Essence Fest Announces Hybrid Event for 2021

Essence announced Thursday (Feb. 18) that the annual festival held in New Orleans will adopt a hybrid model for its 2021 event. Over the course of two weekends this summer, the festival will feature online content as well as live-to-tape activations throughout the city.

This year, with the theme ‘Live Loud,’ ESSENCE is thrilled to curate an invaluable hybrid experience that offers the best of in-person and virtual worlds via a celebration of the resilience, power and achievement of our community and the omnipresence of our culture,” festival organizers said in a release.  

The festival’s virtual programming will include interactive sessions, as well as evening concerts and connection opportunities. In addition, Essence will produce live-to-tape activations available only to local New Orleans and Louisiana residents, honoring essential workers and first responders.

Essence states that all in-person events will be in strict adherence to guidance from local health agencies and will be held in partnership with the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.  

The entire festival will be broadcast on on both weekends of the event scheduled to take place June 25-27 and July 2-4.  

The hybrid style festival follows Essence’s virtual format in 2020 due to the global pandemic. The 100% Black-owned media company typically hosts an event welcoming more than half a million people over Fourth of July weekend, but reached a more global audience with its online content last year. According to Essence, the 2020 edition of the festival of culture has reached more than 45 million full-stream views to date.  

Talent for this year’s festival is expected soon. In the meantime, ongoing updates and additional information can be found here 

Every Rusical from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ Ranked Worst to Best

There are few constants on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Every season, the queens are asked to dazzle with their fashion, to impersonate their favorite celebrities, to show off their vocals and, of course, to lip sync (for life, legacy or for the crown).

A recent tradition on Drag Race is one that combines all of the above — the Rusical. Almost every year since season 6, the queens of Drag Race are tasked with performing in a themed musical challenge — sometimes they have to pay tribute to iconic pop stars by singing and dancing live on stage, other times they have to lip sync in a pre-recorded musical about airlines or pharmaceutical drugs.

This week, the queens of season 13 are finally taking on that same challenge with “Social Media: The Rusical.” Each of the remaining queens will take on the role of a different social media platform in a showtune-filled tale about the trials and tribulations of life online.

So, in honor of this week’s Rusical, Billboard decided to take a look back at every other Rusical from Drag Race (U.S.) and All Stars to see how they held up. Judged by their general concepts, execution, music and overall impact, here is how each Rusical fared in our ranking.

10. PharmaRusical (Season 10, Episode 2)

Concept: Who came up with this? It’s sort of funny, but ultimately very strange and random to take the format of drug infomercials and transform them into drag puns that sort of become songs. We don’t need to hear a song about a drug called Badonkadonx that will give you a bigger butt — even when it’s trying to be over-the-top and campy, it still fizzles out. 

Execution: It’s tough to remember a single performance from such a strange Rusical. The Vixen made the most out of what she was given, and Mayhem Miller’s ballad about anal options was objectively funny. The rest largely got left in the background. 

Music: The songs of this Rusical are disjointed, skipping around frequently from hip-hop to Broadway to pop at a frenzied pace. There’s not a lot to say here – there’s very little that’s actually successful in this music. 

Overall: Especially in a season that had another (much better) Rusical, the PharmaRusical was a forgettable experience, and one that you certainly don’t need to think too much about. If you’re looking to rewatch old episodes, feel free to skip this.

9. Glamazonian Airways (Season 7, Episode 2)

Concept: While being slightly more coherent than the PharmaRusical, Glamazonian Airways still elicits the question, “Why?” Spoofing airline takeoff videos makes a bit more sense than satirizing pharmaceutical commercials, but it isn’t exactly ripe for comedy.

Execution: Mrs. Kasha Davis served a full ham dinner, which is the only sensible choice for this strange lip-sync experience. Ginger Minj earned her win with her choreography and her wacky faces. Most of the other queens in this challenge did a serviceable job, with only Katya, Miss Fame and Sasha Belle standing out for their struggle with performing the number.

Music: With a top 40 pop feel to each of the songs, there’s a plenty of continuity here. There’s nothing particularly exciting about the selections, but they certainly aren’t bad.

Overall: Glamazonian Airways is another rare swing-and-miss among the Rusical challenges. Especially when compared to later entries on this list, this season 7 challenge failed to take off. 

8. Kardashian: The Musical (Season 9, Episode 5)

Concept: Now this is what we call a concept. Taking a Broadway sensation like Hamilton and parodying it by changing the subject to reality TV royalty is a perfect way to get both the competing queens and the audience at home invested in what’s happening.

Execution: Unfortunately, even with such a good concept, two queens ended up bearing the weight of this Rusical on their shoulders. Alexis Michelle’s unhinged portrayal of Kris Jenner was perfect for the challenge, and Shea Couleé’s Blac Chyna was an absolute scene-stealer. But in a musical centered around the role of Kim Kardashian, it’s hard to watch Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s strained stint in the spotlight.

