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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Talking with Jordin Sparks, how ‘Home’ got on the Olympics

Jordin Sparks was in Atlanta Thursday to promote her starring role in "Sparkle," her first big acting role. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Jordin Sparks was in Atlanta Thursday to promote her starring role in "Sparkle," her first big acting role. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Music writer Melissa Ruggieri and I double-teamed Jordin Sparks Thursday as she came to the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown  to promote her film “Sparkle,” also starring the late great Whitney Houston. (The film comes out August 17.)

Since Melissa is writing the story for print, I deferred to her in the interview, which focused  primarily on the film, of course.

She wrote a bit about Jordin’s comments about Whitney in the AJC Music Scene.

I screened the film Wednesday night and Sparks  does indeed sparkle. She plays Sparkle, the innocent youngest daughter of Whitney Houston’s embittered mother who tries to keep her daughters away from temptation. But Sparkle also wants to be a songwriter and singer. She and her older sisters form a girl group behind their mom’s back.

This is a remake of a 1976 film that drew a cult following. Sparks embodies Irene Cara’s role.  I haven’t seen the original so I’m not sure how different the new version is. I did feel sad at times watching and hearing Whitney given how closely parallel her character’s suffering (drinking issues, domestic violence) matched that of Whitney herself.  And when Whitney sang, it’s clear her entire upper range was gone.

Sparks currently has a smaller role in a film called “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which is currently in production. The movie also includes Jennifer Hudson, whose first breakthrough film role was the Oscar-winning “Dreamgirls,” another film about a 1960s girl group.

“It’s an indie drama,” Sparks said. “There’s no music. I play a character.” According to Deadline.com, the film follows two inner-city youths left to fend for themselves over the summer after their mothers are taken away by the authorities.

Sparks’ character never crosses paths with Hudson’s but she hopes to run into Hudson again at some point. “We did VH1 Divas together in 2009,” she said. “She just had her son. She was so excited. She’s always been very sweet to me.”

Sparks also talked about how she lost so much weight. In the fall of 2010, she said she got walking pneumonia. “My mindset changed,” she said. She wasn’t exercising much or following her diet at the time. That changed. “My big thing was getting seconds because it tasted good, not that I needed it,’ she said. “Drinking water is like my job.”  She began walking, then jogging and doing aqua fit. A trainer taught her an effective 30-minute workout via circuit training. After 18 months, she said she feels (and looks) good.

As for “Idol,” she is amazed she is still the last female winner. “It’s guys with guitars,” she said, obviously aware of what folks on the blogs here say. I noted that it was when they started allowing instruments season seven.

Five years after she won season six, she still loves the show, loves the fact she’s part of this growing group of alum. “We instantly become friends,” she said, by the tie of “Idol.” “The pressure on the show is really crazy. The schedule is insane.”

As for the show’s survival, she said as long viewers stick around, Fox will keep it on. But she added: “I always feel like you should go out on a high note.”

She would never consider judging, simply because she couldn’t be that critical. But she’s open to mentoring.

- Sean “Puffy” Combs has been approached to be a judge on “Idol,” but he isn’t that interested. Producer/rapper Pharrell Williams, on the other hand, sounds like he’s ready to go. Oh, and here’s Alanis Morissette throwing her name in the mix.

– Entertainment Weekly dug into why Phillip Phillips’ “Home” made it onto the Olympics. It’s a good read.

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

58 comments Add your comment

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
9:32 am

I am looking forward to seeing this movie which is already guaranteed a large audience. Whitney Houston’s return to film was enough to get my interest but, with this being her last film performance, the movie should be a big success at the box office. I am also happy to hear that Jordin does well. She is definitely a sweet girl with a beautiful voice.

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
9:43 am

Alanis Morissette?

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
10:11 am

Why am I starting to think that Idol has called a whole bunch of people and said “just hint that you’re on our list, ok? We know that you wouldn’t consider it”?

