HITS Daily Double
An obviously stoked Reid called OutKast the “hottest band in the world today,” and the songs he sampled from Speakerboxxx reinforced his assertion that the band crosses all sonic boundaries.


With Merger on Everyone's Minds, Reid Steps Into Spotlight on Day One of BMG Meetings
Arista boss Antonio “L.A.” Reid couldn’t have picked a better time to launch his power-packed Q4 slate, which includes releases by Aretha Franklin, OutKast, Sarah McLachlan, Pink and Usher.

With a WMG-BMG merger apparently on the fast track, 700 BMG managing directors from as far away as Tokyo, along with members of retail, radio, promotion and the creative community, descended on the Millennium Hotel in Midtown Manhattan to party like it was 1999.

For the third year, the four BMG labels—Arista, RLG Nashville, Zomba and the RCA Music Group—all scheduled sessions to show off their fourth-quarter releases, but it was Reid who stole the show on the first day.

In a carefully conceived presentation, patterned after The Matrix, that lasted through the day—with a break for lunch and a lavish dinner at the Bryant Park Grill, of course—Reid played the part of a fervent preacher, introducing music and performers while singing along with every word, cajoling and rousing the troops. BMG boss Rolf Schmidt-Holtz praised Reid for achieving impressive worldwide sales on both Avril Lavigne (14 million) and Pink (12 million). Explained L.A., “Now it’s time for us to reload…”

Arista Associated Labels new artist Rachel Yamagata, the subsidiary label entry in the Norah Jones/Vanessa Carlton sweepstakes, led off the live showcases, followed by Brooklyn vocal quartet Rozwell. Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def discovery, highly touted Charlotte, NC-based neo-soul singer Anthony Hamilton (named by Rolling Stone as one of its 10 Artists to Watch in 2003, and the label’s new Grammy hope), earned the day’s first spontaneous standing ovation. His dynamic set combined the old-school R&B stylings of Marvin Gaye and Donnie Hathaway with the down-to-earth sexual energy of Otis Redding. Dirty South Crunk master Bone Crusher brought down the house by stripping off his shirt, exposing his 350-pound body, as he writhed around on stage and his shorts threatened to drop off.

After lunch, Reid & Co. rolled out their superstar releases, starting off with a three-song performance by Sarah McLachlan, including one new song and a version of “Angel,” as a beaming Schmidt-Holtz presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a warm embrace. Her long-awaited, still untitled new studio album (it’ll be her fist since 1997’s Surfacing), hits retail Nov. 4.

Reid played two new songs from Pink’s new Try This album, the follow-up to her multi-platinum breakthrough Missundaztood, including the dance-floor rouser “God Is a DJ” and the ballad, “Catch Me While I’m Sleeping.” The album drops Nov. 11.

Usher’s Confessions, coming Nov. 18, was highlighted with songs like “Take Your Hand,” “Sweet Lies,” “Whatever I Want” and “Let It Burn.” Rolling Stone’s Joe Levy, a ringer for Ben Stiller, good-naturedly interviewed the soul superstar on a red sofa on stage.

Reid then introduced the new double-CD OutKast album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, actually two “solo” albums in one, one the work of Big Boi, the other by Andre 3000, though the two helped out on each other’s discs. An obviously stoked Reid called them the “hottest band in the world today,” and songs like “Ghetto Music,” “I Like the Way You Move,” “Rooster,” “Hey Ya,” “She Lives in My Lap” and “Spread” reinforced L.A.’s assertion that the band crosses all sonic boundaries. The two-CD set drops Sept. 23. Reid brought the pair on stage, where Levy once again did the kibitzing honors.

Dido’s Life for Rent, which comes out Sept. 30, climaxed the program, with the first single, “White Flag,” inspiring Reid to call her “the best pop music lyricist in the business.”

Other acts who have new albums coming include Aretha Franklin (whose new album So Damn Happy is in stores Sept. 16), Adema, the Neptunes, Trackmasters, Kelis, Natasha, Nadesha, Tha Rayne, Nadesha, Da Brat, YoungBloodz and a new effort from ’80s stalwarts Tears for Fears.

Much like his predecessor Clive Davis, Reid obviously relished the opportunity to bring together colleagues and media to show off his wares, as if it were the good old days. The splashy spectacle might be regarded as extravagant, given the current depressed state of the industry, but the savvy exec has put himself in a perfect position to take advantage of any restructuting that takes shape, when and if BMG and WMG finally get around to crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.