P!nk Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Superstar singer P!nk revealed that she has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the latest celebrity to face a battle with coronavirus amid the global pandemic.

“Two weeks ago my three-year-old son, Jameson, and I were showing symptoms of COVID-19. Fortunately, our primary care physician had access to tests and I tested positive,” she wrote in a post that went up on both Twitter and Instagram on Friday night (April 3). “My family was already sheltering at home and continued to do so for the last two weeks following the instruction of our doctor. Just a few days ago, we were re-tested and are now thankfully negative.”

She then shared her thoughts on coronavirus testing, something that has become a hot button issue during the crisis. In Los Angeles, where Pink, husband Carey Hart and their two children maintain a home on the Westside of the city near the beach, health officials have expressed frustration over the limited testing capacity. Today, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the goal next week is to get 10,000 residents tested per day but thus far, slightly more than 20,000 have been tested.

Pink called testing an “absolute travesty,” adding that it is a “failure of our government to not make testing more widely accessible. This illness is serious and real. People need to know that the illness affects the young and old, healthy and unhealthy, rich and poor, and we must make testing free and more widely accessible to protect our children, our families, our friends and our communities.”

To help the process, the 40-year-old announced that she is making a sizable donation of $1 million to support health care workers on the frontlines.

“I am donating $500,000 to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years in the Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplant Center. Additionally, I am donating $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund. THANK YOU to all of our healthcare professionals and everyone in the world who are working so hard to protect our loved ones. You are our heroes! These next two weeks are crucial: please stay home. Please. Stay. Home.”

Read her full post below.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.


Forever No. 1: Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me’

Forever No. 1 is a Billboard series that pays special tribute to the recently deceased artists who achieved the highest honor our charts have to offer — a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single — by taking an extended look back at the chart-topping songs that made them part of this exclusive club. Here, we honor the late Bill Withers by diving into his only No. 1 hit, the timeless anthem “Lean on Me.”

On Bill Withers’ groundbreaking debut album Just as I Am, there’s a short whimsical track called “Do It Good.” Halfway through, Withers recalls — in melodic spoken word — the advice that producer Booker T. Jones gave the factory man-turned-recording artist. “When I came in here to try and/ Do this, something/ I’ve never done before/ Mr. Jones looked at me, said to me/ Don’t worry about it/ Just do what you do/ And do it good.”

Withers did just that for the next 14 years. And in those years — too short of a span for his legion of fans — the singer-songwriter born in the coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia reeled off a string of unforgettable hits and deep album cuts that continue to endure 45 years later. Love, betrayal, human nature, society’s ills and more provided the creative fodder for gems such as “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Grandma’s Hands,” “Harlem,” “Lovely Day,” “Use Me,” “Just the Two of Us” and “I Can’t Write Left-Handed.”

He scored his first and only No. 1 hit on both the R&B and pop charts with the 1972 anthem “Lean on Me.” The inspirational anthem was the first single from Withers’ second studio album, Still Bill. And its chart-topping ascent delivered on the promise hinted at the year before on the ex-Navy man’s aforementioned debut album. That album showcased his refreshing, folksy vocals and simple yet resonant lyrics by way of “Ain’s No Sunshine” (No. 3 on the Hot 100) and “Grandma’s Hands.”

“My favorite Bill Withers song is ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ says music industry pioneer Clarence Avant, who signed the newcomer to his Los Angeles-based label Sussex Records. “When Bill came to me, he said, ‘I guess you’ll be like everybody else, and turn me down.’ I said, ‘You’ll have to wait and see. I haven’t heard your music yet.’ But when I heard ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ I figured if anybody could write about their grandmother like that, he was worth a shot.”

After signing Withers, Avant called Stax chief Al Bell to arrange for Booker T. Jones to produce the neophyte recording artist’s first album. “After that,” says Avant, “Bill did everything himself: writing, singing and producing. He was one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met period. Just a brilliant writer.” (Fellow all-time great Stevie Wonder agrees about Withers’ writing gifts, telling Billboard that he “was a great writer who painted pictures with lyrics, the same way that a great artist would do a painting or drawing.”)

Like “Grandma’s Hands” before it, “Lean on Me” was built around the hometown tenets that Withers was raised on: love of God, family and friends. And he didn’t need a big stick to deliver the song’s powerful message. That was subtly driven home by the song’s simplicity and gospel-rooted, sing-along cadence: “You just call on me brother, when you need a hand / We all need somebody to lean on.”

