She probably could have done it years ago, but the timing seems perfect now.
Singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley, has finally connected her musical skills with those of her legendary father. On "In the Ghetto," a "departed duet" in the vein of Natalie Cole's 1991 Grammy winner "Unforgettable," Presley adds her vocals to a slightly reconfigured version of Elvis' famed 1969 recording.
The song and video were released this week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, and all proceeds from the project will benefit a new Presley Place transitional housing campus in New Orleans, one of the late singer's favorite cities.
"It's a creative and unique way to pay homage to her late father, and I don't think it's a bad move for her career," says Chris Anderson, a manager with Davie Brown Talent, a talent agency based in Dallas. "It will create some significant buzz around her career and the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death."
British-born director Tony Kaye, best known for his work on the movie American History X, produced the video in black and white, interspersing images of a tearful, lip-syncing Presley, vintage Elvis performance footage and close-up shots of doe-eyed infants lying in cribs, surrounded by handguns.
Though the concept and execution of the video are awkward, the song is mildly affecting. Renowned music producer David Foster finely preserved the integrity of the original while incorporating Presley's sensitive, albeit indistinctive, vocals.
"I could have done this ages ago," the artist said in a recent interview with spinner.com, the music and pop culture Web site that premiered the video. "I always find it necessary to make my own path and not ride on [Elvis'] coattails, which I have not done."
That's true -- in a sense. Having the last name Presley certainly didn't close any doors when the artist started her pop career about seven years ago at age 32. But her debut album, To Whom It May Concern, wasn't released until 2003. A surly, over-produced pop-rock affair, the CD still managed to showcase Presley as a promising artist. It went gold. But the follow-up, 2005's slightly contrived Now What, didn't deliver on Presley's promise and it bombed.
Presley, whose resemblance to Elvis is uncanny, was perhaps overly cautious in crafting an individual style sans any musical elements of her father. In the process, the former wife of Michael Jackson and actor Nicolas Cage didn't achieve a standout sound or establish much of a music career. She surely didn't come close to matching the musical accomplishments of Natalie Cole or Roseanne Cash, two other artists with iconic fathers.
This new release features a more relaxed, naturalistic sound than Presley has shown before -- but some critics, distracted by the buzz it's generating, may overlook its musical merits.
"I do think it's somewhat of a shameless plug that she would use her father's death and this 30th anniversary to help sell her music," Anderson said.
Beyond Presley's flagging pop music career, some see the digitally enhanced duet as a way for CKX, the company that controls the rights to the name, image and likeness of Elvis and the operations of Graceland, to further capitalize on the Memphis star's legacy.
"At the end of the day, they want to exploit the catalog," says Ryan Schinman, president of Platinum Rye Entertainment, an entertainment consulting firm in New York. "Everybody's looking to cash in. But they're smart in the way they're doing it. Pull at a few heart strings. But it's all about how to make the most money off the legacy."
And if the song and video become hits, others suspect that more Presley dad-and-daughter duets will come.
"The fact that Elvis Presley Enterprises [mostly owned by CKX] is now run more professionally and expanding will only help Lisa Marie," says Robert Tuchman, founder and president of TSE Sports & Entertainment, a New York-based marketing company. "I expect to see much more of her and her dad in these types of situations. With technology emerging in ways we never thought, this will make it a lot easier to do."