Music: The music isn’t bad, per se. But when the reference point you’ve chosen to mimic is a musical like Hamilton, there’s suddenly a lot of expectation to live up to. The “club song” featuring Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan was fun, as was “Momager,” but the moments meant to directly reference Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus fell apart.

Overall: The idea of Kardashian: The Musical is greater than the sum of its parts. While the concept should work, the only truly memorable parts of this performance were Alexis Michelle, Shea Couleé, and Nina Bo’nina Brown constantly insisting that she should’ve been Blac Chyna.

7. Shade the Rusical (Season 6, Episode 4)

Concept: As the first-ever Rusical, the idea behind Shade is simple; what happens if we take some classic stage tropes and reflavor them for drag queens? A winsome ingenue, a jaded diva, a brassy villain, a Greek chorus — they hit all of the marks. It’s not particularly inventive, but hey, it’s not really meant to be.

Execution: Courtney Act, Adore Delano and BenDeLaCreme are absolute stars in this Rusical. Courtney and Adore nail the live singing, and BenDeLaCreme is pure camp as the eye-patched, leopard-printed villain. Outside of that, there’s not a lot to say; queens like Darienne Lake and Gia Gunn struggled with their singing, while Trinity K. Bonet and April Carrion looked lost on the stage.

Music: As RuPaul once said to Nina West and Silky Nutmeg Ganache: “Meh.” This musical was designed to be campy and funny, not musically exciting.

Overall: Shade: The Rusical kicked off the Rusical challenge trend on Drag Race, and featured a number of highly entertaining, memorable performances. But taken altogether, the numerous rough patches showed some of the kinks that still needed to be worked out for the future of this challenge.

6. Cher: The Unauthorized Rusical (Season 10, Episode 8)

Concept: Considering that The Cher Show, an actual Broadway musical exploring the life of this pop icon, was already in the works at the time of this Rusical’s release, it’s safe to say that the concept is solid. This is a simple, fun way to give each queen the spotlight, by having them highlight a different era in the Goddess of Pop’s decades-spanning career.

Execution: The good largely outweighs the bad here — Kameron Michaels’ ’60s Cher had great vocals and a very funny impersonation, Monét X Change proved that she could sing the house down, and Miz Cracker delivered one of the best (and frankly, underrated) performances of the show as Vocoder comeback Cher. A few queens stumbled, like The Vixen and Asia O’Hara, but even then, the queens still worked this number out.

Music: While the performances in this challenge made us Believe, the music was not Strong Enough. The verse for Miz Cracker’s comeback Cher, including like “I know the gays will buy this/ And I know Britney will try this” is far-and-away the best, while the Movie Star Cher section sounds like it’s pulled from another project entirely. When the music works, it works — unfortunately, there are more than a few sections where it doesn’t.

Overall: The format of this unauthorized Cher Rusical, along with some high-quality performances from the queens of season 10, make up for the music’s dip in quality.

5. Trump: The Rusical (Season 11, Episode 4)

Concept: Some fans were very trepidatious about Drag Race making light of the controversial president and his lackeys with this Rusical — but looking back, this was probably the most on-brand way for Drag Race to address the Trump administration. Turning Grease into a political spoof where the queens get to openly mock those surrounding Trump (and praise those who opposed him) was about as good of a concept as we’ve seen in these Rusicals.

Execution: The queens did a great job on this yuuuuge challenge. Silky Nutmeg Ganache stole the spotlight with her Oprah Winfrey number, Nina West’s turn as Sarah Huckabee Sanders was gut-busting, Ariel Versace nailed the leading role of “Shandy,” and Yvie Oddly’s deranged Kellyanne Conway was exactly the right amount of crazy. But without uttering a single word, Ginger Minj’s guest star turn as Donald Trump himself was the show-stopping moment of this entire Rusical.

Music: It’s not easy to create multiple parody songs about political corruption in the style of Grease, but Drag Race managed to do it. While not every number was a winner, the vast majority of them hit their marks as needed, and deftly walked the line between imitation and original.

Overall: Trump: The Rusical had the potential to fall flat on its face, yet it managed to be one of Drag Race’s most consistent Rusicals. It was over-the-top, funny, and kept the spirit of Grease intact throughout, all while getting to throw up a big middle finger to the Commander in Chief.

4. VH1 Divas Lip Sync Live (All Stars Season 3, Episode 2)

Concept: Simplicity, it turns out, is key when putting together a Rusical. With Drag Race and All Stars having made the official move over to VH1 , creating a musical around the network’s iconic Divas series made perfect sense for the show — and felt like a simple, easy way to both reimagine tracks from RuPaul’s catalog and let the queens embody some of their favorite chart-topping artists.

