Arsenio Hall Returns to TV with ‘Greatest Hits’
Your #ThrowbackThursdays are about to get even more lit! ABC’s new summer series, “Greatest Hits,” hosted by Arsenio Hall and country star Kelsea Ballerini, features old and new artists joining together to pay tribute to the songs of the past spanning across several decades.
JET caught up with Hall to chat about “Greatest Hits,” his return to stand-up, and his memories of two musical icons.
JET: You have a new show called “Greatest Hits;” what can you tell us about it?
Arsenio Hall: You are going to love the show if you love music. The show does something that no other show does. When you come on a show as an artist, you are trying to sell your vodka, an album, or your new streaming service. The thing that I love about this show is that nobody is selling anything; instead they are there just for the love of music.
We have a high concept format. What we do is we go to the top of those charts in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s and pick songs that were mega hits, and those are the eligible songs the artists can choose from. We have R&B singer Mario, who sang “You Should Let Me Love You,” and Zendaya will be performing with him, so you have someone from that era and someone that resonates with the younger generation. Meghan Trainor told us her first concert was the Backstreet Boys, so we found them and paired those two up. The show isn’t just duets, some artists are performing alone. Miguel is doing a tribute to Steve Winwood, and Little Big Town comes in and pays tribute to Alicia Keys. This show is musical heaven.
JET: Word is that there is a Michael Jackson tribute on the show?
Hall: Yes, Jason Derulo turns it out! He did a modern homage to the fashion, even the hair. He gives a flavor or a hint of Michael with his own unique twist. He did the same with the choreography. He comes in doing Michael’s steps with his own stamp on it. It’s really smart to do the song, but not try to do an impression, and that’s what he does so well.
JET: Speaking of two artists that had some great hits of their own; Prince and Michael Jackson. Do you have any memories about them that you’d care to share?
Hall: I always thought Prince had his friends’ houses tapped (laughs). I had another friend that said “if you don’t need Prince, you don’t hear from him, but as soon as you need him, he mysteriously calls you.” He was that way, he was a good friend. Prince was Twitter before Twitter. You would get a call from someone you don’t know about tickets to a show he was doing. All of these people would show up to hear him play and this was before social media, or even email. Prince could get all these famous people in a room at 3 in the morning. He rented a house in Los Angeles one time and he used to do parties at the house. The neighbors never said anything, but then who is going to say “Purple Rain is getting on my nerves and I can’t sleep?” (laughs).
As for Michael Jackson, everyone knew his soft quiet side, but he also had a militant side to him. I even talked politics with Michael. I remember the first phone call I got when I left my first talk show, Michael called and said he wanted to make sure it was my choice to leave and that it wasn’t political. It meant so much to me that he cared. He had this unselfish, incredible personality.
JET: You have also been staying busy hitting the stage doing stand-up again. How does it feel to get back out there?
Hall: I love doing standup, it’s my first love. Stand-up is one of those kind of things that it’s like weight lifting to a boxer, it’s not what you do, but it makes everything better if you do it. I always feel like if I’m doing stand-up I’m even better hosting or doing television. My mind is working, it’s something that I don’t ever want to let go. I feel mentally in shape when I do stand-up.
I remember one thing Prince told me, he said, “You know what I like about your comedy? I’ve heard you talk about me and I laughed because it’s clever and not mean.” When he said it I felt under pressure because comedy has to have a target. After he said that, I did try to think that every joke that’s about a person is about a human being. I try to go for clever and not for mean if I can.
“Greatest Hits” airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.