Lifestyle & Trends: A Whitney Comeback?

Singing legend Whitney Houston is bouncing back from her reputed drug habit and reviving her career, while R&B singer R. Kelly may have found himself embroiled in another sex scandal. Newsweek national correspondent Allison Samuels talks about that and more.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Now, it's time to talk entertainment. 2008 looks like a big year for music. Megastars like Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and even Whitney Houston are reportedly launching albums next year. Whitney is getting a head start on her comeback this weekend. She is set to perform in Malaysia on Sunday. So can she revive her career?

Here to help set things straight is Newsweek's national correspondent Allison Samuels. Hey.

Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (National Correspondent, Newsweek): Hey, how are you doing?

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. So, for those of us who follow the sort of gossipy Internet, TMZ.com has Whitney looking fabulous, and rumors are circulating that she's trying to kick what is a reputed drug habit. Is she getting herself together?

Ms. SAMUELS: definitely. I think, you know, with the divorce that was the first step. And I think once she got the divorce, that really got her on the path, you know, to sort of clean herself up. And she does look fabulous.

And I think they say her voice is coming back, because she had some issues with her voice as well. But I think the main thing is I think people really want to see her come back. I think that, you know, she's someone that everyone roots for because, you know, we remember her when she was a young lady with this beautiful voice and so much talent. And I think she's one of those people that you know, you just really want to see her get back on track and become, you know - and you just want to hear that voice again.

CHIDEYA: In the past, she's cancelled some concerts abruptly.

Ms. SAMUELS: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: She's scheduled to perform in Malaysia. Why do you think she chose a out of the nation venue to get back into things? And is there any chance she could pull out?

Ms. SAMUELS: I don't think she's going to pull out because I think this is - with Clive Davis back in her life, the - you know, I think that she's on track to sort of get her career where she wants it to. And I know - I think she knows that if she pulls out and starts that whole sort of regular regime of pulling out of concerts like she's done before, people will start talking and thinking that she's back to her old habits. So I think it's really important for her to sort of, you know, do what she says she wants to do and show up.

And also, I think she's doing overseas because, you know, America's hard. We're - can be really critical of people, so I think she wants to start and get, you know, get some of the things out over there. And then, when she gets to America really just have the show the way she wants it.

CHIDEYA: You mentioned Clive Davis, who is the uber mogul who…

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: …brought her prominence. Do you have any sense of whether he and she are going to work on new songs, standards, covers?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think they're going to do news songs. They may do some other things too, some oldies, but I think they want to do new songs. They want - they're working with the voice, because like I said, she definitely had problems with her voice.

But Clive is the person who pushed her early on. She listens to him. She respects him. She really admires him. And I think he has that touch with her. He knows how to get her to do what she needs to do to get back on track. So, I think, you know, the new album is going to be amazing. Like I said, I think everybody's sort of waiting for that one.

CHIDEYA: Janet Jackson.

Ms. SAMUELS: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: Her last album sales were low. What do you think she's going to step out with?

Ms. SAMUELS: I'm hoping that she will just totally transform her look and not be Britney Spears again. You know, I felt so bad when she came out last time because I felt like she was Janet Jackson being Britney Spears who was being Janet Jackson when she came out.

So, I think she needs to reinvent herself and not do these videos with, you know, short-shorts and midriffs, stomach-out dancing. I'm like, you know, you're 40 years old. You've got to take it to another level.

Unfortunately, I don't know if she has the voice to back that up. I've never thought of her as a great singer, more of a performer. So I think she's in a - I mean, she's in a tricky situation because how do you sort of, you know, make that transition to Aretha Franklin or people like that who can just stand in one place and sing. Janet doesn't have that kind of voice, so I think, you know, this may be difficult for her.

CHIDEYA: All right. Moving on to a totally different angle on the singing game.

Ms. SAMUELS: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: R&B singer R. Kelly maybe caught up in another sex scandal. Now, his one-time publicist Regina Daniels suddenly quit, and gossip sites and blogs suggest that she left because R. Kelly slept with her 19-year-old stepdaughter. EURweb.com reportedly spoke to Daniel's husband and he would not confirm or deny the rumors, but he said, and I quote, "bottom line is" - and this is about R. Kelly - "he crossed a certain line with me and my wife that you shouldn't cross." R. Kelly has not been known for restraining himself with the young ladies…

Ms. SAMUELS: Mm-hmm. No.

CHIDEYA: The really young ladies.

Ms. SAMUELS: No.

CHIDEYA: What's the fall out from this?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think that - well, I think it's damaging because Regina and George Daniels have been with R. Kelly for years and years and years. George has been in all of R. Kelly's videos. They had this really strong relationship. As late as September, I talked to them and they were still in this great relationship with R. Kelly, you know, just loving him and thinking that he's great and certainly not admitting or suggesting that he had any kind of problems.

So for this to turn out like it is now, I have to believe something really, really bad happen. I can imagine they wouldn't make this kind of stand any other way. Although, you know, R. Kelly's people are saying that, you know, gossip - they were gossiping, and he withheld the check and that's why they are angry. So R. Kelly's people have already decided to put their spin on it. But given his history, I think he's, you know, this is the most obvious thing, the alleged incident with the daughter.

CHIDEYA: He also kicked Ne-Yo off his tour.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: What do you think is the reason?

Ms. SAMUELS: You know, Ne-Yo's been around talking about that just saying, you know, that R. Kelly is a diva and was sort of upset that Ne-Yo was getting so much applause. So - you know, R. Kelly has some issues. I think we've all decided that that's the case. So…

CHIDEYA: But the public seems to stay with him. I mean, he's got a huge fan base no matter what he does.

Ms. SAMUELS: That is something I cannot explain. I've been wondering about that for years. I think a lot of people are baffled by it. But if he goes to trial, I think that'll settle that. I just want him to go to trial. I think we all just want him to go to trial.

CHIDEYA: Well, Allison, thanks so much.

Ms. SAMUELS: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Allison Samuels is a national correspondent for Newsweek and she joined me from our NPR West studios.

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