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Hummingbird Talks Early Flight Off ‘Masked Singer’ & Bandmate Immediately Guessing Who It Was

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Spoiler alert: This story contains information about contestants eliminated on Wednesday’s (Sept. 28) episode of The Masked Singer.

The cutthroat format of season 8 of The Masked Singer is unforgiving. With just one vocalist moving forward from each episode, Wednesday night’s go-round saw the early bouncing of an international boy band superstar who has sold more than 70 million albums.

The “Vegas Night” episode opened with season 1 runner-up Donnie Osmond singing a medley of “The Greatest Show” and Elvis’ classic Sin City homage “Viva Las Vegas” alongside dancing human dice and showgirls.

The night kicked off, however, with Hummingbird getting kicked off after last week’s solid cover of Gavin DeGraw’s reality singing show staple “I Don’t Want to Be.” And while he was a bit surprised — and maybe a little hurt that despite selling millions of albums and singles with his world-famous boy band in the 1990s and early 2000s — the guesses were mostly of the NFL persuasion. Names including Deion Sanders, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were tossed out, before matchbox twenty’s Rob Thomas and Uncle Kracker were hurled into the mix. He should have been a bit annoyed, since the man under the towering wings and headpiece was none other than *NSYNC‘s Chris Kirkpatrick.

Before his elimination, Billboard spoke to Kirkpatrick about getting razzed by bandmate — and fellow Masked veteran — Joey Fatone, figuring out a whole new way to perform, and why he’s totally fine with the transition from freaking-out teen girls to screaming moms in his audience.

Did you watch the show before coming on?

I definitely watched it — Joey was on it — so I had to tune in [then] to understand what he was doing. I’ve definitely seen a lot of episodes.

Joey did OK when he was on the first season. Was there any way for you to, low-key, ask his advice or get pointers?

I tried to keep it really close to the hip, which was kind of hard. I knew a bunch of people who’ve been on it, like Chris Daughtry, and it took everything in my power not to say, “Hey, give me some hints, help me out, tell me what they’re looking for.” The only person who knew was my wife.

Gavin’s song is s staple of singing competition shows. Why did you pick it and what were you trying to get across musically?

I picked that song because I wanted to go in a different direction. I figured I’m known for my high falsetto with the band and I thought I should go with something lower and different so they wouldn’t immediately know who I am. Though I was watching on Twitter and a lot of people were like, “I sure like Hummingbird on my feed!” I had to be like, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” A lot of true fans knew and they said they knew it was me the minute I opened my mouth. Certain bands have a following where fans know your voice so well inside and out that you can put on any costume and mask and they’ll know who it is.

That’s a testament to your talent, no?

Yes. I wanted to change it up a bit and do something different than what they might think I would do. It is pretty flattering they knew right away. 

You’re used to bouncing around stage while singing, but it definitely looked like those giant wings and head made that harder. 

The wings and that large head definitely slowed me down. We even went over some choreo in rehearsals and in doing it it was so hard… I was hitting people with those wings and I had to have modifications [on the costume] so I could even walk. When I first walked out, it was hitting me in the back of the legs and I couldn’t move at all.

Plus, you’re 5’9″ according to the Internet, but I assume it’s fun to get closer to 6 feet tall, right?

Oh man, it was so insane. Not only was it tall, but it was also long because it had that long beak and the wings. So when I was walking around, it was like 3-D Tetris, trying to fit around and under things in the hallway [backstage], like, “Can I fit through this?” Anyone who is on the show will tell you that being in that costume is so hard. But the weight of it alone — between the head and wings — it was really weighing me down. I’m used to just singing and dancing, but adding the costume — vocally you really have to change almost everything you’re used to doing in performing.

If I’m being honest, the guesses were kind of weird and oddly sports-focused. How did you feel about that?

When they first started suggesting them I thought, “Man, did I sound bad?” I’m thinking, “I’m a singer, this is what I do — I may be in a costume, but this is what I do!” When they were guessing the sports guys, I was like, “Man, I think I must have done something wrong!” It was Johnny Manziel, Peyton Manning, but then when they said Rob Thomas and Uncle Kracker, that made me feel better.

