a normal person than someone who’s in a studio for 18 hours — which would [usually] be me,” Mariah said while promoting “American Idol” at the Television Critics Association winter 2013 press tour in Los Angeles.

Mariah is embracing her full life:

“Every moment is incredible and a blessing,” she says. “It’s just such an amazing thing that I never thought I would experience because I always said I didn’t think I would [have kids] because my career was always my life. But when you find the right person and you go through with it, [it’s amazing].”

Mariah on how different the twins are…

Dem Babies - Mariah Carey's twinsOn Moroccan and Monroe’s different personalities:

“[Moroccan] can be a little bit more aggressive, but not in a bad way. He’ll give [Monroe] a little tap, and she’s trying to hug him. She’s like a real sweetie.”

On her favorite activity with Moroccan:

“He’s my buddy. We watch movies together. We watch ‘Baby Can Read’ — and they’re only a year and a half! It’s like, ‘Wow, how are they doing this?!'”

On performing with her little ones:

“I was just performing in Sydney at an arena, and I brought [Monroe and Moroccan] out on stage because I want them to have these little experiences when possible. Some people might disagree with that, but [I knew] Monroe, my daughter, was going to love it. And she did not want to get off the stage! It was adorable, and I just fell so much more in love with the both of them.”

Music Spotlight: Kat Graham Debuts ‘Wanna Say’ Music Video

After weeks of cool temperatures, multiracial Swiss-born actress Kat Graham who speaks five languages and moved to Los Angeles aged four, gave the sun a warm welcome on Saturday. At the first hint of blue skies in Los Angeles the starlet stripped off.

The 23-year-old starlet braided her hair into a big beehive and flaunted her taut tummy in a glittering gold bra-top, while sporting the new overalls trend with the bib down. The Vampire Diaries actress, known for her outlandish style, finished off her sexy streetwear with gargantuan platforms, gold chains, and a dainty white purse.

Kat was accompanied by her fiancé Cottrell Guidry, who first announced their engagement on his Facebook page back in October. The handsome 27-year-old actor wore a cuffed chambray top over a white T-shirt, black skinny jeans, and brown high-top plimsolls.

Watch the video for ‘Wanna Say’ below:

Heating things up: Kat Graham flaunted her taut tummy in a glittering gold bra-top for the debut of her new music video Wanna Say in Los Angeles SaturdayHeating things up: Kat Graham flaunted her taut tummy in a glittering gold bra-top for the debut of her new music video Wanna Say in Los Angeles SaturdayGolden girl: The 23-year-old starlet braided her hair into a big beehive and sported the new overalls trend with the bib downGolden girl: The 23-year-old starlet braided her hair into a big beehive and sported the new overalls trend with the bib downGraham clearly wanted to premiere her new music video for Wanna Say – from her debut EP Against the Wall – in eye-popping style. In the ballet-heavy video, the five-foot-two beauty shows off the moves she learned as a young backup dancer for Lil’ Bow WowMissy Elliott, and Pharrell.

Kat’s Vampire Diaries co-star Nina Dobrev was impressed with the clip:

‘Holy hottie mama!’ Nina tweeted on Saturday. ‘Taking ballet to a whole new sexy…Can you teach me to sing and dance like that?’

No wonder he’s smiling: Kat’s fiance first announced their engagement on his Facebook pageGolden girl: The 23-year-old starlet braided her hair into a big beehive and sported the new overalls trend with the bib downSo in love: Kat tweeted this holiday snap with her fiancéSo in love: Kat tweeted this holiday snap with her fiancé Cottrell Guidry, who first announced their engagement on his Facebook page back in October

Interracial Love: The True Story Behind Mick Jagger and Marsha Hunt’ Relationship

Mick Jagger has loved , and left, thousands of women. But at what cost to them? In the second part  of this fascinating series, we reveal the price former flame Marsha Hunt paid for taking him on . . .

