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2018 GRAMMYs: Clive Davis Talks Pre-GRAMMY Gala, Whitney Houston & More

Clive Davis and Pharrell Williams

Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

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2018 GRAMMYs: Clive Davis Talks Pre-GRAMMY Gala, Whitney Houston & More

The venerable record executive discusses his recent hit documentary and reveals some of his favorite past Pre-GRAMMY Gala moments

GRAMMYs/Jan 22, 2018 - 06:17 pm

Over the last six decades, Clive Davis — "The Man With the Golden Ear" — has had a singular impact on popular music, shaping the sounds and careers of talents ranging from Aerosmith to Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin to Patti Smith, and Bruce Springsteen to Alicia Keys and Notorious B.I.G.

His official positions have included a stint as head of Columbia Records and the founder of the Arista and J labels, but his influence and esteem are greater than any one job title — a point driven home each year by the roster of A-list talents who perform at his annual event hosted with the Recording Academy, the Pre-GRAMMY Gala.

Davis, 85, was recently the subject of a compelling documentary, fittingly titled Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. And on Jan. 27, he'll preside over the 2018 installment of the Pre-GRAMMY Gala, which will see Jay-Z receive the Academy's Salute To Industry Icons Award.

With GRAMMY Week 2018 upon us, and with several new projects still filling his amazingly busy schedule, Davis took the time to talk about his reaction to the film, his enduring relationships with artists, and a few of his favorite Pre-GRAMMY Gala memories. 

What was your reaction the first time you saw Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives?
I was really moved. I had no role in it other than being interviewed for it so until I saw the completed film — I'd never seen the footage of each of the other people that were interviewed for it . You know, this business is often ephemeral but seeing how many artists participated in the film — to see Simon And Garfunkel reminisce about how I picked "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as a single, to hear the memories of Patti Smith, Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead, Dionne and Aretha, Jennifer Hudson and Santana and Alicia Keys — that really was a thrill.

When I wrote my autobiography, I was thrilled with how well it did — but someone could always say, "Well, that's his version." When you see the documentary and see that these artists did not forget, and you see that our relationships were something reciprocal — that moved me greatly. It really did.

"The first time you hear a particular talent rise to its peak with a particular piece of material, it's a chilling, spine-tingling moment."

You've helped artists begin careers, maintain careers and revive careers. How has your role shifted in those situations?
When you sign an artist from scratch they're relying on your musical expertise for guidance — not for molding but for guidance. You're really trying to bring the best possible audience to them without bastardizing their creativity, and I'm very proud of the matchups of songs and artists that were a part of launching the careers of Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, and many others.

When you design a comeback — it's different. Rod Stewart came to me with his idea of doing The Great American Songbook and we worked together on it. In that case, you're dealing with a seasoned artist so all the awareness of the talent is there. There's no guidance needed — it's more a collaboration. That applies to bringing Santana back with "Smooth" or working with Aretha or Dionne all these years, or Barry Manilow's Greatest Songs albums. There's tremendous gratification in saying to an artist, "Yes, maybe you're not as big as you used to be but you should be. Your talent is prodigious and unique, and you've got many more years left in your career."

So many different types of artists have benefited from your "golden ear." Can you explain your ability to work with such a range of talents and musical styles?
You have to begin by understanding that each artist is an individual, and while you're looking for those artists that could be headliners, you use very different criteria. You're going to judge Santana differently from Dionne Warwick and Billy Joel different from Whitney Houston. The first time you hear a particular talent rise to its peak with a particular piece of material, it's a chilling, spine-tingling moment. But the extra thrill for me is how long the careers have lasted for so many of the artists that I have signed or have worked with, and how many of them are still doing wonderful work.

Your Pre-GRAMMY Galas have long been a major component of GRAMMY Week. Do you have some favorite moments from those celebrations?
Many, many, many. One special memory comes from the first time Alicia Keys performed "Fallin'" at the gala as a new artist. I told her that the good news was that I was going to introduce her to the industry. The bad news was that she was going to have to follow Gladys Knight singing "Midnight Train To Georgia." Hearing an all-time great artist and a new bright light deliver incredible performances back-to-back was wonderful.

I vividly remember Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas performing "Smooth" before most people had even heard the record. We decided to break the record by having it performed at the gala, and the place went nuts. Word of mouth spread and the rest is history.

One other vivid memory among many happened in 2000, the year I was leaving Arista to form J Records. I decided that there would only be two artists performing that year — Carlos and Whitney. The first half of the evening was Carlos Santana playing all the hits that he and I had been involved with. Then Whitney came on, just at the top of her form, and sang every song directly to me. So, it all took on new meaning as she sang "I Believe In You And Me" and "I Will Always Love You." Of course, the emotion of that was tremendous.

