Entertainment: Kelly Rowland, Tyler Perry, Lisa Lopes

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Newsweek entertainment writer Alison Samuels and Farai Chideya talk arts and entertainment. Topics: Why Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland struggles to come out from under Beyonce's shadow; writer and actor Tyler Perry's new sitcom; and what's missing from rap and R&B since Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died five years ago.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES and I'm Farai Chideya.

It is Friday, time for arts and entertainment. I don't know anyone more in the know than Allison Samuels, an entertainment writer for Newsweek, and she is right here in the studio. Hey, girl, welcome back.

Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (Entertainment Writer, Newsweek): Hi. How are you doing?

CHIDEYA: I am doing great. So let's just gossip about Kelly Rowland. She once stood alongside Beyonce as a founding member of Destiny's Child, now she may be having a hard time stepping out of Beyonce's shadow. Her second solo album, "Ms. Kelly," has been pushed back again and again and again. One of the singles "Like This" - well, Allison, tell me what you think of Kelly's new video and the Beyonce challenge.

Ms. SAMUELS: You know, Kelly is a beautiful girl and I think she's facing what all sort of girls her age who are in entertainment are facing. I think the mold, you know, the mold is Beyonce. Everybody wants to be like Beyonce and I think all the record labels are trying to get girls of a certain age to be like her because she's done so well.

I think the problem with Kelly is, having come out of the Destiny's Child group, she really has to get out of that shadow. And when I see the new video, I just see Beyonce. I see the dance moves of Beyonce. I see the clothes of Beyonce. And I sort of feel like with Kelly, if she doesn't make some distinction to get herself out of that, I don't see how her album will do any better than the last one, which didn't sell well either. And she's a talented, cute girl, it's just - I just think the Beyonce factor is so huge particularly for her. How do you get over that? And if you look at Vibe this month, Beyonce's on the cover, Kelly's on the inside, but Kelly has the album coming out.

CHIDEYA: Right.

Ms. SAMUELS: So I sort of wonder why Beyonce hasn't stepped aside a little bit to let Kelly sort of have her moment. I'm not sure if the plan was for Beyonce to always be on the cover - I don't think so - but I sort of feel like they're dueling for the same spot right now.

CHIDEYA: Right.

Ms. SAMUELS: And that's unfortunate.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know what, she came into the studio. She was very gracious and lovely, and she told us a little bit about her relationship with the group.

Ms. KELLY ROWLAND (Singer): I think above anything, everybody's taken time for their personal goals. The most important thing is that we all are still extremely close. We talk about every other day. We love each other and support each other. That's the most beautiful thing about Destiny's Child, and that's why we've been able to be around so long.

CHIDEYA: So given what she says, do you think that Beyonce is the one who needs to do things differently, like you mentioned, maybe step aside a little bit? But how is it possible to step aside when people are clamoring for you the way that they do?

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, I think it's hard. I think Beyonce's career has been a very interesting career in the sense of I've never seen someone work consistently for four or five years nonstop from movie, album, album, movie. She hasn't stopped. And I don't know if that works. It's certainly a different type of - because overexposure can certainly harm you. I haven't seen it sort of backfire on her yet, but I do worry that it is going to happen.

And I guess I sort of thought with Kelly's album coming out she would take a backseat, but she re-released "B'day," her last album that came out in September. She re-released it last month, which was right at the same time, you know, in the same time period as Kelly's album.

So I sort of questioned the record company on that, like what is their thinking in terms of - you can't over-saturate the market with these two girls because people then get confused. Is it a Destiny's Child album? Is it an individual album? And that's the thing that I think is going to hurt Kelly, and I think that's what hurt the album last time.

CHIDEYA: Well, also Destiny's Child just passed recently TLC as the top-selling female R&B act of all time. We actually had to do some calculations.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. Right. Yeah.

CHIDEYA: But, you know, they will continue to sell regardless of whether or not they release anything else. Let's move on, though, to Tyler Perry. He's the actor, author, playwright, filmmaker, empire builder.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: He's got a new TV show called "House of Payne." And apparently Tyler had the hardest time getting the show done. Tell me about how it found a home.

Ms. SAMUELS: It found a home by him actually spending the money to make the 10 episodes himself. Because he couldn't get anyone to pay for the pilot for him to, you know, shop it around, because you have to shop the pilot around the different networks. So he ended up, you know, paying for the first 10 episodes, TBS picked it up, and it will air starting June 6th.