Execution: Simply put, everyone did great. BenDeLaCreme was born to shake her ass while impersonating Julie Andrews, Shangela’s Mariah was spot-on, Trixie Mattel could pull off Dolly Parton in her sleep, and Bebe Zahara Benet looked like the spitting image of Diana Ross herself. Even Thorgy Thor’s turn as Stevie Nicks, while less impressive than some of her cohorts, was still unbelievably entertaining to watch.

Music: Retrofitting each of RuPaul’s singles for different divas — spanning genres like pop, country, rock, adult contemporary and more — is a Herculean task. But each song fit every queen and made the performance that much more fun to watch, anticipating just how they would take a song like “Peanut Butter” and make it work as a Celine Dion showstopper.

Overall: From top to bottom, this challenge checked every box it needed to, and earned its Diva title.

3. Bitch Perfect (Season 8, Episode 2)

Concept: With Pitch Perfect’s continued cultural dominance back in 2016, this challenge was a perfect way to honor (and poke fun) at the impact of a cappella. There’s no need for a convoluted plot or fleshed-out characters when all we really want to see is our favorite drag queens competing in different collegiate singing troupes.

Execution: Go back and watch Bitch Perfect and try not to have a great time. Everyone in this challenge is giving their best, campiest performance art, and absolutely working out the choreography. The late, great Chi Chi DeVayne is an immediate standout — her handstand-twerk continues to impress us to this day — while Thorgy Thor’s unbridled energy is infectious. Kudos to every single one of these queens.

Music: This is some of the best music ever put to the stage in a Rusical challenge. Whether they were going for bubblegum pop on “Jealous of My Boogie” or scintillating hip-hop on “Geronimo,” every a cappella arrangement in this performance was absolutely stellar.

Overall: It may not be the first one that comes to mind for some fans, but Bitch Perfect is far and away one of the best Rusical performances ever brought to the mainstage of Drag Race. Everybody say “underrated!”

2. HERstory of the World (All Stars Season 2, Episode 3)

Concept: Taking a tour through history, guided by a handful of the powerful women who helped shape it? Brilliant. Not only is the concept easily accessible for fans, but it opens the door for hilarious performances and creative liberties with music throughout history. Someone in the Drag Race writers room deserved a raise for this concept, and we hope they got it.

Execution: Even the judges had a hard time finding faults in these performances. They ended up singling out Katya and Ginger Minj, but both excelled in the challenge — Ginger’s absolutely unhinged Catherine the Great was hilarious to watch, and Katya’s Princess Diana felt spot-on. Of course, the two scene stealers were Detox as a neon-colored, opera-singing Marie Antoinette, and Alyssa Edwards’ rootin’, tootin’, gun-shootin’ Annie Oakley. If there had been an audience, we would have expected a standing ovation.

Music: With every song, the producers upped the camp factor, making this challenge even funnier than it needed to be. Making hard pivots from heavy metal to opera to rockabilly to salsa, the music in HERstory of the World is insane — and yet every song works for the context it’s put in.

Overall: While it was far from the first Rusical, HERstory of the World certainly helped cement the Rusical’s status as a mainstay challenge on Drag Race, thanks to how exceedingly well it was executed.

1. Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical (Season 12, Episode 7)

Concept: The fact that we don’t have a real-life Madonna jukebox musical is, frankly, criminal. With a songbook as iconic and versatile as Madonna’s, Drag Race would be foolish not to pay homage to the Material Girl’s career through a Rusical.

Execution: First things first — yes, Jan was robbed. The New York City queen slayed every vocal, nailed every dance move, and was a near-perfect embodiment of Early Madge. But when you look at the rest of the talent in this Rusical, it’s understandable why the judges had such a hard time choosing who should win the challenge — everyone was phenomenal. Gigi Goode’s True Blue-era impersonation was endlessly entertaining, Jaida Essence Hall served pure sex, Crystal Methyd was ridiculous (and really good!), and even Brita (who ended up sashaying away in this episode) did an excellent job portraying the iconic cone-bra phase of the Queen of Pop’s career.

Music: One word: composition. Nailing a parody song is a difficult task, but each and every track in the Madonna Rusical perfectly evokes a specific song in her catalog without directly using its melody. Every song managed to be both funny and good — a feat that no other Rusical accomplished quite like this one did.

Overall: This Rusical had everything — incredible performances, a strong well of material to pull from, excellently orchestrated music and stellar choreography. Frankly, no other Rusical compares — Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical is unquestionably the best Rusical in the history of Drag Race. Period.