Rolling out the welcome mat for the inspirational “Lean on Me” were several immensely popular predecessors in the early ‘70s that carried equally strong messaging, such as the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” Withers’ arrival on the soul scene in the early ‘70s also coincided with that of such fellow practitioners as Al Green, Roberta Flack, The Staples Singers and a solo Michael Jackson — all of whom in turn exploded their way into the mainstream with No. 1 hits of their own in 1972. Withers joined their ranks on the Hot 100 dated July 8, replacing Neil Diamond’s “Song Sung Blue” atop the chart, and reigning for three weeks.

Still Bill also spun off another popular Withers’ classic in “Use Me,” which came one spot away from his “Lean” peak, hitting No. 2. Like its predecessor, “Use Me” was recorded and produced by Withers and musicians from the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (“Express Yourself”) including well-known session drummer James Gadson. After “Lean on Me” and “Use Me,” Withers added more classics to his repertoire throughout the rest of the ‘70s, including “Kissing My Love,” “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” and “Lovely Day.” His teaming with saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. in 1981 took him back into the top five on the pop and R&B charts once more, with his last major hit, “Just the Two of Us.”

Withers would reach the top of the charts one more time, though not with one of his own recordings. R&B crew Club Nouveau claimed a No. 1 on the Hot 100 for two weeks with their cover of “Lean on Me” in 1987, putting a unique stamp on it with the catchy reggae-esque refrain “we be jammin’.” And Withers went on to win one of his record-setting three Grammys as the writer of the song, which won in the best R&B song category in 1988.

Beyond that, sightings of Withers were few and far between, until he took center stage for the illuminating 2009 documentary Still Bill. An ever-candid Withers not only talked about his creative process but also frankly about the stuttering problem he grew up with. Six years later, Wonder and John Legend helped induct Withers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where he performed publicly for the last time. “Bill hadn’t sung in public for a long time,” recalls Legend, “and we didn’t know if we could convince him to come up and sing with us. But he did come up and sing a little bit of ‘Lean on Me’ with us. It was nice; I’ll never forget that moment.”

Over the years since its release, “Lean on Me” has underscored numerous charitable events and other occasions. Having been performed or covered by a diverse range of artists from Mary J. Blige and Glen Campbell to Al Jarreau, Michael Bolton and The Winans. The latter group remade the song in 1989 for the movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman. The song’s uplifting message played a pivotal role in the film, based on the life of high school principal Joe Louis Clark. And as COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, “Lean on Me” carries even more urgency now.

“Who doesn’t like ‘Lean on Me’?” asks Wonder, rhetorically. “It’s just a classic song for all times, for all genres. It can be sung at happy occasions and even some that are bad when you need a lift. Just a wonderful song.”

Vybz Kartel’s Life After His 2011 Murder Charge: A Timeline

News broke on Friday (April 3) that a three-member Jamaican court of appeals panel has upheld Vybz Kartel’s 2014 murder conviction.

Since his original charge back in 2011, the reggae dancehall recording artist, born Adidja Palmer, has been through a series of legal troubles and has even continued an active music career from prison.

Since this legal process started nine years ago, Billboard has compiled a timeline of Vybz’s journey from 2011 to now as a refresher. See it below.

October 2011 – First charges

Following an arrest in September, Jamaica’s Major Investigation Taskforce (MIT) last night charged the controversial superstar with murder, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm. Police charged that on July 11, 2011, Kartel along with other men conspired to murder Barrington ‘Bossie’ Burton, a 27-year-old businessman and music promoter based in the Kingston suburb of Portmore. Burton was murdered while standing with friends along Walkers Avenue in the Gregory Park area of Portmore.

December 2011 – Ongoing legal problems

Jamaica’s Supreme Court judge Martin Gayle ordered Kartel to pay JA$15,000,000 (US$173,066) in damages to Jamaican promoter Alton Salmon due to his failure to perform at a concert on August 14, 2009 in the Turks and Caicos islands. According to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Salmon entered into a verbal contract with Kartel and agreed to pay him $18,000 to perform at The Real Rampin Shop concert, adapted from the early 2009 Kartel hit “Rampin Shop.”

Kartel reportedly accepted a deposit of $8,500 from Salmon with the balance to be paid at the end of the show. But his failure to appear at Turks and Caicos event was reported to have caused a riot at the venue and severely damaged his reputation as a promoter. Salmon filed a lawsuit against the dancehall star, accusing him of breach of contract but Kartel failed to file acknowledgement of service and did not attempt to defend the suit.