Have you heard from any former bandmates who knew it was you? Joey made it to episode 8 in season 1, so surely he must have known it was you.

Oh yeah, Joey definitely texted me and was like, “So how was The Masked Singer? I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he said, “whatever, Hummingbird.” I couldn’t even acknowledge it, but he said I sounded good and that I should be proud. When you sing with a guy for 25 years they definitely know your voice.

You’re not the first boy bander to do the show — they’ve had Nick Carter, Bobby Brown, Hanson, Nick Lachey — why do you think it appeals to former boy band members?

I just think it’s fun, whimsical. It’s something different we’re not used to doing. We’re used to walking out  and doing choreography and singing our parts. This was almost like being stripped-down just to the voice and so you have to just sing and be who you are vocally. That was really tough. I was sitting with the vocal coach, who is amazing, and they were helping me understand how even with the heaviness of the costume you can still “hear” facial expressions in a song. But, for the most part, we wouldn’t get to really interact with the audience or people at home visually, so I had to try and figure out working the song as the character more than as myself.

You’ve sold 70 million albums with *NSYNC and are instantly recognizable to a whole generation, so were you a bit disappointed to get bounced so early? To be fair, Lil Wayne was one and done as well.

I think if the format was different I would have been really disappointed. But the fact that you had four on [one episode] and only one person won that show. If I look at it as I came in third to last, instead of last, at least I made the final two. Listening to Harp… she was amazing. I was like, “My time is done.”

What’s next for you, what are you working on?

I’ver been doing a Pop 2000 tour, which has been so much fun to host and do a couple songs [alongside Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath (another Masked veteran), LFO, Ryan Cabrera and David Cook]. It’s been a really fun, busy year that started with me doing Big Brother and then I did a commercial or two, then filmed an episode of Cribs [reboot] and I have some other things in the works. 

We’re just a few years away from *NSYNC’s 30th anniversary. Can you believe it’s been that long since you guys first blew up?

Man, when you say it like that, you kind of put things in perspective. I don’t think about it that way, but when you put it in that timeframe… the way I see it is if I do these shows or different events, you can always tell by the fans. It wasn’t what it was in the ’90s or 2000s, not teenage girls, but now moms and teenage girls looking at you like, “I have no idea who you are but my mom knows who you are.” It’s cool because I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who said, “I was in high school and couldn’t afford a ticket or it was too far away, but now I can afford a ticket and a T-shirt and drinks with my friends.” They get to have fun with their friends and relive their youth.



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Ethiopia Habtemariam to Step Down From Motown Records

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Ethiopia Habtemariam, currently chairwoman and CEO of Motown Records, will be stepping down from her position in order to pursue new endeavors, she and the company stated in a joint announcement Tuesday.

“It has been the greatest honor to work with some of the most incredible artists, songwriters and partners in the world,” she said in a statement. “I have always had a clear vision for the talent that I’ve had the privilege to work with, which has led Motown to global success and returned the label to the forefront of contemporary culture. I would not have been able to make that vision come to life without the support of my amazing team at Motown, my UMG colleagues around the world, and Sir Lucian.  I am incredibly proud of what we have created during my tenure, and I consider this the perfect finale to my 20 years at UMG spanning publishing and recorded music.”

Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG said, “Under Ethiopia’s leadership, Motown has seen strong growth, continuing its legacy of bringing important new voices to modern culture.  Not only has Ethiopia been instrumental in developing and breaking incredible artists, but also she has strategically identified and amplified key partnerships that have been, and will continue to be, cornerstones of the UMG creative ecosystem.  While I will miss working with Ethiopia, I know she will achieve great things going forward and she leaves with our enduring love and respect.”

Habtemariam began her career as an intern at LaFace Records before joining Universal Music Publishing in 2003, ultimately rising to president of urban music & co-head of creative at the company. Beginning in 2014 she held a dual role as president of Motown as well as her UMPG post, before focusing on the label and being promoted to chairwoman/CEO in 2021.