Toni Braxton Ties for Most No. 1s on Adult R&B Airplay Chart

Toni Braxton expands her recent winning streak on Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart and ties for the most No. 1s in the chart’s history as her track, “Gotta Move On,” featuring H.E.R., ascends from the runner-up spot on the chart dated Feb. 20. The single climbs with a 12% burst in plays in the week at the radio format ending Feb. 14, according to MRC Data, the largest gain among the chart’s 30 songs.

With “Move,” Braxton secures an 11th No. 1 and ties Alicia Keys for the most champs since the Adult R&B Airplay list began in 1993. Braxton’s return to the winner’s circle is a long time coming: She previously led or shared the rank among all artists for most No. 1s from 1996 until Keys surpassed her in 2008 and retained sole possession of the feat until now.

Here’s a look at the current standings for most No. 1s on Adult R&B Airplay:
11, Toni Braxton
11, Alicia Keys
8, Charlie Wilson
7, Kem
7, Maxwell
7, R. Kelly

After Keys and Braxton, the next women in line are Mary J. Blige and the late Whitney Houston, each with six No. 1s.

Braxton herself was the chart’s inaugural leader, as her “Another Sad Love Song” topped the first Adult R&B Airplay iteration on Sept. 18, 1993.

Here’s a rundown of Braxton’s No. 1 collection as she steps back into the winner’s circle:

Title, Artist (if other than Toni Braxton), Weeks at No. 1, Date Reached No. 1
“Another Sad Love Song,” four, Sept. 18, 1993
“Breathe Again,” two, Nov. 20, 1993
“Seven Whole Days,” six, Feb. 5, 1994
“You Mean The World to Me,” seven, May 7, 1994
“You’re Makin’ Me High / Let It Flow,” 13, June 22, 1996
“Just Be a Man About It,” two, Sept. 9, 2000
“Hurt You,” with Babyface, four, Dec. 14, 2013
“Long As I Live,” five, June 9, 2018
“Do It,” three, Aug. 15, 2020
“Live out Your Love,” Kem featuring Toni Braxton, two, Jan. 2, 2021
“Gotta Move On,” featuring H.E.R., one (to date), Feb. 20, 2021

With the combination of “Live out Your Love” and “Move,” Braxton also logs two leaders in one year for the third time, after a pair of chart-toppers each in 1993 and 1994.

Braxton was highly complimentary of the young talent. “H.E.R. is an incredible talent who sings, writes, plays several instruments, produces and competes with no one but H.E.R.self,” the R&B legend tells Billboard exclusively. “She represents her generation with the cool factor that only an indigenous superstar possesses. From one star to another… she just got shine!”

H.E.R., too, adds to a consistently expanding No. 1 count. “Move” yields a fifth No. 1 on Adult R&B Airplay. She previously led the list with her debut entry, “Focus,” in October 2018 and claimed a second leader that same month through a featured turn on Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part,” which reigned for four weeks. Her third and fourth leaders also came through guest spots, on Skip Marley’s “Slow Down” and Lonr.’s “Make the Most,” respectively, last year.

Taylor Swift’s New ‘Love Story’: Here’s the Story (So Far) on Airplay, Sales & Streaming

According to initial reports to MRC Data, Taylor Swift’s re-recording of “Love Story” — dubbed “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” — has garnered more than 10 million on-demand audio streams in the U.S. through Feb. 16, while also selling over 24,000 downloads through Feb. 17. In terms of airplay, while it is not being actively promoted to radio stations, it has been played over 350 times through Feb. 17.

On Feb. 11, Swift announced she had re-recorded her 2008 album Fearless, as Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and that its updated lead single, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” would be released on Feb. 12. Fearless became Swift’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, while “Love Story” was her second Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit. Since then, Swift has tallied seven more No. 1 albums, and 27 more top 10 Hot 100 hits.

Re-recordings of older songs or albums are treated separately from their originals, with independent chart histories for each version. Thus, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” will chart separately from Swift’s original 2008 recordings of the album and song, respectively. “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” is expected to debut on various weekly Billboard charts dated Feb. 27, with highlights to post Feb. 22 and all charts updating on Feb. 23.

Airplay Update: As for radio airplay in its first six days, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” drew over 350 plays on stations that report to Billboard’s all-genre, audience-based Radio Songs chart, a sum that translates to nearly 1.7 million audience impressions. Leading among those plays, over 240 were on reporters to the Pop Airplay chart, led by 45 on SiriusXM’s Hits 1 channel. Adult Pop Airplay reporters followed, having given the song over 80 spins in that span.

How does that play compare to the 2008 version? The original drew slightly more plays on Radio Songs reporters in that six-day period: nearly 400. Adult Contemporary chart panelists led with over 180 plays, followed by reporters to Country Airplay (70) and Adult Pop Airplay (50).

Generally speaking, daily plays of the original have been steady the whole month. The song garnered between 46 and 81 daily plays on Feb. 1-11, compared to between 44 and 92 plays on Feb. 12-17.

