Brits’ O’Connor Jibe Sparks Row

Whitney Houston has found herself unwittingly at the center of a local record industry tussle sparked off by Sinead O’Connor’s refusal to appear at the recent Brit Awards, local equivalent of the Grammys.

Awards producer Jonathan King ran a video of Houston singing the “Star Spangled Banner” after O’Connor won the best international female singer gong. This was a reference to O’Connor’s refusal last year to have the U.S. national anthem played at a New Jersey gig.

A spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry trade body, which hosts the televised event, said inclusion of the clip following a montage of O’Connor songs was meant as a “lighthearted joke.”

That’s not the way Chrysalis Records, which represents O’Connor, nor BMG Records, which handles Houston, saw it. Both companies have written to the BPI and producer King demanding apologies.

(BMG’s response might be slighly muted in view of the fact that Houston’s record sales have jumped since the show was aired on BBC here, per the BPI. Sales of O’Connor disks reportedly have remained stable.)

The row, in true showbiz tradition, has led to a wave of press and tv publicity for O’Connor. The Times of London ran a long (mostly positive) profile of the crop-haired singer. The tabloid Sun branded her “Sinead She-Devil” after an MTV appearance in which she questioned whether Saddam Hussein had the monopoly on evil in the Persian Gulf war. BMG has demanded an apology from the Sun and taken the issue to the watchdog Press Council.

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