Over her tenure at Motown, Habtemariam — a regular honoree on Variety’s annual Hitmakers lists — struck several partnerships with creative and entrepreneurial entities, including Atlanta-based Quality Control Music, a pact that has produced hits from City Girls, Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty and others. Other companies and artists under Motown’s roof include Blacksmith Records (Ted When, Vince Staples), and Since the 80s (Asiahn, Njomza), along with artists Erykah Badu, Kem and Tiana Major9, among many others.

A successor to Habtermariam will be announced at a later date. Her internal announcement follows in full:

Team:

Some of you may or may not know that the top of 2023 marks my 20th year at Universal Music Group. And, after two amazing decades, I’ve made the incredibly hard decision to leave for my next adventure. I’ll address my future plans soon, but today is all about Motown, UMG and you.

First and foremost, to the Motown team, your commitment to our artists, the legacy of this label, and the community at large is not lost on me. It’s been a privilege and honor to work with each and every one of you and I’m so excited to see how you continue to move Motown forward. Over 60 years ago, Mr. Gordy forged a core for this company – one that respects and celebrates artistry and strongly supports creative entrepreneurship – and this continues to live on thanks to all of you. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve built. 

When I think of my time at UMG, it occurs to me that my career really started at this company.  I was a creative manager at UMPG 20 years ago, then by 2010 worked as an A&R consultant and manager while building a creative team at UMPG that signed and developed some amazing songwriters such as Cardo, Childish Gambino, Chris Brown, Ciara, Big Sean, Hit Boy, J Cole, Jhene Aiko, Justin Bieber, Miguel, Stacy Barthe and Quavo among many others. In 2014, I was promoted to the position of President of Urban & Co-Head of Creative at UMPG and appointed to President of Motown Records. 

It was a busy time being in dual roles and laying the foundation for what was to come in an industry with an ever-changing landscape. While continuing to build at UMPG, I was also deeply dedicated to bringing a renewed vision of Black excellence to Motown – rooted in the past but connected to today, global in nature and a platform for the future.  In 2015, we signed a landmark deal for Motown with Quality Control which included a distribution agreement ensuring support in developing the next generation of global superstars. By 2016, as that strategy brought Motown success with new groundbreaking artists, Motown became my sole focus as we continued to grow the company with artists including BJ the Chicago Kid, Brandy, Kem, Diddy, Erykah Badu, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Migos, Sebastian Kole, Smino, Tiana MAJOR9, YoungBoy and Vince Staples among others. 

The business has changed so much over those twenty years but throughout its ups and downs, I’ve always felt blessed to have the opportunity to work in so many aspects of the industry. My hunger to learn and continue to evolve led me to the unique experience of working across publishing and recorded music simultaneously. The fact that I was empowered to this unique position reflects my passion for supporting those that are blessed with the gift of music but also speaks to the incredible opportunities I was offered here and for that I want to thank Lucian who recognized my talent as a creative in publishing and gave me the opportunity to lead at a label as well.  

But one thing that has never changed is the love I have for music—and the artists, songwriters and producers that make such incredible art.  That continues to drive everything I do professionally, and it always will. 

This is an exciting time in music and I look forward to exploring new creative and entrepreneurial opportunities. I will share more about my future plans but for now I want to focus on winding down my role as we get to the end of the year.

Thank you for this incredible journey. Know that I will always be here to support you all. 

With love, gratitude and respect,

Ethiopia



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Chuu Removed From LOONA Amid Back-and-Forth Reports Between K-Pop Group & Label

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Chuu is no longer a member of the K-pop girl group LOONA, and the events surrounding the exit have raised eyebrows in Korea’s media and music industry.

BlockBerryCreative, the K-pop girl group’s label, announced through LOONA’s online “fan cafe” on Friday that Chuu had been expelled and withdrawn from the 12-member outfit. The fan cafe post is only available to subscribers of the Korean site, but local media widely shared the news and statement. In the report, the agency cited an investigation that found Chuu using “violent language” and “misuse of power toward staff” (as shared by translations from Soompi).

