Valentine’s Day Shopping
Maybe it’s the barrage of bad Britney Spears photos or the televised reinvention of Jessica Simpson (to say nothing of Ashlee), but today’s
popstars-in-training are savvy when it comes to shaping an image.
Singer Brooke Valentine is one such pop-star-in-training. With a new single, “Girlfight,” under her belt and a debut album slated for a fall release, “Chain Letter” (Virgin), she has entered the ring. “Now I just need clothes for when I’m in character,” she says.
“You disappoint your audience when you’re not looking right in paparazzi pictures,” Valentine adds. “So I’ve got to look the part.” And what look is she trying to get across? “It’s sexy,” she says with a smile. “But it’s also kind of classy. You won’t catch me in any little bra tops.”
To begin the process, she hits the streets of Manhattan on a rainy Friday for a take-no-prisoners shopping spree. Donning the requisite off-duty celeb uniform — hot pink trucker hat, tight white tank top, Citizens of Humanity jeans and oversized hoop earrings — the 19-year-old Houston native treks uptown to Harlem’s Pieces boutique. After scooping up a gold-sequined
T-shirt by Gsus, she ponders a pair of dangle earrings boasting postage stamp-sized Vibe magazine covers.
“I could never wear those,” she exclaims. “Outkast is on the cover. That’d be like wearing a picture of my brother on my ears.” (Big Boi, one-half of the Outkast duo, is in talks to collaborate with Valentine.)
Despite her ability to drop industry heavyweights’ names, she’s just getting acquainted with fashion’s front-runners.
“I’m so bad with designers,” she apologizes. The ubiquity of label dropping in her peers’ lyrics and on the red carpet is clearly lost on her. “Although I think I tried on some Versace at that last store,” she recalls hazily. (She did.)
That lack of pretension carries over to lunch at a tony SoHo restaurant, where she waxes poetic about her love of Doritos, confessing to having stolen bites from the half-empty bag in her purse when ducking into dressing rooms. After fueling up on coconut shrimp tacos, she’s ready for mission impossible: finding “great-fitting jeans,” citing Joe’s and Frankie B.’s as likely suspects.
While the perfect pair eludes her, at Midtown’s Apropo she snatches up a tweed satchel with pearl details from Samantha Thavasa by Nicky Hilton.
“It’s perfect for church,” she says of the heiress-designed bag. It also goes beautifully with her new M2 ring, which flaunts diamond-encrusted icons ranging from a cross to a Star of David. But don’t expect to see her on “TRL” with any red string dangling from her wrist; she shrugs off the Kabbalah shirts.
Valentine expresses trepidation about developing an overly calculated image, but doesn’t fault other artists who have fallen victim to the publicity machine.
“It could happen to anyone,” she says sympathetically. “That’s why I have to just be myself. Once these people are gone,” she says, motioning to her entourage of a half-dozen, “I’m on my own.” — Jessica B. Matlin
|While mopey New Waver Dave Gahan and cohorts were actually referencing Paris fashion when they cooked up the name Depeche Mode, it’s unlikely most bands are thinking about couture, runways or anything to do with Seventh Avenue when searching for just the right moniker. Still, it’s nice to
believe some rockers did have fashion and beauty in mind, which is why WWD couldn’t help but start a list. — Nandini D’Souza
Alice in Chains
Alien Fashion Show
The Four Tops
Lack of Afro
Men in Furs
Men without Hats
My Morning Jacket
Nine Inch Nails
Squirrel Nut Zippers
The White Stripes
Being a pop star style icon takes a little — and sometimes a lot of — help from a pro. In fact, contemporary music fashion owes much to the tastemakers behind the singers and bands, like stylists-cum-costume designers Arianne Phillips and Andrea Leiberman, who continue to generate trends by collaborating with well-turned-out divas such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani. Now a new wave of style-setters is gaining influence. Each has a singular stamp that is helping many fresh-faced singers and musicians get noticed — and maybe even make some sartorial history of their own. — Rose Apodaca Jones
NRA AND MISHA
Music clients: Brandy, Mis-Teeq, Britney Spears
Latest video: Brandy’s “Who Is She 2 U?”
Known for: Mixing new and vintage with a girly feel
Also moonlighting as: Fashion consultants
Personal fave designers: Stella McCartney and Chloé
Fave song to style to: Beanie Man’s “King of Dance Hall”
Little known fact: They shriek, “We’re not twins — we’re not even sisters!”
