- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

An open ‘Diary’

Before Norah Jones, there was Alicia Keys, the young, neo-soul singer whose sophomore effort is scheduled for release Dec. 2.

“Diary of Alicia Keys” is the eagerly awaited follow-up to her 2001 debut, “Songs in A Minor,” which sold more than 6 million copies and earned Miss Keys, 22, five Grammy awards.

It’s also her first album since Miss Jones, 24, sold 8 million copies of her 2002 debut album, “Come Away With Me” and, earlier this year, walked off with five Grammys of her own.

The score is deuce. Miss Keys to serve.

Last week, Miss Keys sat down at a piano in Foggy Bottom’s Westin Hotel to preview three songs from her new album for an invited industry gathering.

There was a scary moment. As she emerged from behind the piano for a song, there was a loud thump, a light winked out, and the singer disappeared from view. She resurfaced unhurt and immediately launched into a reprise of — what else? — “Fallin,” her first hit single.

After the show, Miss Keys, curvy in a cognac-colored top and low-rider jeans, showed no mercy for the sound monitor that had tripped her. The offending piece of audio equipment, she vowed, was off the tour.

In a brief interview, the young songwriter with the melting brown eyes was asked if she still finds ample material to write about now that early stardom has lifted her above normal cares. Like the former Columbia student she is, Miss Keys pounced on the premise.

“I don’t see myself living in the goldfish bowl,” she replied, just out of earshot of a protective membrane of tour personnel and beefy guys with radios in their ears. “I would never allow myself to get into that predicament.

“With all the things I’ve seen now,” said Miss Keys, just returned from a tour in Europe, “I have way more to write about. I know people that never left the block.”

Asked if she was ready to steal her thunder back from Norah Jones, Miss Keys was diplomatic. “I never see myself in competition with anyone,” she said.

Professing pride in the success of another young woman in the music biz, she said she and Miss Jones had gotten to know each other and had developed a “very friendly camaraderie.”

What is it with some people? They could rise to the bait, supply spicy newspaper copy. But no. They have to go and be decent human beings.

Daniel Wattenberg

Super Tuesday

Today is a good day for Beatlemaniacs.

The un-Phil Spectorized version of “Let It Be” is out on CD, along with “Lennon Legend,” a DVD companion to the album of the same name, containing rare footage and remastered videos of the late and beloved Beatle.

Executive produced by Mr. Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, the “Legend” DVD includes never-before-seen video clips of “Working Class Hero” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” animations of Mr. Lennon’s drawings and a gallery of rare photos from Miss Ono’s archives.

“This is as definitive a collection as it’s possible to be,” Miss Ono said in a press statement. “John’s life was an amazing one and one that I feel privileged to have been part of.”

Life support

Hans Zimmer, the workaholic composer who this year alone has scored “Matchstick Men,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the forthcoming Tom Cruise movie “The Last Samurai,” says movie soundtracks are rescuing the music industry.

Or, rather, what’s left of it.

“I think it’s safe to say the record business is no more,” Mr. Zimmer said in an interview. “It no longer exists.”

As is well-known, record sales have been alarmingly flat over the past three years. Yet interest in movie soundtracks, such as the Quentin Tarantino-culled mix that accompanied his “Kill Bill Vol. I,” is stronger than ever.

“Soundtracks have started to sell records,” the German-born Mr. Zimmer said. “The music business is starting to take us seriously because, by default, we have become the business.”

Compiled by Scott Galupo from staff reports.

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