BlockBerryCreative and Chuu’s relationship has been a source of concern among fans and prone to media speculation in the past year.

In the spring, rumors surfaced that Chuu took legal action in 2021 to cut parts of her exclusive contract with BlockBerryCreative. By summertime, the stories evolved to Chuu joining a new management label and setting up her own agency. BlockBerryCreative denied any management changes. Still, the 23-year-old did not participate in LOONA’s world tour that visited North America, Europe and Asia from August to October this year or their recent Japanese single “Luminous.” Chuu has stayed busy, with many television appearances, growing a YouTube channel, and releasing solo singles as LOONA’s most visible member.

In the spring, Chuu was rumored to have taken legal action in 2021 to cut parts of her exclusive contract with BlockBerryCreative. By summertime, the stories ranged from Chuu joining a new management label to setting up an agency all on her own. BlockBerryCreative denied that she was transferring management. Still, the 23-year-old did not take part in LOONA’s world tour that visited North America, Europe and Asia from August to October of this year, or their recent Japanese single “Luminous.” Chuu has stayed busy, with many television appearances, growing a YouTube channel and releasing solo singles as LOONA’s most visible member.

On Nov. 28, BlockBerryCreative followed up with another statement saying that the expulsion was not in retaliation. The label said it’s up to the parties involved to share specific evidence. It asked the media to refrain from speculative reporting, after noting articles that doubted BlockBerryCreative’s claims and intentions.

Billboard repeatedly reached out to a BlockBerryCreative representative for comment as the stories unfolded. The rep confirmed Chuu’s removal from LOONA and pointed to previously shared statements.

Several K-pop stars and industry professionals have shown public support for Chuu. Singer Sunmi posted a selfie of her with Chuu after the expulsion news dropped, while Korean music journalist Joy Park shared her memories of Chuu and a signed LOONA album on her Twitter account. Kim Do Heon, another Korean music critic, criticized BlockBerryCreative’s statement through a Twitter post.

For her part, Chuu shared a short statement through an Instagram Story post. On Monday, the star wrote that she was not contacted about nor does she know anything about the recent events. She shared that she would release another statement soon but told fans she hadn’t done anything they would disapprove of.

Another report surfaced on Monday saying that nine of the remaining 11 LOONA members (Heejin, Haseul, Yeojin, Kim Lip, Jinsoul, Choerry, Yves, Go Won and Olivia Hye) were taking legal action to break their contracts with BlockBerryCreative. The agency dismissed the rumor. A BlockBerryCreative representative told Billboard that the report is “groundless.”

LOONA (whose Korean name translates to “Girl of the Month”) began their journey in 2016 with the ambitious plan of introducing each member with her own solo music and splinter units between the members before all 12 members finally came together in August 2018 for the [+ +] EP. LOONA has since earned multiple entries on World Albums and even sent their [12:00] album to the Billboard 200. The group hit No. 1 on World Digital Song Sales with their songs “365” and “Shake It” and also became one of the few K-pop acts to enter the Pop Airplay chart with an English single, “Star.”



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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Promotes Amy Homma to Chief Audience Officer – Film News in Brief

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Long-time Academy Museum of Motion Pictures executive Amy Homma was promoted to Chief Audience Officer Nov. 28, Director and President of the Academy Museum Jacqueline Stewart announced.

“Amy has proven herself to be a skillful, forward-thinking, and inspiring leader since she began at the museum in 2019, and I look forward to seeing her and her teams thrive in this new capacity,” Stewart said. “As a seasoned programmer, educator, and administrator who brings a deep knowledge of audience engagement and museology, Amy is the ideal person to steer our museum’s next chapter of external relations.”

Prior to her new appointment, Homma worked as vice president of Education and Public Engagement at the Academy Museum. Under her leadership, the museum developed K-12 programming and public programs rooted in accessibility and activism.

Homma’s introduction to the Academy Museum was as the inaugural director — a position she acquired following the conclusion of her tenure at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

In her new role, Homma will continue to facilitate community engagement while having a heavier hand in the museum’s upholding of inclusive values.