ESTEE STANLEY AND CHRISTINA ALRICH
Music clients: Mandy Moore
Videos: None now
Known for: Digging in the barrels at vintage stores
Also moonlighting as: Stanley as an interior designer and costume designer. Both are launching clothing and jewelry collections, with names to be announced.
Personal fave designer: Givenchy
Fave song to style to: “I wish I had time to put music on,” says Stanley.
Little known fact: Junkies for java from Urth Coffeehouse, the celeb-magnet on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.
Music clients: Christina Aguilera, Nelly, Annie Lennox, David Gray, Natalie Imbruglia
Latest videos: Nelly featuring Christina Aguilera’s “Tilt Ya Head”
Known for: Strong, sexy, quirky style
Also moonlighting as: Property developer
Personal fave designers: Vanessa Bruno and Chanel
Fave song to style to: Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls”
Little known fact: Once modeled in a knitting catalogue and is a former chef.
Music clients: Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Enrique Iglesias
Latest videos: Jessica Simpson’s “Angel” and Ashlee Simpson’s “Shadows”
Known for: An edge of Seventies glamour and exuberant accessorizing
Also moonlighting as: Fashion design consultant-at-large
Personal fave designers: Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Rochas
Fave song to style to: Anything by Coldplay
Little known fact: “I may look relaxed, but I’m neurotic on the inside.”
Music clients: Hilary and Haley Duff, The Donnas
Latest videos: The Donnas’ “Fall Behind Me”
Known for: Minimal clothes and maximum accessories, all looking unstyled
Also moonlighting as: Too busy
Personal fave designer: Ann Demeulemeester
Fave song to style to: Scissor Sisters’ “Laura”
Little known fact: “I’m quite a fan of pole dancing.”
Music clients: Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, Ruben Stoddard
Latest video: Missy Elliott’s “I’m Really Hot”
Known for: Transforming Jay-Z from street sport to gentleman prep
Also moonlighting as: Owner of Mode Squad, creative service management agency; author of yet-to-be-named book on styling trade secrets; developer of her own signature luxury handbags
Personal fave designer: Tom Ford
Fave song to style to: Janet Jackson’s “Dance All Night”
Little known fact: “My only vice is Nutter Butters. They get me through anything.”
Beautiful actresses have always done double duty starring in music videos. Remember Kim Basinger in Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” or Jennifer Aniston in Melissa Etheridge’s “I Want to Be in Love”?
And who could forget that Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler became unforgettable co-stars before they became movie stars after appearing in Aerosmith’s “Crazy” video as naughty schoolgirls? Aerosmith also made a household name out of “That ’70s Show” star Mila Kunis after she appeared in their “Jaded” video.
So it’s no surprise that more musicians these days are recruiting It Girls like Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman, Katie Holmes and Sarah Michelle Gellar to play the love interests, tormentors and muses in their mini-movies.
Michelle Trachtenberg recently played a haunting ex-girlfriend in Trapt’s “Echo,” which she says was particularly fun because she’s a fan of the band. Enrique Iglesias, who has featured Jennifer Love Hewitt and Shannon Elizabeth (not to mention fiancée Anna Kournikova) in his videos, most recently added Mischa Barton to the list with last year’s “Addicted.”
“I had a good time filming it,” Barton said. “I was flattered to take part, because his videos always seem to become known not only for the song itself, but for the heroines who appear within.” — Marcy Medina
Bring in the Noise
As the only girl in her town’s Little League, Tara Rodgers was no stranger to getting into her own groove.
But years later, when Rodgers, the electronic musician, aka Analog Tara, began setting up a recording studio at home, she didn’t want to fly solo in her bid to get down.
“I was doing a lot of research,” the 31-year-old says, “[but] online forums on music equipment were very male-dominated, [and] music magazines didn’t really cover what women were doing.”
So in 2000, Analog Tara launched Pinknoises.com, an independent Web magazine that gives it up to the chicks with interviews, essays and reviews designed to promote women DJs and sound artists and provide a leg up on the ins and outs of music production.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder that women tend not to be taken seriously as musicians,” the Oakland, Calif., native explains, “[so] I wanted to make sure there was good coverage of women in electronic music, and a good, educational resource on music production.”