March 2014 – Found guilty

The 65-day trial was, at the time, the longest running criminal hearing in the history of Jamaica’s circuit court system. Kartel was found guilty, as were his associates, Shawn Campbell (a.k.a. Shawn Storm) Kahira Jones and Andre St. John. The fourth associate Shane Williams, received the sole non-guilty verdict.

April 2014 – Life sentence

Justice Lennox Campbell in Jamaica’s Supreme Court handed Kartel a life sentence. Kartel will not be eligible for parole until he serves 35 years of his life sentence, while Shawn Campbell and Kahira Jones will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their life sentences; Andre St. John will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of his life sentence.

He also faced charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Police reported that Kartel’s protégé, singer Vanessa Saddler a.k.a Gaza Slim, and an associate went to a Kingston precinct where Saddler filed a statement claiming she had been robbed at knifepoint by Williams five days after Palmer was charged with his murder. According to police, evidence exists, including phone records, indicating that Palmer instructed Saddler to report the robbery.

2016 through 2020 – Music in prison

Despite being behind bars, Kartel has managed to release a steady stream of tunes, including a number of full-length albums. In 2016, he unveiled King of Dancehall,  followed by To Tanesha in 2020.

October 2019 – XXXTentacion’s “Royalty”

Not only did Kartel release his own music, he was also featured in a posthumous song called “Royalty” by XXXTentacion. The accompaying visual is shot through the eyes of the late Triple X, memorialized with a beautiful mural at the onset of the flick. He digs for a deeper connection to his island roots with a trip to Jamaica.

April 2020 – Conviction upheld

The Kingston court released a 235-page opinion detailing its reasoning in dismissing the appeals of Kartel, Campbell, Jones and St. John, and in affirming their convictions. The court is still considering the length of their sentences in light of the time they have already spent in jail.

According to court papers, the case against them was based on a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence. The appeals court judges decided that, despite the absence of a body, the jury considered the prosecution’s evidence of an orchestrated plan along with the technology evidence and witness testimony in making its guilty finding.

Paradigm Agent’s Lawsuit May Be First of Many Coronavirus Breach of Contract Claims

Literary agent Debbee Klein’s lawsuit filed Thursday against Paradigm Talent Agency is full of stunning allegations, including payoffs to prostitutes and other criminal misconduct, but it’s the language around Klein’s contract termination and cuts to her compensation and health benefits that could prove to be a major liability for the agency.

Without warning, Klein claims she and 200 other Paradigm employees were either temporarily laid off or had their employee contracts unilaterally suspended or terminated on March 20 when chairman Sam Gores decided to institute “temporary layoffs.” As a result, Klein and the other employees will be left without health insurance at the end of April — just as the coronavirus pandemic is expected to peak in California, according to data from the Institute of Health Measurement and Evaluation.

“He didn’t bother to call his agents, some of which have immunocompromised kids, to ask about their families — he just ripped their health insurance away,” says Klein’s attorney Bryan Freedman, who represented Megyn Kelly in her legal battle with NBC News and now represents Gabrielle Union in her lawsuit against America’s Got Talent and Deborah Dugan in her lawsuit against the Recording Academy. “Nothing makes me happier than going after someone who takes away people’s health insurance during a pandemic.”

APA has also made similar cuts to staff, ending at least a dozen agents’ health insurance on April 30 and temporarily suspending the compensation portion of their contracts while still enforcing non-compete provisions that protect the agency’s rights. A source at APA says the suspensions are temporary, but affected agents at both firms argue the indefinite suspensions are de-facto terminations without cause and will likely result in breach of contract lawsuits.

“I would argue that within an employment agreement, a suspension of pay is such a material element of the contract that a breach of contract is likely,” says attorney Michael Seville with the San Francisco firm Seville Briggs. Seville, who has negotiated contracts and litigated for large labor unions and corporate executives, says if a judge or jury found that a breach had occurred, the employer could be required to pay the employee for wages during the suspension period. If there was a payout clause in the contract that required the agency to pay the remainder of the contract to the employee if they were terminated without cause, Seville explains, the agency could likely be required to buyout the contract.

The coronavirus-caused shutdown of the live entertainment industry has been an economic calamity the touring sector and prompted salary reductions at agencies like UTA — which has so far avoided layoffs — and WME, whose parent company Endeavor has cut some non-essential employees but has mainly relied on salary reductions to avoid layoffs in its agency business.