“I am eager to work across teams to further develop the museum’s impact and commitment to local, national, and global audiences through a visitor-centered approach,” Homma said.

Cinema Audio Society To Honor Alejandro González Iñárritu with Filmmaker Award

 Alejandro González Iñárritu will receive the Cinema Audio Society’s Filmmaker of the Year honor at the 59th CAS Awards on Saturday, March 4, at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel.

“It is an honor to name director Alejandro González Iñárritu as the recipient of the prestigious 2023 CAS Filmmaker Award. His sobering portrayals of the human experience bring empathy and consciousness to perspectives often left untold and unconsidered,” said CAS President Karol Urban. “No doubt drawing on his history in music, his films experiment and utilize sound — uniquely embracing its capacity to emotionally engulf the viewer.”

Upon hearing the news that he was to receive the CAS honor, Mr. Iñárritu said, “Being singled out as a filmmaker by my colleagues in the Cinema Audio Society is a great honor. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with some of the most gifted sound designers in the industry and truly cannot emphasize the importance of the work they do in creating a fully sensorial experience for audiences when watching a film.”

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Announces 2022 Winners

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival has announced this year’s winners. In its 37th year, the festival took place from Nov. 4-13 and screened 200 films.

Below is the complete winners list of the Jury and President Awards at the 37th annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival:

Best American Indie

“Corner Office,” directed by Joachim Black

Honorable Mention:

“American Dreamer,” directed by Paul Dektor

“The Drop,” directed by Sarah Adina Smith

Best Foreign Film

“Ride Above” (Tempete), directed by Christian Duguay

Best Documentary

“The Ghost of Richard Harris,” directed by Adrian Sibley

Honorable Mention:

“The Long Rider,” directed by Sean Cisterna

“Territorio Africano,” directed by Joaquin & Julian Azulay

“Tiger #24,” directed by Warren Pereira

Spirits of Independents Awards

“Abuella’s Family: The Sansgiving Episodes,” directed by Kevin Bosch

“American Dreamer,” directed by Paul Dektor

“Bobcat Moretti,” directed by Rob Margolies

“Camino Al Exito,” directed by Sebastian Rodriguez

“Combat Club,” directed by Mark Moorman

“D.O.A.,” directed by Kurt St. Thomas

“A Matter of Trust,” directed by Annette K. Olesen

“The Mistress,” directed by Greg Pritikin

“Trade,” directed by Corey Stanton

“The Artist and the Astronaut,” directed by Bill Muench

“Freedom on Our Mind,” directed by Chad Light

Special Jury Prize for Production

“D.O.A.,” directed by Kurt St. Thomas

Best Florida Feature

“Bridge to the Other Side,” directed by KT Curran

Best Florida Short

“Connections,” directed by Jennie Jarvis

“Lioness,” directed by Molly E. Smith

Best American Indie Short

“Lift” by Charles Burmeister

Best Foreign Short

“Viva,” directed by Esteben Steven Petersen (Dominican Republic)

Best High School Video

“The Interns,” directed by Sabrina Dubner (USA)

“Backspace,” directed by Ethan Ross (UK)

“White,” directed by Vivian Burmeister (USA)

Best College Short

“Dad We Shall Sing Something,” directed by Aidana Baurjanqizy  (Kazakhstan)

Best College Long Narrative

“Nahrani,” directed by Angelina Auer (Germany)

Best College Animation (TIE)

“There Is Exactly Enough Time,” directed by Oskar Salomonowitz (Austria)

“The Many Benefits of Heartbreak,” directed by Luke Schroeder (USA)

Best College Doc

“Resurgence,” directed by Krushan Naik (USA)

Best Filmed in Broward Short

“Un Pequeno Corte,” directed by Mariana Serrano

Best Filmed in Broward Doc

“The Halls of Power,” co-directed by Janay Joseph, Graciel Quezada & Bianca Vucetice

Lifetime Achievement

Sally Kirkland

Career Achievement

John Gray

Career Achievement

Taryn Manning

Star on the Horizon

Hopper Jack Penn

Star on the Horizon

Zoe Bleu



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