Nearly four years later, Analog Tara, in cooperation with Web designer Karen Choy and a handful of others, has compiled a massive electronic music resource encompassing stories, tips and advice from artists around the world.
“One of the great things about conducting artist interviews for Pinknoises is that I get to meet a lot of the artists whose work I admire,” she says.
One of these faves, DJ Rekha, aka Rekha Malhotra, offered up an interview for the site two years ago. The queen bee of New York’s South Asian music scene and founder of the Basement Bhangra dance bashes, Rekha raves about the experience.
“People have e-mailed me from all over the world about [my interview on Pinknoises],” she says. “I think it’s a great site, because even though there’s a growing number of women DJs out there, there aren’t so many in the production end of it, [and the site’s] a practical resource on [production].”
Currently amassing an updated collection of interviews for “Pinknoises,” a book version tentatively slated for release next year, and coming off a 2003 Webby Award nomination for Best Music Web Site, Analog Tara says Pinknoises has received enormous support in spite of the fact that many women she’s interviewed have grown exhausted from the topic of gender in electronic music.
“There are times when I’m tired of being asked those questions, too,” she admits, “but I think people realize that these kinds of independent forums are necessary to provide better coverage — until the mainstream music industry changes.” — Lisa Kelly
Instead of sitting around listening to music or fantasizing about being in a band by playing air guitar or using a hairbrush for a microphone, a troupe of kids in Philadelphia are actually learning what it takes to be a rock ’n’ roller at the Paul Green School of Rock.
Green, a University of Pennsylvania grad with a philosophy degree, started the school in 1998 as an offshoot of giving guitar lessons to children in their homes. After rounding up his students for a jam session, he realized they didn’t play well together, even though they were all right on their own. To try to smooth over the rougher notes, they met for a few hours each week in a rented recording space. Before long, students were rehearsing after school and on Saturdays in their own space and playing coffeehouses and art galleries.
The way Green sees it, the best way to learn anything is by doing it, and that is particularly true about music, he says.
There are now 170 students and 11 instructors at the school, where the music of The Who, The Doors, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin roars through the hallways on any given day — and it’s not just teenagers who are banging out the notes. Students range in age from seven to 18. Each rocker plunks down $125 monthly for a weekly 45-minute private lesson and a three-hour group rehearsal, as well as for any group workshops that might be offered during that time.
All in all, it’s a hands-on approach, with kids playing music on professional equipment and occasionally performing in actual rock venues. This summer, 27 standouts, or “All-Stars,” wrapped up a two-week West Coast tour with some help from Napoleon Murphy Brock, a former Frank Zappa band vocalist and saxophone player. To date, students have played 200 concerts in front of a total of more than 50,000. The Knitting Factory and B.B. King’s Blues Club have been among their performance venues. The aim is to get students to be as good as they can be, and to put them on stage in front of as many people as possible, complete with light shows and smoke machines.
Well aware of a widespread epidemic of I-wanna-be-a-rock-’n’-roll-star-itus, Newmarket Films has picked up “Rock School,” Dan Argott’s documentary about Green’s school. Students expect to see themselves on the silver screen next March. — Rosemary Feitelberg
Studying the Stars
Interested in becoming the next Jay-Z or Gwen Stefani? Well, New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology just might have the right program. Well aware that it’s not enough just to be a talented musician these days, the school is now training its students to be “music and fashion specialists” through a noncredit certificate program that requires the completion of two six-session courses.
Instructor Robert Cutarella explains, “Today someone makes a record, and there’s no fan loyalty for the second one. Musicians build brand loyalty through other things…They try designing clothing, they work on videos and they sometimes act. Look at J.Lo. She stays in the public 10 different ways. She’s not a one-trick pony.”
A 30-year veteran writer, producer and publisher in the music business, Cutarella started teaching the program last year. Like many of his students, he understands the need to balance musical talent with a sharp business sense — also a must in the fashion arena.
What he calls “the potential for cross-pollenization” between these two arenas is generating more interest in FIT’s program, he says. To that point, FIT plans to ramp up the Meet the Makers portion of its Music Business II class, which features guest presentations by accomplished producers, recording artists, managers and other A-team members of the music industry.
“Like any business, it’s important to know the rules of engagement,” Cutarella says. “Meet the Makers teaches people how to make a living in this business.”