Here’s a look at the daily U.S. airplay (on Radio Songs chart reporters) for the two versions, side-by-side, according to MRC Data:

Date – Re-Record – Original

Feb. 12 – 144 plays, 777,000 audience – 67 plays, 227,000 audience
Feb. 13 – 59 plays, 246,000 audience – 92 plays, 344,000 audience
Feb. 14 – 47 plays, 177,000 audience – 66 plays, 160,000 audience
Feb. 15 – 43 plays, 190,000 audience – 62 plays, 372,000 audience
Feb. 16 – 28 plays, 153,000 audience – 66 plays, 297,000 audience
Feb. 17 – 38 plays, 135,000 audience – 44 plays, 219,000 audience
Totals, Feb. 12-17: 359 plays, 1,678,000 audience – 397 plays, 1,619,000 audience

As the above daily breakdown reflects, the new version of “Love Story” boasts the biggest one-day total between the two, unsurprisingly in its first day of release. Meanwhile, the 2008 original has maintained fairly steady daily plays, having long been an established hit that’s now in regular rotation among the biggest songs from its era.

Notably, the new version of the song is not being actively promoted to radio. Instead, three tracks continue to be promoted to various formats from Swift’s latest LP, Evermore. The set’s “Willow” rose 9-8 on the most recently published Adult Contemporary and Adult Pop Airplay charts (dated Feb. 20) and 20-17 on Pop Airplay. Meanwhile, the album’s “Coney Island,” featuring The National, climbed 26-21 on Adult Alternative Airplay; a week earlier, “No Body, No Crime,” featuring Haim, kept at its No. 60 best on Country Airplay.

The original “Love Story” hit No. 2 on Radio Songs (and No. 4 on the all-genre, multi-metric Billboard Hot 100). It topped Country Airplay and Pop Airplay and remains the only song to have led both lists. It also crowned AC and rose to No. 3 on Adult Pop Airplay.

Sales Update: “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” sold 24,300 downloads in the U.S. through Feb. 17, according to initial reports to MRC Data. Of that sum, 18,900 came on its first day of release, Friday, Feb. 12. It was earlier reported (on Saturday, Feb. 13) that the song had sold 10,000 on Feb. 12, based on initial reports. Since that story was published, further sales were reported for Friday, lifting the tune’s total for that day to 18,900.

As for the original “Love Story,” it has sold 700 downloads between Feb. 12-17.

Here’s a look at the daily U.S. sales for the two songs, side-by-side, according to initial reports to MRC Data:

Date – Re-Record – Original 

Feb. 12 – 18,900 – 200
Feb. 13 – 2,100 – 100
Feb. 14 – 1,600 – 100
Feb. 15 – 800 – less than 100
Feb. 16 – 500 – less than 100
Feb. 17 – 300 – less than 100

Streaming Update: Between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” collected 10.21 million on-demand audio streams in the U.S., according to initial reports to MRC Data. 4.70 million of that figure came on the track’s release day, Feb. 12.

The original “Love Story” captured 667,000 on-demand audio streams on Feb. 12 – more than two times the number of streams the song garnered daily between Feb. 5-10. On Feb. 11, in the wake of Swift’s news announcing the re-recording, the original song’s streams grew to 504,000 (up from 290,000 on Feb. 10).

Here’s a look at the daily U.S. on-demand audio streams for the two songs, side-by-side, according to initial reports to MRC Data:

Date – Re-Record – Original
Feb. 12 – 4,701,000 – 667,000
Feb. 13 – 2,144,000 – 493,000
Feb. 14 – 1,388,000 – 518,000
Feb. 15 – 1,076,000 – 355,000
Feb. 16 – 898,000 – 327,000

14 Times ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Stars Have Appeared in Music Videos

It’s clear the cast of Vanderpump Rules have higher aspirations than to be waitstaff and bartenders for their rest of their  lives. After all, former star Stassi Schroeder is now a New York Times bestselling author, Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright — who are also no longer on the show — are trying to launch their own beer cheese, while Toms Sandoval and Schwartz are business partners in popular Hollywood bar TomTom.

As shown over the eight seasons of Bravo’s hit series, many of the SURvers have some kind of musical inclination, with the cast members often collaborating on songs and starring in each other’s music videos. (Remember that awkward bedroom scene featuring Brett Caprioni in Scheana Shay’s “One More Time”? Or Sandoval project Charles McMansion’s “TIP”?)

With cocktail recipe book author Ariana Madix now starring in a non-VPR rap video (though it might inspire self-proclaimed “White Kanye” James Kennedy to tap her next), we decided to round up the music videos various Vanderpump Rules stars have appeared in over the years that aren’t another cast member’s.  So raise your glasses high and enjoy!