As the Rolling Stones launch another tour, these fascinating, ne

Mick Jagger and baby Karis Jagger

On a cold winter’s morning six years ago, the ghosts of Mick Jagger’s past assembled in the gloom of a churchyard in suburban Twickenham to mourn the passing of his beloved father Joe.

Among the disparate members of the congregation who filed into the nondescript St Mary’s College chapel to pay their respects were two women whose very presence was testament to the redemptive power of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Leading in her 36-year-old daughter Karis was Mick’s old flame Marsha Hunt, who for nearly a decade in the Seventies had fought a bitter and bloodthirsty battle with the Rolling Stone to force him to accept the child was his. Mick Jagger holds Karis, the daughter he had with former flame Marsha Hunt

Marsha Hunt

Now, as Karis tenderly kissed and hugged her father, Miss Hunt greeted Jagger with the warmth reserved for a cherished old friend.

Given the depth of their past loathing for each other, it would once have seemed unthinkable that such a peace could break out between the warring former lovers. But the calm wasn’t to last. Battle erupted again late last year, despite this touching graveside scene. And the animosity would be fueled by one of Jagger’s great loves. Not another woman, but money. And it’s money that has set Mick against Marsha, over and over again.

It’s true that their affair had been overwhelmingly passionate — as was revealed last month in a series of ten love letters, written by Jagger to Miss Hunt during the height of their romance, which sold at Sotheby’s in London for nearly £190,000.

In one, 25-year-old Jagger writes: ‘I will kiss you softly. And bite your mouth, too.’ 

In poetic mood in another letter, Mick ruminates: ‘If I sailed with you around the world, all my sails would be unfurled.’

Miss Hunt had a passionate affair with the Rolling Stone, who wrote a series of love letters during the height of their romance. But it was this auction that reopened old wounds with Mick, who is said to be furious that his private thoughts have been sold to the highest bidder.

Miss Hunt, who now lives in a dilapidated house in rural France that urgently requires repairs, candidly admits she sold the letters to a mystery collector because she needs the money.

‘I’m broke,’ she says. ‘Anyone who has the impression that I have money knows nothing about me. I had friends who came to visit from Pennsylvania and there was no electricity in the house because the bill had been too high.’

‘One of my friends said: “Surely you’ve got something you could sell?” ’

Marsha Hunt and daughter Karis Jagger

It’s not the first time Mick’s billets-doux have come back to haunt him.

Several years ago, he took legal action to stop another ex-girlfriend, Chrissie Shrimpton, from publishing a series of letters he sent her in the early Sixties. Few would blame 66-year-old Marsha if she has not privately enjoyed a frisson of schadenfreude at Mick’s embarrassment over having his lovestruck musings of more than 40 years ago read by complete strangers.

After all, not only did he cruelly dump her when she was pregnant, but she was then forced to take him on in a legal battle to make him acknowledge Karis was his daughter and pay his way in her upbringing. His treatment of his ex-lover was a classic case of the icy chill that countless of Jagger’s women — he is said to have slept with up to 4,000 — have discovered quickly replaces the white heat of his passion once his interest has waned.

Back in the late Sixties, Mick announced his affair with Miss Hunt  in typically public — if heartless — fashion. Two days after the band’s ex-guitarist Brian Jones was found dead in the swimming pool of his Sussex home, the Rolling Stones played a tribute concert to him in front of 250,000 people in London’s Hyde Park.

This being Mick, the solemnity of the occasion on July 5, 1969, would not be allowed to interfere with his raging libido. Jagger is said to have been furious Miss Hunt sold love letters he sent her at auction. For sitting in the crowd, just yards from his live-in girlfriend of three years, Marianne Faithfull, was singer Marsha, the latest celebrity notch on the Jagger bedpost.

And, as if inviting both rivals for his affection was not brazen enough, Mick tactlessly, and tastelessly, opened the musical part of the show by belting out a cover version of the rock song I’m Yours And I’m Hers.