But the interesting part about Tyler, he also - before it actually became a TV show, he started taking the show around as a play so different people could sort of get interested in the characters, get to know the characters. And a lot of the people are from his old plays anyway. He sort of uses a lot of the same people in everything that he does.

But Tyler's just fascinating because he is probably Hollywood's best-kept secret. Most people don't really understand how powerful and how much money his movies have made. And it's been very interesting because I think the mainstream press has been sort of hesitant to cover his success. And I think part of that is because they don't exactly understand what he does. You know, it's not - he doesn't make (unintelligible) movies. He makes movies that have this sort of combination of Christian values and morals and also a lot of…

CHIDEYA: And slapstick.

Ms. SAMUELS: Yeah. And a lot of things that are very exact to black culture. And I think that confuses people in the industry sometimes, because if you look at "Diary of a Mad, Black Woman" and "Madea's Family Reunion," those movies made over $110 million and they were made for less than $11 million both.

So that's a huge thing in Hollywood, and the bottom line is what matters in Hollywood. But for some reason, he is not getting, you know, embraced like I think he should. And I think he feels that sting, too, and he's not very happy about it.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. It's the whole entertainment industry, but he has done what so many pioneers have done before in terms of just saying I'm going run my own empire, put my own money into it. Briefly, do you think that TBS, which is where the show landed, is going to be the right fit of this show?

Ms. SAMUELS: You know, the only reason why I think it might is because it will give it time to find its legs. I think when you get on a major network you don't have time to, you know, get the kinks out. And I think this is a show where it's going to take a minute to sort of figure out, you know, the characters, who's going doing what, and just, you know, get the groove going.

So I sort of think TBS - cable right now is probably good for him. And I think for him it's just a matter that he got it on. I think it's a triumph that he got it on, given that no one actually wanted to even pay for a pilot.

CHIDEYA: Coming up, we're going to hear from the director of a new VH1 documentary titled "Last Days of Left Eye," about the death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of TLC. You got a chance, as you do with so many fascinating people, to meet her. Did you have a sense of how troubled she was?

Ms. SAMUELS: I met her for the first time right after the incident with the house that she burned down. She had just gotten out of jail. You know - and so she definitely, you know, seemed troubled at that point. And I guess anybody would, given what she had gone through. But if you look at her childhood, and I think the documentary does a very good job of sort of letting you see, you know, how sort of her childhood was so sort of disturbed and troubled and she went through so many difficult things during her childhood.

You know, those things came out, I mean, usually when you meet someone the fragile, vulnerable part when you're talking to them sort of becomes apparent. And as funny as she was and as cute as she was, she definitely, you know, behind the eyes you could definitely tell there were some things going on.

CHIDEYA: There's a void for a group like this. If you think about the two top-selling female R&B groups of all time, Destiny's Child and TLC, Destiny's Child is a group of elegant divas…

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: …and TLC had it all. They had, you know, "CrazySexyCool." And are we missing sort of a tone and a texture in R&B/hip-hop right now?

Ms. SAMUELS: Oh, definitely. And I think that's the one thing about this documentary that you definitely come away with when you're looking at it. Like those girls were so huge and so popular back then, and they had such an edge and they had such a creative sort of hip-hop flare that you just don't see anymore. And you realize that was like 10 years ago.

And yes, you have Destiny's Child, but to some extent they have become so mainstream and, like you said, so classy and diva-ish(ph), I think we do miss that sort of around-the-way girl that, you know, sort of I think made hip-hop a little bit more level of a playing field. And, you know, TLC talked about safe sex. They talked about things that women are concerned about. And I think it was a very good balance to a lot of the sort of macho rap that was out there now. And you just don't see that anymore, and I think that's unfortunate.

CHIDEYA: Do you think it's something that the industry will try to react to? I mean, it would seem that this is a void, but the hip-hop industry continues to be extremely male-dominated not just in terms of the artists and the managers but also in terms of the themes and lyrics.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. And I think as long as those themes and lyrics are the ones that sell and that are dominant as they are right now, I don't see how women can sort of break into that, because, you know, it is so anti-female in every aspect of it, as you said. I think for some reason this generation of young listeners, that sort of diversity is not interesting to them.

You know, if you look at 10 years ago, I think we, you know, there was a larger interest in hearing different points of views and different sort of, you know, tones and textures, as you said, in rap. Now it seems to be just that one type of music and that one type of sort of thought process with the lyrics. So I don't know. We have to get out of this phase of the (unintelligible) ages before I think women can sort of come back in.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Allison, great as always.

Ms. SAMUELS: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Allison Samuels is an entertainment writer for Newsweek and joined me at NPR West.

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