Lisa Vanderpump

“G.U.Y.,” Lady Gaga, 2014
LVP wasn’t the only Beverly Hills housewife in Gaga’s video: Yolanda Hadid, Carlton Gebbia, Kyle Richards and even Lisa’s beloved late pup Giggy appeared, though Vanderpump had the most scenes of her fellow RHOBH stars. In one, she even snaps the neck of an unlucky businessman.

“(What) In the Name of Love,” Naked Eyes, 1984
Decades before finding reality TV fame, Vanderpump appeared in this music video, in which she attends a fancy party held at a mansion, and also works out in some very ’80s gear. Oh, and it looks like she was part of a scheme to fleece some very rich man.

“Poison Arrow,” ABC, 1982
The business mogul — who was only 22 at the time — mesmerized as a stunning star of the stage in this early ’80s video from English pop band ABC. With her metallic eye makeup and perfectly teased hair, she stole hearts and crushed them just as quickly.

Tom Sandoval

“Samantha’s Gone,” Corey Taylor, 2021
Sandoval helped the Slipknot frontman poke a little fun at indie rock bands by playing a rocker himself. And in true Sandoval fashion, he rocked the part in an elaborate costume that included a mullet wig and gold chains.

“I Do Coke,” Kill the Noise and Feed Me, 2016
The SUR bartender-turned-businessman went way more adult in this music video, which YouTube put behind an age restriction. In it — like the title suggests — he enjoys the white powder and proceeds to go out of his mind with wild visions.

“Misunderstood,” Bon Jovi, 2002
The TomTom partner plays a guy — with an extremely luscious head of hair, unsurprisingly — whose girlfriend catches him cheating. While explaining the situation, Sandoval’s character recounts his terrible, no good, very bad day and how it was a total misunderstanding as to how he came to find himself in his birthday suit in bed with Camila Alves, the future Mrs. Matthew McConaughey herself.

“All About Lovin’ You,” Bon Jovi, 2002
Back with his long, flowing mane, Sandoval this time played the same young man from the “Misunderstood” video, but is now seemingly in the depths of despair after a breakup. In a nod to the prior video, the secret password makes another appearance, as does the scene where he gets caught “cheating.” But the dark video ended with a surprising twist.

Tom Schwartz

“This Little Girl,” Cady Groves, 2011
Schwartz played a heartbreaker opposite the late artist, walking away and rejecting her love. Blake Shelton also made an appearance as a tow-truck driver who takes her car as she’s illegally parked to spy on Schwartzy, who, it turns out, already has a new love interest!

Ariana Madix

“Oops!” by Yung Gravy, 2021
The bartender’s project is the most recent of the bunch, appearing in rapper Yung Gravy’s video, which dropped Feb. 11. In the colorful video, Madix gets cozy with Gravy — and a brightly colored bird.

Ariana Madix, Tom Sandoval, Katie Maloney & Tom Schwartz

“Everything Has Changed,” Best Coast, 2020
Longtime VPR couples Katie and Schwartz and Ariana and Sandoval (as alter ego Chip Harley!) faced off in an ’80s-style game show as host/lead singer Bethany Cosentino had a meltdown. Turns out the grand prize wasn’t all that grand …

Sandoval and Schwartz

“SNAP!” The Potash Twins, 2019
The dynamic duo of Tom and Tom are together again — and not behind a bar. In the video starring Terry Crews and his dancing pecs, the two friends make a quick cameo, raising their martini glasses — and eyebrows — for the cameras.

Lala Kent

“I’ll Always Be Young,” Shaun Barrowes, 2013
The former SUR hostess and sometime aspiring singer-actress looks lovely in this video. As she wanders a lush forest and golden fields, a man who is creepily aging backward after seeing her followers her around until he’s returned to his youth, at which point, they are in love. Obviously.

Beau Clark

“You and Me,” Lifehouse, 2005
You’d think it’d be his wife and (now former) VPR star Stassi Schroeder who’d have been in music videos, but nope, it’s relative newcomer Beau. In the video for the song, which peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100, a very shaggy-haired Beau is desperately searching a transit station for his love.

Brittany Cartwright

“Drinking Side of Country,” Bucky Covington feat. Shooter Jennings, 2012
Blink and you might miss her! Years before she found herself in Jax Taylor’s arms, Kentucky girl Brittany made a very quick appearance in this Bucky Covington video. In the scenes where he and Shooter are gathered with a bunch of people drinking and singing, Brittany is sitting in the bottom left corner in a red bikini top and white denim vest.

Justin Bieber Broke Hearts & Records With His Valentine’s Day TikTok Livestream

Justin Bieber serenaded a record number of fans during his Valentine’s Day TikTok livestream, drawing more than 4 million unique viewers over two broadcasts on Sunday and Monday, according to Def Jam. That makes his “Journals Live” performance the most-watched single-artist livestream ever for TikTok.