Its not-so-hidden-meaning spoke volumes about Jagger’s monumental ego and his callously flippant approach to his female conquests. Certainly, it was a cruel public humiliation for the 22-year-old Marianne, given that she — along with half of London — was already well aware that her singer boyfriend was cheating on her with Hunt.

Two days later, Marianne and Jagger flew to Australia where he was due to begin playing the starring role in the flop film Ned Kelly.

As I revealed on Saturday in the first instalment of the Mail’s major four-part series about Jagger’s women, on their arrival in Sydney, Miss Faithfull — struggling with a hopeless addiction to heroin and stung by his betrayal — tried to kill herself in their hotel room by taking 150 Tuinal barbiturates.

She slipped into a coma for six days and was given the last rites before making a miraculous recovery. As she recuperated in hospital, Jagger poured out his heart in a series of emotional letters. They were not, however, humble entreaties for forgiveness addressed to the still gravely sick Marianne, but passionate missives to Marsha Hunt back in London.

Some of the letters, which were included in the auction last month, were even written on headed hotel notepaper in the room at the city’s Chevron hotel, where Miss Faithfull had tried to kill herself days earlier. Jagger had first spotted Miss Hunt when she appeared as the female lead in the controversial musical Hair, which scandalized London in 1968 with its full-frontal nudity, four-letter words and references to drug-taking.

Mick, who had developed a taste for beautiful black girls, got his PA to contact Marsha to ask her to appear on the cover of the Stones’ new single, Honky Tonk Women, dressed as a tart. She refused, but a few nights later, Mick turned up at her flat in London’s Bloomsbury. Within days their clandestine affair was in full swing.

Born into a poor family in Philadelphia, Marsha had studied at the prestigious Berkeley University in California, before coming to Britain in 1966 at the age of 20. Her stunning looks quickly attracted a string of famous suitors, including Marc Bolan and her co-star in Hair, Paul Nicholas. Jagger, in a testament to those politically incorrect times, nicknamed his new lover Miss Fuzzy.
And, while in Australia the following year, it was for her that he wrote Brown Sugar — his provocative eulogy to interracial sex and drugs that he had crudely originally titled Black P***y.

Within months, his faltering relationship with Marianne Faithfull was over and Mick moved Marsha into his house overlooking the Thames on Chelsea embankment. Already missing Marianne’s son, Nicholas, to whom he had become a surrogate father, he took Marsha out to Mr Chow restaurant in Knightsbridge, where he asked her to have his child.

She quickly became pregnant and a misty-eyed Jagger talked about wanting a son, whom he had decided, in typical flower-power fashion, to call Midnight Dream. The social-climbing Jumpin’ Jack Flash also decided he would send the boy to Eton. But within three months, Jagger was already going cold on the relationship — and was casting his roving eye over the latest of a carousel of girls he had marked down to share his bed.

One was a blonde 22-year-old American called Janice Kenner, whom he employed as his personal ‘cook’ with instructions that as well as rustling up his dinner, she would satisfy his sexual cravings, too. Stung by Mick’s coolness towards her, Marsha moved out. He wasted no time in installing another beautiful American, 22-year-old Californian model Catherine James, who had recently dated his friend Eric Clapton, into his Chelsea home.

Despite Marsha carrying his child, practically all references to her and the baby were quickly airbrushed out of his life.

Catherine James told me: ‘When I moved into Mick’s house, I knew about Marsha, but his relationship with her was already over. It didn’t seem a big deal to him. He just mentioned that she was a girl he had met who had got pregnant. He said he wasn’t in love with her, but she was very talented.’

‘I felt he was not encumbered by anything, not by Marsha or the baby. He was young, and I didn’t get the impression he was thinking seriously about becoming a father and being part of this child’s life.’

Unable to work in the final weeks of her pregnancy, a hard-up Marsha reluctantly contacted Mick to ask for money. He sent her a relatively miserly £200 and when their daughter, Karis, was born on November 4, 1970, at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, she went through the birth alone. It was several days before he deigned to put in an appearance.

