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"I wanted to choose songs that have shaped me artistically and affected me emotionally."
——Queen Latifah on new album
QUEEN’S PLAY
New Queen Latifah Album of Classic Songs a Joint Venture Between Flavor Unit, Vector and AEG Live's Creative Battery With Distributing Partner A&M
It was Queen Latifah’s show-stopping, Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated performance of "When You’re Good to Mama" from Chicago that gave Vector’s Jack Rovner the idea to do The Dana Owens Album, which she dubbed with her given name. The album was released last Tuesday (9/28) on Latifah’s Flavor Unit label with Vector Recordings and AEG Live’s Creative Battery, distributed by A&M through UMVD. The album’s executive producers include Rovner, Scott Sanders, manager Shakim Compere, Vector’s Ken Levitan and AEG’s Randy Phillips, with A&R overseen by Monica Lynch and Joe McEwen.

"I thought she should do a vocal album," says Rovner. "Not just standards, but great songs that she felt a connection to."

"I wanted to choose songs that have shaped me artistically and affected me emotionally," says Latifah.

Produced by award-winning Arif Mardin and A&M’s Ron Fair, the songs include Latifah’s take on Barbara Lewis’ 1963 pop/R&B hit "Hello Stranger," a duet with Al Green on his 1972 classic, "Simply Beautiful" and her version of Jose Feliciano’s cover of the Mamas & the Papas’ "California Dreamin’."

"People who have heard the album can’t believe how strong and beautiful her voice is," says Rovner. "There’s a tremendous amount of love and good will for her out there."

Other tracks include "Baby Get Lost," a 1949 hit for one of Latifah’s musical heroines, Dinah Washington, with a big band arrangement that reveals how the jazz crooner has influenced the hip-hop icon’s own singing. There are also versions of Bill Withers’ 1974 hit, "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh," a Nina Simone-inspired rendition of "I Put a Spell on You," with Herbie Hancock on piano.

Three different tracks are being promoted to four different formats, with "Hello Stranger" going to AC and Hot AC, "California Dreamin’" to Smooth Jazz and "Simply Beautiful" to Urban AC.

Among the marketing/promotion initiatives:

*Performances on The Today Show (9/24, with a return engagement 10/4), Letterman (9/27), MTV TRL (10/3), Regis and Kelly (10/7), Saturday Night Live (10/9, as host and musical performer), Ellen (10/12), Leno (10/13) and Monday Night Football halftime (early Nov.).

*60 Minutes profile (10/3)

*Infinity Broadcasting "Street Date" day of release (9/28)

*"California Dreamin’" #1 track on AOL Music’s First Listen program.

*Online campaign conducted by Internet guru Ken Krasner with marketing company Buzztone.

*Helping launch new Microsoft online music store with Bill Gates (10/12)

*Stories in USA Today, Time, Newsweek, People, Ebony cover

*Direct response TV campaign

*Advertising and promotion piggybacking Oct. 8 release of her movie Taxi, with Jimmy Fallon.

*#2 seller on Amazon.com.

Rovner adds there are currently discussions about a network TV special and an accompanying DVD, with a possible tour next year.

"With this type of record, it’s not about playing the chart game. It’s about getting as wide exposure as possible. Then, as we size things up and collect information, we can focus on a single track."

This veteran industry coalition has shown it’s more than possible to succeed in new ways, with an innovative record company model putting into effect a connect-the-dots, grass-roots approach to market and promote a unique musical project.

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