The livestream marked a few other milestones too: It was the first full-length single-artist live performance on TikTok and it was the first time Bieber had performed his 2013 project Journals.

The super-personal, R&B vibe of the fan-favorite album was a perfect fit for Valentine’s Day, as evidenced by the TikTok viewership and the boost in streams after. On-demand streams of Journals’ songs increased 37% in the U.S. on Feb. 14-16, according to initial reports to MRC Data. The album’s collected tracks garnered 1.32 million streams on Feb. 14-16, versus 963,000 on Feb. 11-13.

Bieber also saw a spike in TikTok followers, increasing by 700,000 to 20.3 million after the announcement of the Journals livestream.

Journals is one of my favorite projects and I’ve never performed it live,” Bieber said ahead of Sunday’s broadcast. “I’m grateful to TikTok for helping me to bring this show to everyone on Valentine’s Day.”

Get a taste of the performance below:

@justinbieberHappy ##valentinesday. See you tonight 🙂 ##journalslive♬ Recovery – Justin Bieber

The Deals: ‘Buss It’ Rapper Erica Banks Signs to Warner, WMG Expands in MENA

Warner Records has launched a strategic partnership with Gee Roberson and Jean Nelson’s BPG Music that will provide services for young Black artists and entrepreneurs who covet the global reach of a major label while looking to retain their creative autonomy. Roberson and Nelson will serve as advisors to Warner Records under the agreement, which brings emerging rappers Erica Banks and David Sabastian to the label.

The nature of the new partnership is exemplified by Banks’ eventual signing to Warner, which came about after Dallas-based 1501 Certified Entertainment, which first signed Banks and was on the lookout for a major label partner, was steered by Roberson to the company. Speaking of Banks, the rapper recently scored a breakout hit with her single “Buss It,” which went viral on TikTok after the fan-created #bussitchallenge caught fire on the social video platform.

Sabastian, who is also described as a fashion designer, activist, visual artist and arts educator, founded Believe in Yourself Records and recently released the album We Are God. With Roberson and Nelson’s guidance, Sabastian has also brought Believe in Yourself Records to live under the BPG/Warner umbrella.

“Our goal at BPG/Warner is to discover, mentor, and grow the next generation of musical and cultural innovators and disruptors,” said Roberson and Nelson in a statement. “We want to use our knowledge and experience to help them navigate the process and take their careers to the next level, while maintaining their creative and business independence.”

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gee and Jean on this forward-thinking partnership,” added Warner Records co-chairman & CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and co-chairman & COO Tom Corson. “They’re bringing their brilliant A&R minds and industry expertise to a unique portal that champions artistic freedom. This fresh business model charts new territory in the relationship between original talent and the major label ecosphere. They’ve already brought us two amazing artists in Erica Banks and David Sabastian, with whom we have very different, specially tailored deals, and we’re looking forward to collaborating on many more exciting projects.”

Warner Music Group (WMG) has invested in Rotana Music (part of the Rotana Group), the Arab world’s largest record label and music repertoire holder, effectively expanding its footprint in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. WMG’s label services division ADA Worldwide will distribute Rotana’s releases globally outside MENA, as well as via YouTube worldwide.

Rotana’s roster includes many of the Arab world’s most prominent artists, including Mohamad Abdo, Abdulmajid Abdallah, Rabeh Saqer, Rashed Al Majed, Abdallah Ruwaished and Ahlam in the Gulf region and Amr Diab, Elissa, Tamer Hosny, Najwa Karam, Shereen Abdalwahab, Angham, Wael Kfoury and Saber Al Robae from the Levant, Egypt and North Africa.

Established in 1993 and owned by His Royal Highness Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, Rotana is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with branches in Jeddah, Dubai, Kuwait City, Beirut and Cairo.

“The Middle East and North Africa region is among the most culturally dynamic places in the world today, with burgeoning musical scenes and dramatic consumption growth,” said Simon Robson, WMG’s president, international, recorded music, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be joining with Rotana, whose significant presence in the market reflects its extraordinary roster of musical icons and outstanding talent. We’re especially excited about the opportunity to both expand our profile in the region and to bring these amazing artists to audiences across the globe.”

Added Rotana Music Holding CEO Mr. Salem Al Hendi, “This is an exciting time, and we at Rotana are very happy with this partnership, which will facilitate Warner Music’s reach into the MENA music industry and fan communities, just as it will benefit Rotana in our global expansion objective. The creative culture in MENA is so vibrant and diverse, and this partnership will enhance the exchange of music and ideas, while promoting and supporting local artists on the global stage. I would like to congratulate His Royal Highness Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal on this win-win partnership, which is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 to keep pace with changes taking place globally, including in entertainment and the digital music landscape.”