DanJ

August 10th, 2012
10:26 am

You’re probably right Deirdre about Idol trying to generate interest in who become a judge. Especially with X-Factor and The Voice about to start! At least it keep Idol in the news and may take some of the excitement away from the start of the other shows.

I still would love for Carrie Underwood to be a judge!I think have 2 gals and one guy would be refreshing. If not her than Jimmy Iovine.

missnadine

August 10th, 2012
10:38 am

That is a great picture of the two of you. I really like her. I am surprised she isn’t more successful, but I hope she will be now. I think they should ask Prince or Lenny Kravitz to sit at the table. Both may be in their 50s, but are still pretty cool, and would offer far more intelligent critique than Tyler and Lopez. What a difference either of them would be instead of Randy.. he has really passed his sell-by date.

G

August 10th, 2012
10:38 am

Rodney wrote above: As for “Idol,” she is amazed she is still the last female winner. “It’s guys with guitars,” she said, obviously aware of what folks on the blogs here say. I noted that it was when they started allowing instruments season seven.

Bet she’s glad timing worked in her favor. Sounds like she’s VERY aware of the WGWG phenomenon that has brand the show in the past 6 years. There’s no way she would’ve won during the wgwg era. I’ve been a firm believer that Idol allowing instruments, was the sole turning point in the show.

JTesla

August 10th, 2012
10:38 am

Thanks for the info on Jordin. She is looking good (as she always has).

Regarding judges: I doubt that Idol will see a change of contestants with a change of judges. After 11 year someone isn’t going to come in and say “let’s do rap”, I’m still think that the producers have more pull over the final 24 than the judges do.

DanJ

August 10th, 2012
10:42 am

JTelsa, if the truth were known I bet the producers have a big say in the top 24. I’m sure they say we need X number of this genre and lets keep this guy or gal because they’ll draw in viewers. I think Heejun is a good example!

G

August 10th, 2012
10:43 am

I have a “guy question” for Roho, but I’ll wait a while before asking. I agree, that was a beutiful photo of Jordin. Good church pose Roho. LOL!!!

G

August 10th, 2012
11:06 am

Well, in terms of various genres of music being represented on Idol…………….rap is the only multi-million dollar genre that is not, has not, and probably never will be represented on the show. The Voice, XF, and even Sing Off has opened the floor to hip hop. Idol may never open their door to hip hop, but on the other hand…………they probably don’t have to.

You don’t have to like rap, but it is a legitimate art form of expression that is just as relevant and country, jazz, pop, etc. In it’s current form, rap has been around for almost two (2) generations.

Not calling out Idol for being right or wrong………..just an observation.

missnadine

August 10th, 2012
11:38 am

@G. I agree with you. Not including one of the most relevant, and most popular forms of music is hurting the show. That and the WGWG. They need to get rid of the instruments.

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
11:40 am

I think the problem with Rap is that you don’t need to be able to carry a tune to rap. You can be tone deaf and still rap. While it is indeed a legitimate art form judging by just how long it has been around, it is not singing.

JTesla

August 10th, 2012
11:58 am

I don’t have anything against rap, but it just doesn’t fit Idol. It would be like putting a Country-Western singing competition on BET. Nothing wrong with Country-Western music if that is your thing, but it just doesn’t fit some places.

bknsty14

August 10th, 2012
12:50 pm

Mercedes – So are you saying we’re going to have to endure Meryl Streep getting yet another Oscar nomination for Hope Springs? Anyone but her next year please. I like her…great actress…but enough already.

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
1:28 pm

Why shouldn’t she be nominated? Would you tell an athlete to stop winning when he’s still at the top of his game?

bandmom09

August 10th, 2012
1:37 pm

I love that ‘Home’ is being used during the Olympic’s but what happened to the song Muse wrote for them? Did I miss it or are they saving it until the closing ceremonies?

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
1:37 pm

A radio station has put together a remix of Philx2’s Home with an American Olympic theme:

http://www.mjsbigblog.com/phillip-phillips-home-the-olympics-edit-audio.htm

Mercedes S.

August 10th, 2012
1:44 pm

D, at 11:40, says it best. Rap is not singing.

bknsty14

August 10th, 2012
1:59 pm

D – I sometimes feel she gets nominated just because of who she is and not necessarily the performance. I also feel that other performances and actresses get overlooked just to make sure she gets nominated. It’s like Susan Lucci. I watched soap operas when I was in college. She is really not that good of an actress. It’s just based on her name. Meryl Streep, unlike Susan Lucci, is an outstanding actress. It’s like when a baseball player gets a Gold Glove based on his name even though there is a much better defensive player out there who doesn’t have the name recognition, but makes unbelievable plays day in and day out.

Mercedes S.

August 10th, 2012
2:06 pm

Thanks for story, Rodney. And thanks for removing hat in the Bed/Bath/beyond picture.
Also enjoyed link to EW’s “Home” story. Again, proves that “it’s who you know”.

Meryl Streep is America’s best actress. I just love seeing how she comes up with something new, again and again.

Sam-A: of the movies opening August 17, I highly recommend “Easy Money”.
Also opening that day, “Paranorman”, scary kiddie movie for MATURE kids.
“The Expendables” – haven’t seen.
“Sparkle” – haven’t seen.
“Killer Joe” – for people with strong stomachs. Rated NC-17. Matthew McConaughey is MESMERIZING. Very, very good, but … I’d call it a cross between “Tobacco Road” and “Honey Boo Boo”.

Sam-A

August 10th, 2012
2:08 pm

I’ve seen very few performances by Meryl that were not Oscar worthy! She’s a chameleon – can play many ages, looks, nationalities, all with seemingly the greatest of ease. Also has the ability to make those around her look good. I’ve not always liked her movie (”French Lieutenant’s Woman” comes to mind) but admired her performance. And in “Kramer vs Kramer” I went home absolutely detesting that woman!

Sam-A

August 10th, 2012
2:11 pm

Thanks, Mercedes – guessing I’ll be passing on “Killer Joe” alias “Honey Boo Boo”, but JT might be interested!

I’m thinking that movie you recommended for me earlier, the “Ruby” one, might be a good choice. I’ll probably mention it, the Bourne one, and maybe one other and let everyone vote on which to see (or we could split up and go to different movies – probably be 5-7 of us).

Mercedes S.

August 10th, 2012
2:14 pm

Rodney, are you sure her part in “Dreamgirls” was Jennifer Hudson’s “first breakthrough film role”?

G

August 10th, 2012
2:18 pm

D@1:37pm: If I can find the spare time………………..I’ll click the pp link.

Cadence and delivery are some of the core ingredients of rap, not note value. I can understand the complexity in trying to judge and compare and rapper to a singer. If by any chance in “big mama’s kitchen” it’s allowed, it should be required for the contestant to also sing (i.e. Laurin HIll, Queen Latifah, etc). It can really be a complex genre to judge.

But as far as Idol contestants being required to carry a tune………….off-key Lee broke the barrier and pp carried the torch.

bknsty14

August 10th, 2012
2:22 pm

I’m not questioning her acting. She is the best actor, man or woman, out there right now. She maybe should have won for Julie and Julia, but Sandra Bullock (of Speed and The Net fame) somehow won for the Blindside which was a very average movie with very average acting. I’m baffled by that. She definitely should have won for The Devil Wears Prada. Great movie, great acting. She lost that year, ironically, to Helen Mirren for The Queen (ironically because she won for playing the British Prime Minister). I think, and nobody really cares what I think, but I think Viola Davis should have won for The Help last year, She was outstanding and that was one of my favorite movies of the year. It was a lousy movie year for nominations in my opinion as well, because Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Awful were two of the worst pieces of garbage I’ve EVER seen. No disrespect to Meryl, I just like seeing new people be acknowledged and win.

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
2:39 pm

And Meryl would agree with you about Viola Davis. However, her performance as Margaret Thatcher spanned decades and included the sad onset of the dementia which has unfortunately invaded Mrs. Thatcher’s life. From young political advocate to shouting down members of Parliament to the tender, emotional scenes with her husband, Meryl Streep’s performance in that movie was probably one of her best ever and that is saying a lot. The only objection to her winning wasn’t her performance but the fact that the movie itself. Not the kind of subject that everyone can “enjoy”.

Seth T

August 10th, 2012
2:55 pm

Rap has a “danceable” appeal to many, especially younger listeners. The animated performance dynamics of a rapper also has an appeal to some, as compared to someone standing or sitting in one spot and singing a ballad.

Great vocal skills are not needed and they can use tracks, for a high-energy performance with dancers and grungy clothes or muscle shirts, leather, etc. Just as Country music’s twang wears thin with some, so Rap’s repetitious same-old look and sound has it’s limitations for a general audience.

If Pharrell Williams is selected along with Mariah, you can bet that you will see a rapper in the top 13, if not 2 of them. We seen a rapper go to 3rd on X-Factor, but the bottom half of that draw was a very weak field to begin with. You will likely see a whole bunch of rappers auditioning on X-Factor this year, and 2 or 3 get into the live voting stages.

Harriett

August 10th, 2012
3:03 pm

Ok, everyone. XF contestant Chris Rene has another hit from his upcoming album. Just heard it on the radio and here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8t5E7bxnsM He’s got it going on.

Deirdre

August 10th, 2012
3:05 pm

Good song, Harriett!

Harriett

August 10th, 2012
3:10 pm

I like it too, D! He can actually carry a tune. They advertised and exploited him as a rapper on XF, but his final performance was a song he wrote and he sang it while playing a guitar and sitting on a stool. That revealed much about him, in my estimation and told me he was so much more.

Harriett

August 10th, 2012
3:20 pm

I’m wrong. “Young Homie” was his final song. The other one I speak of was top 5 performance night.

[...] [“Sparkle” opens Aug. 17. My colleague - and "American Idol" king -- Rodney Ho talked to Jordin about some "Idol"-related things on his Radio & TV Talk blog.] [...]

Sam-A

August 10th, 2012
4:55 pm

Good weekend all.

That Larry Wachs.... he knows what to do.....

August 10th, 2012
5:04 pm

Looks like your girls had a great time! :) xoxoxoxoxooxo

BigTickles

August 10th, 2012
7:05 pm

whoa I can’t decide…hat or no hat….hmmm

Glen

August 10th, 2012
11:14 pm

In as far as Idol and the whole WGWG, with the world acclaim Home has gotten, Phillip Phillips winning American Idol helped the franchise, not hurt it. Aside for the judges’ musical chair this summer, Home and the Olympics was the other big Idol news.

DanJ

August 10th, 2012
11:33 pm

The problem with having rappers included on these show was made clear when Astro was allowed to write lyrics and change the song to the point where only the chorus was used from the original song. The other contestants have to sing the song and of course it’s compared to the original. So there’s nothing to compare the song from the rapper to. I guess the judge could say: “You had 2 fragmented sentences!

However I’ve heard many here say these shows especially Idol isn’t about the best singer, best voice. it’s a reality show, popularity contest etc. If that’s the case then they(rappers) should be allowed to compete. Needless to say I’m torn although I did enjoy Chris Rene on X-Factor. I actually thought he would win. I must confess I own a lot of old school rap CD’s. Run-D-MC, Grandmaster Flash, Hammer, Tone-Loc etc.

I don’t think any of the shows can say that a rapper can’t tryout. I would imagine you would have a legal headache and lose. The best thing would be to have shows based on genre’s. It’s happened in the past and may eventually have to happen again.

Deirdre

August 11th, 2012
7:13 am

Sorry guys. The gorgeous Stacy Keibler will be hosting…………..Lifetime’s Supermarket Superstars!!!

I guess that means X-Factor is out.

JTesla

August 11th, 2012
10:48 am

Supermarket Superstars sounds like a viable alternative to X-Factor for me.

Mercedes S.

August 11th, 2012
11:14 am

Is Stacy Keibler already planning for life without George? I thought she had another year to go?

Mercedes S.

August 11th, 2012
11:25 am

Interesting story in the WSJ yesterday, “When a Death Shakes a Movie”, about the remake of “Sparkle”.
From the WSJ:
“In 1976, when Whitney Huston was a teenager in New Jersey, she saw a film called ‘Sparkle.’ She was so taken by its message, she used to say, that every Saturday for four straight months, she’d go to the movie theatre to catch the matinee.”

WSJ, calling “Sparkle” ’star-crossed, also mentions earlier attempt to remake the film:
“At the time, Warners had just signed a three-picture deal with the pop-star Aaliyah Haughton. The 22-year old singer, who was poised to play ‘Sparkle’, was flying from the Bahamas to Los Angeles to meet with the film’s then-director in 2001 when her plane crashed, killing everybody on board. After that, ‘nobody wanted to touch it,’ says Ms. Chase.”
Debra Martin Chase is the new “Sparkle” film’s producer.

Mercedes S.

August 11th, 2012
2:14 pm

Thanks for link to Rene – not bad!

Vast Wastrel

August 11th, 2012
3:07 pm

Under the current format the producers would have to bend over backwards to keep a rapper in the mix to the final 4. They were more than generous this past season in selecting broad “themes” as an attempt to keep the song selections more current, but they would have to get real creative unless they should get a rapper that can actually carry a tune. I’m fine with it in a dance club where the beat is all important but I don’t want to sit and listen to rap. For the most part there isn’t much artistry in rhythmically chanting bad rhymes to words like duck and witch.

Wow, God as a judge?

Mercedes – Saw Ruby Sparks last night with the Missus and it is rare that we hit on one that we both enjoy. A rom-com with originality and those terms usually don’t go together for me. She still owes me choice on at least 4 more movies though since insisting on One For The Money followed by The Vow earlier this year.

Mercedes S.

August 11th, 2012
3:36 pm

Great to hear, Vast! Think you’ll both enjoy the new “Bourne” adventure too!

Jenny

August 11th, 2012
4:06 pm

missnadine – Lenny Kravitz would be awesome! Cinna as an Idol judge… I’m in!!

Glen – I have to disagree about PP’s win helping Idol. The thing that’s maybe helped Idol is the SONG “Home” in all its Olympic glory. It’s a great, catchy song that I like better every time I hear the music and the (non-PP-sung… I don’t think, anyway) wo-wo-wo- wowowowo refrain. But poor PP’s voice just sounds dreadful when they use the lines that include words. He’s a musician, yes… charismatic, yes… but a singer, no.

Rap on Idol? Noooooooo…. please no!

And I adore Meryl Streep. She was absolutely robbed when she didn’t win an Oscar for “The Devil Wears Prada”. That’s all….

Jenny

August 11th, 2012
4:07 pm

Seth T

August 12th, 2012
3:09 am

I see that PINK turned-down an offer to Judge on Idol, X-Factor and Voice Australia, according to a report on mj anyway.

Seth T

August 12th, 2012
3:20 am

Kelly Clarkson goes RAP, with hoodie………………

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNg_W3YVkrs

JTesla

August 12th, 2012
10:52 am

So am I a bad American for rooting for Spain in one event over the US?

Mercedes S.

August 12th, 2012
1:45 pm

Hey, JT, I rooted for Mexico against Brazil! Amazed that I got to watch a medal ceremony involving three non-American countries, and listen to a non-American anthem!