Considering the link between music and fashion, he thinks it’s only a matter of time before corporate sponsors start discovering musicians before they’re well known. “I’m going to try to be the first guy out there to break an artist without a major record label.” — R.F.
All the World’s a Stage
They may not accommodate millions of spectators, but these intimate venues offer that little
something special that makes them stand out with today’s newest performers. — David Yassky
Mr. Small’s Funhouse
“An oasis for touring bands,” says Emily Haines from the rock band Metric about this old, converted church set in the green, rolling hills of Pittsburgh’s outskirts. Once a home for sermon leaders and organs, the former church’s pulpit is now the venue’s sound desk — after all, what could be more inspiring than playing for your very own clergy? In addition to the venue’s elegance, which has been known to humble its patrons, rockers included, the building’s upstairs is equipped with a recording studio, a full kitchen, a living room with grand piano and, get this, full sleeping accommodations for the act booked that night. The European hospitality, coupled with the true music aficionados who loyally drop by to watch bands such as Rusted Root, 50 Cent and the G-Unit, Ziggy Marley and Broken Social Scene play, make the venue a real diamond in the ruff. Mr. Small’s Funhouse, 139 Grant Avenue, Millvale, Penn., 412-821-4447.
While Barrymore’s is on the smaller side — only holding about 500 people — bands love the fact that the space feels and sounds massive. Tegan Quin of Tegan & Sara, which is releasing its third album, “So Jealous” (Vapor/Sanctuary), this fall, remembers, “There are two balconies, and when you step on stage, it feels like you are playing in your bedroom and in an arena all at the same time. I feel like a superstar when we play there.” Barrymore’s, 323 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 613-233-0307.
House of Blues
If you build a giant tin shack in the middle of West Hollywood, chances are that something legendary is going to go down there. Such is the case with the House of Blues. Opened in 1994 by a true Blues Brother himself, Dan Akroyd, HOB has become a favorite venue for many musicians.
Kaki King, the acoustic guitar prodigy signed to Epic,
is one such musician. She loves playing there mainly because of the great backstage areas, where the several rooms, which are adorned with original artwork and
furniture, revel in antique luxury. King recalls that, while kicking around after a set last March in one such room known as “the confessional,” bodyguards came swarming in and asked her to leave. King says it turned out that Prince was on his way in for a surprise late-night
performance, and so she got the boot. House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, 323-848-5100.
Now in its 22nd year of operation, S.O.B.’s, commonly known as Sounds of Brazil, is still one of the best places in New York to hear music from all over the world. While S.O.B.’s is most recognized for bringing Brazilian Carnival to Manhattan, reggae, hip-hop and African music are big genres here as well.
L.A. rapper Guerilla Black, whose debut album, “Guerilla City” (Virgin), premieres this month, says that so far, S.O.B.’s is his favorite venue. “At S.O.B.’s, people rush the stage and reach out to you. They give you love! It’s crazy. People were screaming my name. I never expected to get that much love in New York,” he says. S.O.B.’s, 204 Varick Street, New York, 212-243-4940.
Upstairs at the Middle East Club
Harvard Square locals come in at dinnertime to the Middle East Club’s restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., for a plateful of Middle Eastern cuisine, and come back a little later for an earful of great live music at its two performance venues.
The Downstairs, the larger of the two, has a capacity of about 600 people. But it is the Upstairs, with a capacity of about 175 people, that is the favorite of Michelle Freizald of punk group Read Yellow, which released its debut album, “Radios Burn Faster” (Fenway Recordings), this June. Freizald was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst when she and her bandmates played the Upstairs for the first time.
“It’s my favorite venue of all time….It’s just this great space in the back of a Middle Eastern restaurant. In high school, I would sneak out of the house to see all my favorite bands play there, and stumble in right before midnight when my parents would come home from their night shifts.” Upstairs at the Middle East Club, 472 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Mass., 617-492-9181.
Every type of group and performING musical act plays at the Troubadour. It’s the first venue Elton John ever played in the States, and where John Lennon was thrown out in the Seventies for harassing a performer. Now favored for its cozy and intimate stage atmosphere, bands can’t help but be drawn to the history of this music mecca.
Soloist Jonathan Rice, whose unique voice has been compared with Bob Dylan’s, answered to his favorite venue question with no hesitation. “It’s the Troubadour in L.A. It’s one of the truly unclean places to play in that town. Just thinking about everyone that ever played there, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.” Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, 310-276-6168.