It would be one of only a handful of times he would make time to see the baby. When, finally, Marsha snapped and accused him of neglecting their child, he brutally told her he had never loved her. Marsha, who loyally kept the identity of her daughter’s father a secret from the world, was forced to bring her up without almost any financial help from the stingy Mick.

‘I never remember him talking about their child. In fact, I wasn’t aware of a baby being around at all. It was almost like Karis didn’t exist.’ -Chris O’Dell, Jagger’s PA in the early Seventies

Karis Jagger, daughter of Mick and Miss Hunt

Karis Jagger, daughter of Mick and Marsha Hunt

When the infant was scalded by hot tea in an accident and needed to spend ten days in a private hospital, the £75 cost of her treatment, which the millionaire Jagger promised to meet, was not forthcoming.

Finally, after trying and failing to persuade him to set up a £25,000 trust fund for the child, Miss Hunt’s lawyers formulated a sting. She arranged to meet Jagger at the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens and her lawyers jumped out to serve a paternity write on him.

In June 1973, Marsha launched a court action and after three hearings, Mick agreed to pay into a £10,000 trust for Karis, plus £500 a year, in an out-of-court deal. However, Jagger’s lawyers bizarrely insisted his former lover sign papers saying he was not the father.

‘I don’t know why Mick did that because he told me at the time that Karis was his child,’ Jagger’s ex-girlfriend Catherine James told me.

‘I think the problem was that Marsha wanted something from him — i.e. money. At the beginning, she had told him she would deal with everything to do with the baby herself.’

‘She’d said: “Don’t worry about this. I’m going to care of it.” And then she was suing him. I think that put Mick off, to say the least.

‘He wouldn’t have anything to do with her. I actually got to know Marsha at that time and she didn’t like him very much. She was very angry with him.’

By the time Karis was seven, her mother was reduced to claiming welfare handouts in Los Angeles where she moved in a bid to revive her flagging showbiz career. Finally, she hired hotshot lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, who had successfully sued a string of rich and famous men for maintenance on behalf of his women clients.

‘He wouldn’t have anything to do with her. I actually got to know Marsha at that time and she didn’t like him very much.’ -Catherine James, Jagger’s ex-girlfriend

Mick Jagger pictured with Marsha Hunt and Jerry Hall

Mick Jagger pictured with Marsha Hunt and Jerry Hall

In January 1979, a court in LA ruled that Jagger was the girl’s father and ordered him to pay $1,500-a-month child support. Only then, after not laying eyes on his daughter for five years, did Mick belatedly begin playing a part in her life.

In 1992, when Karis graduated from America’s prestigious Yale University, her proud father was there, video camera in hand. Mick also invited her to Buckingham Palace when he accepted his knighthood from Prince Charles in 2003. A year earlier, the Stone wiped away tears when he was on hand to give away Karis, now a film producer in Los Angeles, as she married film director Jonathan Watson. The couple have two children.

Now a novelist and biographer, Marsha, who split with her boyfriend, Irish filmmaker Alan Gilsenan, in 1999,  has a home in Ireland as well as a French retreat. As for her once fractious relationship with the 69-year-old Jagger, they had appeared to have buried the hatchet before he hit the roof over her putting his love letters up for sale.

Jagger is said to have been furious Miss Hunt sold love letters he sent her at auctionIndeed, Mick was on the guest list at a rather strange party thrown by his ex when she embarked on successful treatment for breast cancer in 2004. Each guest was handed a pair of scissors and invited by Marsha to cut off a lock of her hair before the chemotherapy, which she was about to begin, made it fall out.

And, as we have learnt, she was there to offer her condolences when Mick mourned the death of his 93-year-old father, Joe, from pneumonia in December 2006. Considering the appalling way Jagger once treated her and their daughter, Miss Hunt is clearly the forgiving type.

Whether Jagger can show such maturity — and rise above his rage about the sale of his letters — remains to be seen.