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Grammys add new categories, including songwriter of the year

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Grammys add new categories, including songwriter of the year

The Grammys are adding a special song for social change award and five new categories including songwriter of the year, giving the Recording Academy an avenue to honor music’s best composer.

The academy announced Thursday that the new non-classical songwriter category will recognize one individual who was the “most prolific” non-performing and non-producing songwriter for a body of new work during an eligibility year. The category is taking a different approach than song of the year, which awards the songwriter or songwriters who wrote the lyrics or melodies to one song.

“This new category is truly for an expert person at the songwriting craft,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr told The Associated Press. Songwriters must have written a minimum of five songs in which they are credited “solely” as a songwriter or co-writer.

“Somebody who writes their own music and records it would not be eligible,” he said. “They would have to be doing songs for others. We want to highlight the craft of writing songs professionally for artists.”

“Songwriters are at the heart of our business and industry,” he said. “Nothing happens without songwriters. For us, this was a no brainer. It’s in alignment with all the changes. We thought, ‘How can we do more? Showcase more people and be more inclusive to different genres?’”

The new category is another huge step for songwriters. Last year, a rule update allowed that any songwriter, producer, engineer or featured artist on an album nominated for album of the year could ultimately earn a nomination.

The four other categories include best spoken word poetry album, alternative music performance, Americana music performance and score soundtrack for video games and other interactive media.

The academy created a special merit award that determines best song for social change. The award will be based on lyrical content that addresses a timely social issue and promotes “understanding, peacebuilding and empathy.”

“It’s always the right time to recognize music that’s changing the world,” he said. “I think it deserves a special recognition. These songs are important and impactful. We want to make sure we’re honoring and celebrating that artform. This is a great way to do that.”

Mason said it was yearlong process of accepting proposals to make changes, additions and updates from music creators and professionals that make up the membership body.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee kicks off with pomp

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee kicks off with pomp

Four days of celebrations honoring Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne got underway Thursday with a display of British military traditions stretching from the days of horse and cannon to the jet age.

Formal celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee began with Trooping the Color, an annual military review that has marked the sovereign’s official birthday since 1760. The queen is expected to join the working members of her family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of the event, when 70 aircraft are set to roar overhead.

The jubilee is being commemorated with a four-day holiday weekend. The celebration of Elizabeth’s reign includes a service of thanksgiving Friday at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, a concert at Buckingham Palace on Saturday and a pageant staged by thousands of performers drawn from schools and community groups around the country on Sunday afternoon.

Throughout the weekend, neighborhood organizations and individuals are expected to hold thousands of street parties around the country, repeating a tradition that began with the queen’s coronation in 1953.

The 96-year-old queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the first to reach the milestone of seven decades on the throne. The jubilee is giving many people — even those often indifferent to the monarchy — a chance to reflect on the state of the nation and the huge changes that have taken place during her reign.

Former Prime Minister John Major — one of the 14 prime ministers of the queen’s reign — said the monarch’s stoic presence had helped steer the country over the decades,

“The queen has represented our better selves for over 70 years,” he told the BBC.

In a written jubilee message, the queen thanked people in Britain and across the Commonwealth involved in organizing the celebrations. For many, the occasion is the first opportunity for a big bash since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than two years ago.

“I know that many happy memories will be created at these festive occasions,” Elizabeth said.

“I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me, and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved during the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm,” she said.

Congratulations arrived from world leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron called Elizabeth “the golden thread that binds our two countries” and one of “very few constants” on the international stage.

“You are our friend, such a close ally, our example of service to others,” Macron told the queen in an English-language video message.

The name of the long weekend’s first event, Trooping the Color, refers to a regimental flag, or “color,” that is trooped through the ranks. Britain’s annual tradition for the queen’s birthday is a ceremonial reenactment of the way battle flags were once shown to soldiers to make sure they would recognize a crucial rallying point if they became disoriented in combat.

The troops taking part come from the army’s Household Division, composed of the seven regiments that perform ceremonial duties for the queen. Their members are fully trained soldiers and often deployed overseas when not on ceremonial duty.

Each year a different unit has the honor of trooping its color. The 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards will have the spotlight during the Platinum Jubilee.

Thousands of people, some of whom camped overnight, lined the parade route — many of them sporting Union Jack flags, party hats or plastic tiaras.

Carly Martin, who caught a late-night bus from south London with her daughter, said she had come “to make memories.”

“You’re never going to see this again in your lifetime,” she said. “At least not in mine, maybe not in my daughter’s. … Seventy years — it is all I have ever known.”

Several protesters were arrested after getting past barriers and onto the parade route. The group Animal Rebellion claimed responsibility, saying the protesters were “demanding that royal land is reclaimed.”

Cheers and the clop of hooves rang out as horse-drawn carriages carried members of the royal family, including Prince William’s wife, Kate, and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guards Parade, a ceremonial parade ground about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away.

The queen is expected to appear twice on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, but Prince Charles is playing play a key role during the event. Mounted on horseback, he will take the salute from ranks of scarlet-clad Guards on his mother’s behalf, along with his sister, Princess Anne, and his son Prince William.

Elizabeth has had trouble getting around of late, and her courtiers have been careful to keep make things as simple for her as possible.

Senior royals including Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, traveled in carriages to watch the ceremony from a building overlooking the parade ground.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will join other royals to watch the spectacle. Harry and Meghan have traveled from their home in California to take part in the celebrations.