Maybe it's crazy to ask, but are there still things you hope to accomplish?
I've got to tell you — this documentary based on my life entered the iTunes best-selling documentaries at No. 1. I've always been on the other side of the desk, but for me personally to be at No. 1 was a new thrill. And I'm involved with other projects — I'm working with Johnny Mathis and I'm in the studio with Jennifer Hudson. There are a number of projects that are exciting to me.

So you still get some of those spine-tingling moments?
I certainly do. That's why I do what I do.

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis, Elvis: My Best Man, and Running With The Champ: My Forty-Year Friendship With Muhammad Ali.)

Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

Getting The Latest Music News Just Got Easier. Introducing: GRAMMY Bot. Find it On KIK and Facebook Messenger 

Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 08:11 am

Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."


Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and  Jonathan Yip.

For additional "Finesse" on stage at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Mars was joined by Cardi B for a reprise of their 148-million-views hit remix.

The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.

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Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'

Mariah Carey

Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images

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Mariah Carey Tells Fans Fire Music Is Coming With New Album 'Caution'

The sultry R&B/pop superstar has announced she will release her 15th studio album next month – what will she bring us this time around?

GRAMMYs/Oct 17, 2018 - 05:39 am

Never one to do things quietly, the GRAMMY-winning R&B/pop diva with the angelic voice Mariah Carey came boldly onto the scene in 1990 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut self-titled album. At the 33rd GRAMMY Awards she took home her first two wins: Best New Artist and for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Vision Of Love," which she performed on the GRAMMY stage. The song was the album's first single and Carey's first No. 1 song. Since taking center stage at the beginning of the '90s the star hasn't looked back, releasing 13 studio albums and plenty of hits over the years. Four years after the release of her last album, she has announced that her next one is a month away. What will she serve up on her 15th LP?

The star recently shared on Twitter that her latest album is called Caution and will be released on Nov. 16, 2018. We first got a hint of a new album on Sept. 13 when she announced an album was in the works and released the lead single, "GTFO." The album's second single, "With You," followed on Oct. 4.

On "GTFO" she confidently asks a soon-to-be-ex lover "How 'bout you get the f* out?" in breathy vocals over a slow, melodic beat by GRAMMY-winning producer Nineteen85. "With You" feels like a classic Carey R&B love song with her angelic vocals backed by snapping and a melodic slow jam groove produced by hip-hop beat maker DJ Mustard, who lets her voice shine on an uncharacteristically mellow track for him. These songs hint that her latest release will give us songs that not only showcase her incredible vocal range and versatility, but also give us both nostalgia-inducing tracks as well as radio-ready hits.

"GTFO" gives us a taste of some of the new flavor that she is bringing to her new album, singing the song's coy lyrics completely in more-understated breathy vocals without belting any big high notes, not even during the chorus. It's a catchy, playful breakup song, as she confidently sings "get the f* out/how 'bout you take your tings and be on your merry way?/Fly off with the wind, bye bye baby/How 'bout you scusami, Mimi'll call you a valet."

The song was co-written and co-produced by Jeff Jefferies aka Nineteen85, who is half of OVO R&B duo dvsn and is responsible for producing some of Drake's biggest hits, including the GRAMMY-winning mega-hit "Hotline Bling." On the Drake's song "Emotionless" from his latest album, Scorpion, he samples Carey's lyrics from remixed classic hit "Emotions." Hopefully Jefferies has some catchy hits up his sleeve for Carey, and maybe even brings in some OVO artist surprises.

Carey has released some great collabs over the years, a majority with R&B and hip-hop artists, including Boyz II Men on heartfelt slow jam "One Sweet Day" from 1995's Daydream and Jay-Z on the upbeat classic belter "Heartbreaker" from 1999's Rainbow. We can only hope that the new album will offer some new, soon-to-be-classic hits with some of our other favorite artists.

Her most recent album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, released in 2014, had more collab tracks than usual for her, which could perhaps point towards some hot features on Caution. The deluxe edition of the 2014 album had six songs with other artists, including rappers Nas, Fabolous, Wale and R. Kelly as well as R&B singers Miguel and Mary J. Blige. The  album's lead single, "Beautiful," has Miguel and Carey singing a soulful, feel-good duet, while "Dedicated" features a bounce-y, electronic-infused hip-hop beat with a verse from Nas. Seeing that she worked with big-time hip-hop producers on the new album's lead singles, we can only hope that they not only offered their production genus to more of the tracks, but perhaps brought some of their friends into the studio as well.

Fans only have to wait a month for the full dose of new music from Carey, but until then we will send our prayers to the music gods that the album will feature all of our dream collabs, perhaps some old and new friends, and offer up some new favorite songs, with some to slow dance to and others to belt out in the shower.

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