WMG’s deal with Rotana follows the 2018 launch of Warner Music Middle East, which encompasses 17 markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

Kacy Grine & Co acted as the financial advisor to Rotana Music in negotiating the deal.

Sofar Sounds has acquired ticketing company Seated for an undisclosed amount. Under the deal, Seated, which will continue operating as an independent company, will have some of its tools integrated into the Sofar artist dashboard.

In the past, Seated has provided ticketing services, including direct-to-fan presale and VIP ticketing, for artists including John Legend, Robert Plant, Dillon Francis and Death Cab For Cutie. During the pandemic, the company has powered livestreams for Nathaniel Rateliff, Andrew Bird, Joan Baez and Best Coast and also launched a Shopify integration to increase artist revenue by 35%. It additionally has a tour listings platform and has developed text messaging presale signup technology.

Sofar, which promotes small concerts in nontraditional venues for members of its community, is currently in over 400 cities around the world.

“Seated and Sofar share a common vision of putting artists first. During this past challenging year, that’s been our primary goal: to support the independent musicians who rely on touring to connect with their fans and make a living,” Sofar Sounds CEO Jim Lucchese told Pollstar. “These musicians are why Sofar exists. I’m incredibly excited about what Sofar and Seated are building together to do more for artists, both digitally and in person when live music returns.”

“In January of 2017, John Griffin and I set out to build the future of what ticketing should be. Our bet was that in the near future, artists would want more control of their ticketing experience and a more direct connection with their fans,” said Seated co-founder and CEO David McKay. “Today Seated is joining the team at Sofar Sounds – a huge step in our goal to help empower artists to take control of their ticketing experience and fan data. Together, we’re going to be able to do even more for artists.”

Sofar and Seated paid out a combined $3 million globally to artists affected by the pandemic in 2020.

UTA has signed Australian rapper, singer, songwriter and producer The Kid Laroi.

The 17-year-old performer, who recently became the youngest Australian solo artist ever to top the ARIA Albums Chart, has enjoyed breakout success with his debut mixtape F*ck Love, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. His most recent single, “Without You,” currently sits at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been certified gold by the RIAA. Back in 2019, his track “Go” feat. Juice WRLD reached No. 52 on the Hot 100 and received an RIAA platinum certification.

The Kid Laroi is currently working on his debut studio album. He is signed to Grade A/Sony Columbia and is managed by Peter Jidenwo, Brandon “Lil Bibby” Dickinson and George Dickinson.

Christian label imprint Centricity Music has partnered with Warner Music Group’s ADA Worldwide for distribution in 2021, following a decade with CCMG/Universal. Beginning Jan. 1, all active Centricity Music titles became available for retail accounts to purchase through ADA.

Centricity Music’s roster includes Lauren Daigle, who has been named Billboard’s Top Christian Artist three years running and whose albums How Can It Be and Look Up Child have been certified platinum by the RIAA. Other top acts on the label include Unspoken and Chris Renzema.

Looking ahead, Centricity will release Daigle’s first new song in two years, “Hold On To Me,” on Feb. 26. Other forthcoming releases include new music from Renzema, North Point Worship and Coby James. The label recently released Apollo LTD’s sophomore album, Nothing is Ordinary, Everything is Beautiful and Jordan Feliz’s third album, Say It.

Entertainment One (eOne) has struck a global deal with 1501 Certified Entertainment, the Houston record label owned by former Major League Baseball player Carl Crawford. The first release under the agreement will be an upcoming project by emerging Houston rapper Stunna Bam.

In music, Crawford is best known for discovering Megan Thee Stallion, who he signed after coming across her Instagram posts. The label is also home to “Buss It” rapper Erica Banks.

Gospel and inspirational music label RCA Inspiration has struck a strategic partnership with entertainment company Marquis Boone Enterprises to release forthcoming projects from Kelontae Gavin and Fresh Start Worship.

Under the partnership, RCA Inspiration will offer cross-departmental support including distribution, radio promotion, marketing, sales, publicity and production.

Founded in 2013 by the Atlanta-based artist manager, pastor and author, Marquis Boone Enterprises’ management roster has also included Casey J, Bri Babineaux and Tasha Cobbs Leonard.

Gavin, who first rose to prominence in 2014 via a YouTube video that showed him singing a hymn in his high school cafeteria, released his debut full-length album, The Higher Experience, in 2018. That release hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart and netted Gavin four Stellar Gospel Music Award nominations. His second full-length, The n.o.w. Experience, is slated for release on Mar. 5.

Fresh Start Worship leads worship out of Fresh Start Church in Duluth, GA under Boone’s leadership. Their debut full-length album Fresh Start Worship, released in 2018, spawned the single “Mention,” which reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart.