Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Mary J. Blige's debut album, What's the 411?. No single disc of the past two decades did more to define the sound of R&B (though Aaliyah's One in a Million came close). The idea of singing straight R&B over hip-hop breaks (including classics like that of Audio Two's "Top Billin'," as heard in "Real Love") was a foreign concept at the time of its release. After 411? it become commonplace. Sometimes landmarks alter things so definitively that they end up subverting their own importance — 411? redefined sound so much that it's easy to forget just how revolutionary it once was. In today's context, it can sound like just a really tight collection of great songs.
Nas' 10th album Life Is Good is officially out today and it is...not Illmatic. While it is generally assumed that the rapper is chasing the elusive glory of his classic 1994 debut, there is a confidence that pervades Good. The result is a spotty-as-ever Nas record that is as enjoyable as it is dismissible. For example, the kiss-off to his ex-wife Kelis, "Bye Baby," is more exhibitionistic than it is profound ("Reason you don't trust men, that was ya daddy fault / He in the grave let it go he no longer living / Said you caught him cheating with mom, fucking other women / Fuck that gotta do with us? Here's the keys to the newest truck"). On the album cover, he sits with her green wedding dress draped over his knee.
The New York Post does not have a great track record at telling black people apart, whether they're media moguls or reality TV stars, so we can't say we're surprised that this Page Six item about R&B singer Mary J. Blige ran with an incorrectly-captioned picture of R&B singer Keri Hilson (full screenshot below). But we know running a daily newspaper can be difficult, so we've created this handy visual guide to help the Post distinguish between Ms. Blige and Ms. Hilson. No more drama, indeed! [pics via AP]
Last night was the night that Idol Gave Back, with song and montage and African video. Last night was the night that God took his pearly hand and ripped our hearts from our chests, leaving us bereft and alone.
Mary J. Blige turns 39 today. Amanda Peet is turning 38. Country music queen Naomi Judd is 64. Samantha Boardman Rosen, the socialite and wife of developer Aby Rosen, is turning 38. Grant Tinker, the former CEO of NBC and ex-husband of Mary Tyler Moore, is 85. Tom Dumont of No Doubt turns 42. Former New Jersey Net legend Darryl Dawkins is 53. And Darren Lynn Bousman, the guy you can thank for directing Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV, is 31 today.
• One of Hollywood's longest-lasting relationships is over: After 23 years and two sons, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins announced yesterday that they've called it quits. One possible reason for the split: It seems Sarandon may have been having an affair with one of the owners of Spin, the "ping pong social club" that opened this fall and in which she's an investor. [Gawker, P6]
• Mary J. Blige is not to be messed with, clearly. At her CD release party earlier this week, she smacked husband Kendu Isaacs—or punched, depending on which account of the incident you want to go with—after she noticed him checking out a waitress. [NYDN, P6]
• Members of the cast of Jersey Shore have moved to the second chapter of "Exploiting Reality TV Stardom: Practices & Procedures": They're asking to be paid appearance fees to show up at clubs. Alas, not even a club in Hoboken was willing to cough up the $10K that they've been asking for. [P6]
Whitney Port eating lunch at Felix on West Broadway ... Ivanka Trump talking on her cell phone ... Mary J. Blige heading into Da Silvano, and later picking up frozen yogurt in SoHo ... Ed Westwick talking on his phone ... Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos shopping in SoHo ... Jennifer Aniston leaning on a taxi on the set of The Bounty downtown ... James Franco playing a guitar on the set of Eat, Pray, Love ... Channing Tatum leaving the Gramercy Park hotel ... Hilary Duff exiting her trailer on the Gossip Girl set with rollers in her hair, and later getting a visit from boyfriend Mike Comrie ... Wynonna Judd leaving the Trump International Hotel ... and the rapper Mase chatting on a payphone.
The downtown Armory played host to the 37th annual Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards last night. A big bunch of celebs and designerswere on hand as Marc Jacobs was inducted into the foundation's Hall of Fame, including fellow award winners like Diddy and Paris, as well as Queen Latifah, Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, Dustin Hoffman and Lisa Gottsegen, Hilary Rhoda, Kendu Isaacs and Mary J. Blige, Kathy and Rick Hilton, Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler, Harry and Laura Slatkin, John Demsey, Linda Wells, Doug Reinhardt, Tracy Reece, Nacho and Delfina Figueras, Kate Walsh, Samantha Harris, Tova and Ernest Borgnine, and Jacobs's fiancé, Lorenzo Martone. [PMc, WWD, Vogue UK, VF, NYO, Wireimage]
Eliot Spitzer hailing a cab on the corner of 51st Street and 7th Avenue with his gym bag and tennis racquet in hand ... Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins heading into the Angelika Film Center ... Mary J. Blige arriving at LaGuardia ... Lily Allen walking around with a blanket over her head for some reason ... Terrence Howard leaving the movies ... Spike Jonze carrying Matilda Ledger on his shoulders in Brooklyn ... Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick leaving the Broadhurst Theatre on West 47th Street ... Josh Hartnett hanging out with his parents in Soho ... playwright Sam Shepard walking in the West Village ... and Jennifer Aniston standing under an umbrella on the set of The Baster.
Ellen Barkin walking in the West Village ... Mario Batali having lunch with the family at Da Silvano ... Gisele Bundchen going to a photo shoot at Chelsea Piers ... Julia Roberts walking in Chinatown ... Jessica Alba leaving her Tribeca hotel with her daughter Honor ... Claire Danes carrying a shopping bag in Soho ... Leighton Meester walking in the Village ... Mickey Rourke sporting a new 'do after leaving a salon on Madison Avenue ... Jennifer Aniston standing on the set of her new movie, The Baster ... Howard Stern walking a few blocks from his apartment building ... Mary J. Blige shopping with friends at American Apparel ... and Bernadette Peters hailing a cab outside Barneys.