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Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake Among 'People's Choice' Award Winners; New 'American Idol' Season Begins January 15


American Idol will kick off its seventh season on January 15. Last summer, auditions took place in San Diego, Dallas, Omaha, Atlanta, Charleston, Miami and Philadelphia. Contestants had to be between the ages of 16 and 28 to audition. FOX-TV will air two shows weekly through February 6 that will show highlights of the auditions. On February 13, we'll learn who the 24 finalists are. The 12 male finalists will perform on February 19 and the 12 female finalists will take the Hollywood stage on February 20. The Top 12 singers will be named on March 11 and the winner will be announced in May.

After being named the 2006 American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks signed a three-album deal with Arista's J Records. Later that same year, his self-titled debut album was released with sales reaching nearly 700,000 copies in the U.S. Although no reason was given, Billboard.com reports that he's been dropped from Arista's roster. A representative at Arista says Taylor plans "to record on his own for the next album," which is due out sometime this year. It's also been announced that 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee has just been dropped from RCA Records. Her self-titled debut album sold only 366,000 copies.

Teen hip-hop newcomer Soulja Boy set a new record for the most digital downloads. According to Nielsen SoundScan, his Grammy-nominated song "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" has been downloaded 3.032 million times. The hit appears on his debut album "Souljaboytellem.com," which has sold 658,000 copies.

Ringo Starr's latest album, Liverpool 8, will be released on January 15. Starr says the album title "refers to the section of Liverpool where I used to live." He co-wrote all 12 tracks on the album. On January 12, Starr will be in Liverpool to open its "2008 Capital of Culture" celebration.

On January 19, Country legend Charlie Daniels will be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. The induction ceremony will take place at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, where the Opry is being held through March 1. Opry members Marty Stuart and Connie Smith will honor Charlie during the event. Trace Adkins, Del McCoury and Mel Tillis are among the other Opry stars scheduled to appear.




NEW ALBUM RELEASES

New albums scheduled for release on January 15 include: Love Songs by Trisha Yearwood (hit ballads spanning her career from 1991-2005), Double Feature by Dave Koz, Duets, Friends & Legends by Anne Murray, Popular by Van Hunt and the original motion picture soundtrack to The Bucket List, which stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

AWARDS PRESENTATIONS/WINNERS

Winners in the music categories of this year's People's Choice Awards include: Gwen Stefani, Favorite Female Singer; Justin Timberlake, Favorite Male Singer and Favorite Pop Song for "What Goes Around…Comes Around;" Rascal Flatts, Favorite Group and Favorite Country Song for "Stand;" Daughtry, Favorite Rock Song for "Home;" Rihanna, Favorite R&B Song for "Shut Up and Drive;" Timbaland, Favorite Hip-Hop Song for "Give It To Me;" the cast of Hairspray, Favorite Song From A Soundtrack for "You Can't Stop The Beat;" and the Police for Favorite Reunion Tour. Due to the ongoing writers strike, the January 8 People's Choice Awards broadcast did not air live and the winners' acceptance speeches were pre-recorded video clips.

TOUR DATES AND INFORMATION

On January 17, Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire will kick off their 15-city "2 Worlds 2 Voices" tour in Dayton, Ohio. Reba says, "We're both gonna have so much fun singing each other's songs. They're great songs. Her songs tell stories and so do mine - they're heartfelt." Last year, Kelly and Reba recorded a duet version of Kelly's hit "Because Of You" for McEntire's latest album Reba Duets. The song peaked at Number 2 on Billboard's Country Singles chart.

Martina McBride will begin her 2008 concerts on January 18 in Evansville, Indiana. She'll be supporting her latest album Waking Up Laughing, which includes the recent hit "How I Feel" and her new single, "For These Times." Joining Martina on the tour are Texas singer-songwriter Jack Ingram and newcomers Lady Antebellum.

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