Barry Manilow tackles fame in risky concept album

Not bad for a decidedly unfashionable singer – Barry Manilow earned a coveted spot as a trending topic on Twitter recently when he went on a daytime TV chat show to promote his first album of original material in 10 years. The honor is usually reserved for high-flying hotshots rather than golden-oldie types. Alas, the Internet buzz did not reflect the momentous occasion. “Barry Manilow is performing, and I’m three seconds from blowing my head off,” said one tweeter. Another added, “Barry Manilow is just plain scary looking.” But Manilow, whose eerily smooth face belies his 67 years (he turns 68 on June 17), has heard it all before. After 40 years in the business as the butt of all sorts of jokes, there’s nothing that can faze him.

But will his older-skewing female fans be there for his new album “15 Minutes,” an ambitious follow-up to a series of covers albums that sent him to the upper reaches of the charts for the first time since his ’70s heyday? Set for release in the United States and Canada on Tuesday (and the UK on June 20), the rock-flavored project is inspired by the harsh media spotlight shone on young celebrities. “It’s not pretty piano tinkling,” he said. “It’s got a lot of energy. Some of it is anger. I don’t know whether they’ll like that, but there’re a lot of great melodies on it, so hopefully they’ll connect with that.”

He always knows exactly what is planned for the next five years. A recent stint at London’s 02 Arena with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was taped for a live album that will come out in the winter. Then he plans to record a follow-up to his first jazz album, 1984’s “2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe.” By the end of this five-year plan he would be 73. “In my head I’m going on 35,” he insisted with a smile that barely creased his face. “Five years from now I’ll be 40. Hey!”

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