Billboard reached out to Paradigm and APA and both companies declined to comment, but APA did forward a March 27 staff memo announcing the suspensions. In the unsigned memo, APA officials said they were “taking the necessary cost-cutting measures companywide to protect our business with minimal impact on our most vulnerable employees.” It made no mention of contract suspensions.

A terminated Paradigm employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution says they were told the agency was invoking a force majeure provision in their employee agreement caused by the spread of the coronavirus when suspending their contract. But, the former employee noted, the contract’s language around force majeure includes a 90-day notice requirement that wasn’t given.

An APA agent that did not want to reveal their name likewise said that company cited force majeure to justify suspensions, but continued to operate most of its departments and kept people in similar positions employed. Ironically, the agent said, APA’s own standard for force majeure when applied to events they book for artists is much higher — the event would have to be impossible to stage.

“We wouldn’t let a promoter tell us they were invoking force majeure to save some money here and cut some costs here, but remain operational and host events,” the former APA agent said.

“It’s pretty dicey when you’re deciding who gets to stay and who doesn’t,” Seville says. “I would argue that force majeure cuts would have to be universally applied across the business.”

In Klein’s lawsuit in Los Angeles County, she says Paradigm’s decision to terminate her contract without cause during the onset of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak was a breach of an oral contract she reached with Gores in December covering her employment through 2021. Her attorney Freedman says changes to her compensation in the month after her original contract expired prove she had a new employment agreement in place. Freedman says Gores is now using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse not to pay the high profile agent the money he owes her and take away health insurance from more than 200 employees.

“Because he tried to bully my client and took his staff’s health insurance away, he’s now my number one target,” says Freedman.

“I’m going after him hard,” Freedman says. “The bully is going to get bullied.”

Coronavirus


Yandel Talks Residency in Puerto Rico, New Album & More in Billboard Live Q&A

Yandel is hunkered down in Orlando, Fla., where he’s in quarantine with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With social distancing and staying indoors encouraged by health officials, the Puerto Rican reggaetonero is doing just that and using this time to continue working on music and plan his post-quarantine projects, which include a new Yandel album, a new Wisin & Yandel single and a residency in Puerto Rico.

After releasing his new single “Espionaje” on Friday (March 3), Yandel shares that he is working on a new album. “I want to give my fans a great album,” he says. Adding, “Even though I’m still searching for artists to collaborate with for the album, people like J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Zion and Dalex are always with me,” hinting that this might be a collaboration-heavy project.

Yandel also revealed that he and Wisin are planning a residency in Puerto Rico’s Coliseo throughout the month of December. “We want to do something different in Puerto Rico. We plan to do a residency and we’ll have a show every Friday and Saturday of that month,” Yandel says. “We got the idea from the residencies that take place in Las Vegas and we wanted to do something like that in the island. We have everything ready for the residency.”

But not everything is work. Yandel is also taking this moment to spend time with his family, do some spring cleaning around the house, work out and catch up on sleep.

Watch the full interview above.

For more information about COVID-19 visit the WHO or CDC websites.

Coronavirus


20 Fun Facts About Billboard’s ‘Greatest Pop Star by Year’ Selections

By now, you’ve probably had a chance to at least dip into Billboard’s ‘The Greatest Pop Star by Year (1981-2019)’ project. It was a labor of love on the part of the entire staff.

We thought you might be interested in some trivia based on the artists who our staff selected as our year-by-year pop star MVPs. Here are 20 fun facts about them.

First artist to repeat as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Madonna. The durable star earned the title in 1985 and again in 1989.

Artist with the shortest gap between appearances as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Janet Jackson. She repeated in 1993, just three years after first claiming the title.

Artist with the longest span of Greatest Pop Star rankings: Beyoncé. She first took the title in 2003 and took it again in 2014.

Youngest solo artist to rank as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Britney Spears. The icon was just 18 when she took the title for 1999.

Oldest solo artist to rank as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Beyoncé. The superstar turned 33 during the year of her second win in 2014. Runners-up: Jennifer Lopez and Drake, who were turned 32 while they led in 2001 and 2018, respectively.

Only artist to rank as a year’s Greatest Pop Star both in a group or duo and as a solo artist: Justin Timberlake. He earned the title on his own in 2006. He had shared the title with his *NSYNC bandmates in 2000.

Only male artist to repeat as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Timberlake. The other two-time winners, for whatever reason, have all been women–Madonna, Janet Jackson, Rihanna and Beyoncé.

