By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
If Kelly Osbourne had different parents, we wouldn't be talking. In some ways, she almost wishes that were the case. She could do without all the attention, the fans on the street who pester her with questions, the journalists on the phone who badger her with slightly more professional versions of those same queries. The money's nice, and so is the special treatment that comes with it--she probably hasn't had to stand in line much anywhere since she was old enough to stand in line. But Kelly had all of that before she ever stepped into a recording studio, before a single camera entered her family's Beverly Hills home. She didn't ask for all of this, and like most teen-agers, she isn't entirely equipped to handle it.
An example: Near the end of the second season of The Osbournes, the hit MTV reality sit-com she and most of her family star in, Kelly had a screaming fit while fielding the numerous interview requests surrounding the release of her debut album, Shut Up, released late last year on Epic Records. "I want a fucking break!" she whines to her mother, Sharon, who is sympathetic in her role as parent, less so in her position as Kelly's manager. (By the way, if you haven't heard of The Osbournes, lean over and tell Bin Laden, "What up?" for me.)
It's early March, and Kelly's back on the phone doing interviews, since she's about to embark on her first tour. Well, sort of. "This is, like, my first concert-every-day tour," Kelly explains, remarkably polite and, even more surprising, swear-free. "I've been on three tours, but it's more promotion and only, like, one show a week in weird countries. I'm very excited. It's gonna be fun. Like, I don't care if I perform to, like, one person. I'm just happy to be there, you know?"
Sure, I guess. Kelly seems much more at ease with her promotional duties now because, a few months after the on-camera meltdown, she's developed a new strategy for meeting the press. (Apparently, doing interviews while hungover, another second-season highlight, wasn't working out so well.) First, she calls half an hour or so earlier than expected, throwing potential interviewers off their game. Second, she imposes a strict 10-minute time limit on telephone Q&As, though her publicist promised 15 when setting it up. (I checked. Kelly does this with everyone.) Of course, Kelly plays this off in standard, good cop/bad cop fashion: "I think we only have, like, 10 minutes," she says at the outset. "I'm sorry." Third, she yawns. A lot. To the point where it replaces the punctuation in her sentences: "Um (yawn) I don't know (yawn)."
That indifference is a luxury afforded to her by fame she was born into and a singing gig that came almost as easily. After all, when did she decide she wanted to record an album? "When they asked me," Kelly says, making no attempt to stifle another yawn. "It was something that I would love to do, but I never thought in a million years that I'd get the opportunity to pursue it, you know?"
The first opportunity came when producers approached her older sister Aimee, an aspiring singer who pointedly does not appear on the series, to record a version of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" for The Osbourne Family Album, a mix-CD tie-in released after the first season. (Along with: various apparel and headwear, slippers, jewelry, key chains, magnets, candle holders, calendars, posters, trading cards, watches and clocks, lunchboxes, board and card games, figurines, bobble-head dolls, die-cast cars, pet accessories, phones, cell phone and computer accessories, lamps and stationery.) Aimee suggested Kelly cover it instead, and soon enough, both the song and its accompanying video were in heavy rotation. In May of last year, she performed her rock-rock rendition on the MTV Movie Awards. "It was my first live performance that people actually saw," Kelly says. "I was very nervous." Naturally, given the eat-your-own-tail nature of reality television, it became the subject of an episode of The Osbournes.
Kelly would have gotten a singing career eventually, show or no. Her mom is one of the shrewdest and most successful managers around, a woman with bigger balls than just about everyone with a Y chromosome. Younger brother Jack, a constant thorn in her paw, is an A&R rep at Epic, with designs on his own label. And her father is, well, Ozzy Osbourne. Which is more than enough: Just about anyone with a famous last name (Julian Lennon, Wilson Phillips, Emma Townshend, Teddy Thompson, Jakob Dylan, Nancy Sinatra, Hank Williams Jr., Hank Williams III) or first name (Donovan Leitch) can score a three-record deal. Singing for her supper was always there if Kelly wanted it. Even Shawn Bradley couldn't fuck up that layup.
The same can't necessarily be said about Shut Up, 11 songs that might as well be one. Her vocals are processed like a loan application, and the lyrics, written by Kelly and the songwriting/production team Powerpack, are as simple and plain as a convenience-store clerk. (As in: "Shut up/Don't wanna hear your voice/Shut up/I'm sick of all the noise," from the title track.) But Shut Up, which plays by loud-fast rules, can be considered something of a step forward for an 18-year-old who was an 'N Sync fan a few short years ago. And it made her family happy. For the most part.