Grammys 2012: Clive Davis sets the stage for Brandy/Monica redux
Clive Davis' annual Pre-Grammy Gala remains the hottest ticket outside of the big show on Sunday. The celebrated music mogul manages to solicit an elite who's who of musical talent, not to mention a surprise or two when it comes to the evening's performance.
Sanctioned by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and labeled a "Salute to Industry Icons," this year Davis will honor Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Last year, Davis tapped R. Kelly, Janelle Monae, Mumford & Sons, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Whitney Houston to hit the stage.
Pop & Hiss dropped by the Beverly Hilton Hotel to take a peek at rehearsals for Saturday's gala, which features Brandy and Monica as headliners (we also spotted a run-through for the tribute set to the Kinks led by the band's former frontman, Ray Davies). The two R&B divas recently reunited nearly 14 years after the success of their chart-topping duet "The Boy Is Mine" for a new single, "It All Belongs To Me," that will appear on their upcoming albums.
After a run-through of the massive hit that brought them together, a loose and lively Houston dropped by to give the girls vocal tips for the performance.
We sat down with Brandy, Monica and Davis to talk about the reunion their fans had been waiting for, further collaborations and why Davis wanted them to debut the live performance on his stage.
Monica: The evolution of us as women and as mothers has allowed us to be in a space where we can converse with one another, we could relate. We could express ourselves in the proper way, instead of the way we did in the '90s (rumors of catfights and tension followed the two immediately after "The Boy Is Mine" was released).
Brandy: And I think we just sound good together. I say that humbly. It feels good to sing with someone that I admire and sing a song that I love. [Producer and songwriter] Rico Love did a great job with the track. It feels great to be back onstage with Monica.
"The Boy is Mine" was a massive success. Any nerves about how the new song would be received?
Brandy: I'm always nervous. I worry, like Mr. Davis. (To Davis) I'm glad to know that you worry because I feel better about my nerves now.
Monica: I wasn't nervous because I felt like it was coming from a very organic place. I've never believed in doing anything that wasn't right. If it didn’t feel right, I didn't want to do it. And I knew that we should never try to touch the history or the moment of what "The Boy Is Mine" was. So we purposely chose a song that was different.
Getting the slot to perform at Clive's gala is impressive. It's such a major event. Why showcase the song for the first time here, as opposed to on television?
Davis: I was sent the record, and I thought it was really, really strong. They waited for the right song, and all three of us shared "The Boy Is Mine" together. We never had the chance to celebrate it the way we should have. They only did it once on MTV, so I said, "It was an all-time bestseller, I have this party, here's my stage."
Monica: What a lot of people don't know is, I don’t do records without sending them to Clive. For him to see me at 12 years old, there's no way for me to continue my music career without him having some involvement. Everything I'm doing, he’s involved.
Brandy, with your new record deal, the two of you have become labelmates. Does this mean more collaborations? Maybe a joint tour?
Brandy: I've wanted to do this tour for a very long time, and we should have with "The Boy is Mine."
Monica: We should not have (laughs). Not back then.
Brandy: Business-wise, it would have been smart.
People really thought you two hated each other, and still do. There were so many rumors, so many stories, yet you two had been friends this entire time?
Monica: I've said it many a times. People find it more interesting to think you don’t like one another. They are making that an issue in R&B and hip-hop. But you don't see that in country, they all hang out. They all have a great time and sell records together.
Brandy: Unity is more powerful.
Monica: Hopefully, what artists see with the way that we are is not just about (recording a song together), but hoping to make it a full movement. Hopefully a tour, and possibly a Christmas record. It will show artists there is no reason to be at each others' throats.
Brandy: You can't appreciate people's music if you're being competitive. I love her voice. I'm just glad we're not in that place. We run everything by each other: how our hair looks, how our makeup is going to be, our clothes.
The creative team I spotted for the performance was very impressive. Creative director Kim Burse (Beyonce, Ciara) was in the mix, so was music director Rickey Minor. But seeing Whitney Houston there giving you two vocal tips was unbelievable.
Brandy: Huge, right?
Monica: She really loves and supports us both. For me, I went through a lot of very tumultuous moments and she would show up, not just with a phone call but physically when I needed. That's something that I've carried with me, especially with all that she's been going through over the years herself. She's never turned her back on the people she cared about.
"It All Belongs to Me," will appear on Monica's upcoming disc, "New Life," set for release March 6, and Brandy's yet-to-be titled RCA debut album, which the singer said will hit stores in the spring. The duo will shoot the video for the single on Monday in L.A.
Check out the pair running through "The Boy Is Mine," below.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Brandy and Monica on Thursday rehearse "The Boy Is Mine" for Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Credit: Gerrick D. Kennedy / Los Angeles Times
Video credit: Gerrick D. Kennedy / Los Angeles Times