Most recent group or duo to rank as a year’s Greatest Pop Star: ‘N Sync. The quintet took the 2000 title. Between 1981 and 2000, seven groups (Blondie, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Boyz II Men, TLC, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC) took the title, but starting in 2001, it’s been solo artists every year.

Most No. 1 hits (1981-2009) by an artist who was never a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Phil Collins (7). Runners-up: Paula Abdul and Bruno Mars (6 each).

Artists who were a year’s Greatest Pop Star but never had a No. 1 single on the Hot 100: Nirvana, Alanis Morissette and Backstreet Boys.

Only artist who was a year’s Greatest Pop Star but never had a top five single on the Hot 100: Nirvana. The trio’s highest-charting hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” peaked at No. 6.

Artists who were a year’s Greatest Pop Star but have not yet won a Grammy: Blondie, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Lopez, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus

Artist who was a year’s Greatest Pop Star and has the fewest career Grammy nominations: Cyrus (1 nod). Runners-up: Blondie, Lopez (2 nods each)

Artist who was a year’s Greatest Pop Star who has won the most Grammys: Beyoncé (24). Runner-up: Kanye West (21)

Artist who was a year’s Greatest Pop Star who has received the most Grammy nominations: Beyoncé (70). Runner-up: West (69)

Artist who was a year’s Greatest Pop Star and has won the most MTV Video Music Awards: Beyoncé (26). Runner-up: Madonna (20)

Artist with the most MTV Video Music Awards who was not named a year’s Greatest Pop Star: Peter Gabriel (13). Runner-up: R.E.M. (12)

Artists who were a year’s Greatest Pop Star and have won an Oscar: Prince, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Adele

Solo artists who were a year’s Greatest Pop Star and have died: Michael Jackson (died 2009), Whitney Houston (died 2012), George Michael (died 2016)

Members of groups that were a year’s Greatest Pop Star who have died: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (died 1994), Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC (died 2002)


Here Are All the Dance World Livestreams Getting Feet Moving This Weekend

Have you ever wondered what your favorite DJ’s living room looks like? Well, this weekend you’re in luck, because more than a hundred electronic acts will be streaming from their homes for a cavalcade of dance-oriented livestreams. Whether you’re after mainstage vibes or a tutorial on staying creative in isolation, there’s someone happening online to fill your time.

Digital Mirage 

Happening now through Sunday, this stacked online festival will feature sets from a who’s who of dance artists, including KaskadeAlison Wonderland, A-Trak, Gryffin, G Jones, Don Diablo and four dozen other acts spread across three days of programming. Digital Mirage is organized by dance-centric entities, including YouTube giants Proximity and Trap Nation and Los Angeles-based collective Brownies & Lemonade.

HARD Summer’s Staycation

Starting Friday night and continuing Saturday from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET, this online party from HARD Summer will features sets from JAUZ, Valentino Khan, Habstrakt, Wuki, Wolfgang Gartner, Mr.Carmack, Walker & Royce, DeVault, Noizu, J Worra, DUCKY, Party Pupils, Kaivon, OMNOM and Franklyn Watts. Streaming on Insomniac Events’ YouTube and Twitch pages, the staycation will be hosted by Insomniac’s Founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella.

EXIT Festival 20th Anniversary

Starting Friday, the Serbian festival will host both live sets from artists including MKDSL and Roni Size & Reprazent and, through next Friday, April 10, will also stream sets from past festivals including those from Simian Mobile Disco b2b Roman Flugel and Maceo Plex. 

Hit Command

On Friday, Red Light Management’s gaming subsidiary Hit Command will fire up its Twitch channel to stream the online festival Dance Music Gives Back. The event will feature sets from Krewella, Boogie T, Borgore, Pluko, Wuki, Ookay, GG Magree, DUCKY, Kristian Nairn, Whipped Cream and more. The event will be hosted by Twitch personality LucyMae. Money raised through the event will benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

PLAYdifferently

On Saturday, at 1 p.m. ET, Richie Hawtin will host a discussion about creativity in isolation with Nicole Moudaber, Loco Dice, Chris Liebing, Dubfire, Matador, Paco Osuna and the 100 lucky fans who were able to sign up for the webinar. Didn’t make it? Fret not. The discussion will be available to stream via Facebook Live and YouTube.

Smash

On Sunday, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s esports organization, Smash, will host sets by Dimitri Vegas, Wolfpack and Bassjackers. DJ gamers including Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero and Afrojack, will also stream themselves playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call Of Duty: Warzone, League of Legends and Mortal Kombat 11. The event launches via the Smash Twitch channel, with all proceeds going to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.