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Buhari congratulates Bishop Okpaleke on appointment as Pope’s Cardinal

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Buhari congratulates Bishop Okpaleke on appointment as Pope’s Cardinal

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday expressed happiness over the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke of Ekwulobia Diocese, Anambra State, as a Cardinal in the Catholic Church by Pope Francis.

In a statement signed late Wednesday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari commended the Pope for finding a capable Nigerian in the person of Bishop Okpaleke to be one of the two nominees from the African continent.

The statement is titled ‘President Buhari welcomes appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as 4th cardinal from Nigeria.’

According to Shehu, President Buhari also “congratulated the Nigerian Christian Community on this choice, describing the Cardinal-designate as ably qualified, and that having him in that position will benefit the country.”

The statement partly read, “The President also commended the commitment of the Catholic Church to the unity, peace, and progress of the Nigerian state. He also highlighted the effort of the Church in combating the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its support and commitment in favour of the poor and most vulnerable members of the society.”

Bishop Okpaleke becomes the fourth Cardinal from Nigeria. Others before him are Francis Arinze, Anthony Okogie and John Onaiyekan. He is among the 21 new Cardinals Pope Francis announced on May 29.

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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ wins Tom Cruise 1st $100 million opening

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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ wins Tom Cruise 1st $100 million opening

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ wins Tom Cruise 1st $100 million opening.

Forget breaking the sound barrier: Tom Cruise just flew past a major career milestone.

The 59-year-old superstar just got his first $100 million opening weekend with “Top Gun: Maverick.” In its first three days in North American theaters, the long-in-the-works sequel earned an estimated $124 million in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said Sunday. Including international showings, its worldwide total is $248 million.

It’s a supersonic start for a film that still has the wide-open skies of Memorial Day itself to rake in even more cash. According to projections and estimates, by Monday’s close, “Top Gun: Maverick” will likely have over $150 million.

“These results are ridiculously, over-the-top fantastic,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the company, for Tom, for the filmmakers.”

Though undeniably one of the biggest stars in the world — perhaps even “the last movie star,” according to various headlines — Cruise is not known for massive blockbuster openings.

Before “Maverick,” his biggest domestic debut was in 2005, with Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” which opened to $64 million. After that it was “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” with $61 million in 2018. It’s not that his films don’t make money in the long run: They just aren’t enormously frontloaded.

“Top Gun: Maverick” had an extremely long journey to get to the theaters. The sequel to the late Tony Scott’s “Top Gun,” which was released in 1986, was originally slated to open in the summer of 2020. Its marketing campaign technically started back in July 2019. The pandemic got in the way of those plans, however, and it was delayed several times. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and co-produced and co-financed by Skydance, the sequel reportedly cost $152 million to make.

But even as the months, and years, went by and many other companies chose to compromise on hybrid releases, Cruise and Paramount didn’t waver on their desire to have a major theatrical release. A streaming debut was simply not an option.

“That was never going to happen,” Cruise said in Cannes.

And it is major, with 4,735 North American theaters (a record) showing “Top Gun: Maverick.” It also opened in 23,600 locations in 62 international markets.

“This is one of the longest runways for a marketing campaign for any film ever. And it only served to create more excitement around the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “This movie literally waited for the movie theater to come back.”

The build up has been just as flashy, with fighter-jet-adorned premieres on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and at the Cannes Film Festival, where Cruise was also given an honorary Palme d’Or, and a royal premiere in London attended by Prince William and his wife Kate.

“The feeling you get when you watch this film with an audience, it’s pretty special,” Aronson said. “The first big screening we had, there was spontaneous applause during the movie.”

Reviews have been stellar, too, with the film notching a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, who were 58% male, gave it an A+ CinemaScore, according to exit polls.

The new film has Cruise reprising the role of Maverick, who returns to the elite aviation training program to train the next generation of flyers, including Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman and Jay Ellis. Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, reprising his role from the original, also star.

“This solidifies the notion that the movie theater is a singular and a vitally important outlet for people,” Dergarabedian said. “People are looking for a great escape from everything that’s going on in the world right now.”

“Maverick” is now among the top pandemic era openings, still led by “Spider-Man: No Way Home” with $260 million, followed by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with $187 million and “The Batman” with $134 million.

Notably, “Top Gun: Maverick” is the only non-superhero movie in the bunch. It also attracted a wide swath of age groups to the theater. An estimated 55% of the audience was over 35.

“Superhero movies aren’t for everybody. This movie is for everyone and that’s what sets it apart,” Aronson said. “The theatrical exhibition business has challenges ahead of it, but this is a shot in the arm for that.”

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” was the only new release that dared go up against “Top Gun.” Released by 20th Century Studios and Disney, the animated pic earned $12.6 million from 3,425 locations. It opened in third place, behind “Doctor Strange 2,” which earned $16.4 million in its fourth weekend in theaters.

“Top Gun” will continue to essentially have the skies to itself until “Jurassic World: Dominion” opens on June 10.

“It has a really nice, open marketplace to play,” Dergarabedian said. “Tom Cruise has always been about consistency. His movies are about the marathon. This is the first movie of his that is sprinting to big box office numbers. Here, he gets the sprint and the marathon.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.

1. “Top Gun: Maverick,” $124 million.

2. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $16.4 million.

3. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $12.6 million.

4. “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” $5.9 million.

5. “The Bad Guys,” $4.6 million.

6. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” $2.5 million.

7. “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” $2.5 million.

8. “The Lost City,” $1.8 million.

9. “Men,” $1.2 million.

10. “F3: Fun and Frustration,” $1 million.

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