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Beyonce, Jay-Z Deny Marriage Rumors; Lionel Richie, Rihanna to Headline Nobel Peace Prize Concert


On December 12, Arista Records will release the self-titled debut album by 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. The collection was produced by Matt Serletic, who has worked with matchbox twenty, Collective Soul, Rob Thomas and Stacie Orrico. Hicks recorded songs written by Smokey Robinson, Bryan Adams, Marvin Gaye and Rob Thomas. Also included are two tracks Taylor wrote for an independent album he released before his American Idol experience. In other news, Hicks was reportedly paid $75,000 by Random House's Crown Books for his memoir, Heart Full of Soul, which will be ghost written by David Wild and released on April 3, 2007.

The Nobel Peace Prize Concert will take place on December 11 in Oslo, Norway. This year's performers include Lionel Richie, Rihanna, Simply Red, Wynonna, Renee Fleming, Paulina Rubio and Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens). Actresses Sharon Stone and Anjelica Huston will co-host the concert.

On December 12, Country singers Keni Thomas, Mark Wills and Darryl Worley will head to the Persian Gulf to spend two weeks performing for U.S. military troops. Keni Thomas also performed on last year's USO holiday tour. This trip marks Mark Wills' fourth USO tour.

R&B stars Beyonce and Jay-Z are denying rumors of a December 9 wedding. Beyonce's representatives say the purpose of the trip was a four-day birthday bash the singer put together for her boyfriend. The New York Post printed a story claiming the birthday party was a cover-up for their wedding. Other sources, however, are reporting that Jay-Z recently broke up with Beyonce. Beyonce will be in Los Angeles on December 11 for the premiere of her latest film Dreamgirls. All eyes will be on her ring finger.

Senegalese rapper Akon is working with Whitney Houston on her upcoming album, which will mark her first release since 2003. In an interview with Billboard magazine, "I'm working on more uptempo records for her," Akon said. "She's been through a lot and has a dark history. So we've got to make the album brighter because she's come out of the cave now. She wants a celebration. She needs to come back to the old Whitney we remember." Others reportedly collaborating with her on the new album are Jermaine Dupri, Timbaland, R. Kelly, Ne-Yo, Missy Elliott and George Michael.

NEW ALBUM RELEASES

New albums scheduled for release on December 12 include: "Fantasia" by Fantasia (American Idol season 3 winner), "12 Songs" by Neil Diamond (re-issued as a double CD with previously unreleased demos and alternate takes), "Alter Ego" by Tyrese, "Reflections - A Retrospective" by Mary J. Blige and "Inspiration" by Young Jeezy.

AWARDS PRESENTATIONS/WINNERS

R&B singer Mary J. Blige leads the contenders for the 49th annual Grammy Awards. She received eight nominations, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year for "Be Without You." Other top nominees include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who earned six mentions; James Blunt, the Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Danger Mouse, Prince, producer Rick Rubin, the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am and conductor John Williams, with five nods apiece; and Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley, T.i. songwriter-producer Bryan Michael Cox and gospel artist Israel Houghton, who all received four nominations. The Grammy Awards will be presented on February 11, 2007 in Los Angeles. (Complete list of nominees at www.grammy.com )

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