News / Arts & Entertainment

Spears Could Join 'X Factor'; Underwood Tops Billboard Charts

Britney Spears smiles on stage at the 2011 Wango Tango concert in Los Angeles, May 14, 2011
Britney Spears smiles on stage at the 2011 Wango Tango concert in Los Angeles, May 14, 2011
Mary Morningstar
Spears Could Join X Factor

Although unconfirmed by FOX-TV, many media outlets are reporting that Britney Spears has signed a $15 million contract to judge the second season of America’s X Factor.  Last year’s inaugural X Factor show included judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger.  After the show ended, Paula, Nicole and host Steve Jones were all let go.  Rumors continue to circulate that Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato are being considered for a judge’s spot with Spears and Cowell.

Underwood Tops Billboard 200

Carrie UnderwoodCarrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood
​Carrie Underwood debuts at Number One on both the Billboard 200 and Country Albums charts this week.  According to Nielsen SoundScan, her new album, “Blown Away,” sold 267,000 copies its first week of release.  Other Top 10 entries include “Little Broken Hearts” by Norah Jones (Number 2), “Now That’s What I Call Music! Volume 42” by various artists (Number 3), “Strange Clouds” by B.o.B. (Number 5), the television soundtrack to “Smash” (Number 9) and “Born Villain” by Marilyn Manson (Number 10).

Adam Lambert Releases Sophomore Album

On May 15, RCA Records released Adam Lambert’s sophomore album, Trespassing.  The Season 8  American Idol runner-up collaborated on the album with an all-star list of songwriters and producers, including Pharrell Williams, Dr. Luke, Nile Rogers, Bruno Mars and BC Jean.  Lambert sold more than one million copies of his 2009 debut album, For Your Entertainment.

Jermain Paul Has The Voice

Jermaine Paul, 32,  who won the second season of NBC’s singing competition The Voice  on May 8, was coached throughout the reality show by Country star Blake Shelton.  The New York native is a former back-up singer for Alicia Keys.  He has also worked with Mary J. Blige, Kanye West and Joss Stone, among others.  Jermaine received $100,000 and a recording deal.

American Idol Narrows Field to 3 Competitors

The May 9 edition of  American Idol  featured the top four finalists singing two songs each: one related to the week’s California theme and one song that inspired them musically.  The following night, 18-year-old Hollie Cavanagh was voted off, which leaves Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet in the Top Three.  They’ll return to their hometowns for special events thrown by their communities, including a parade.
Streisand to Perform NY Concert

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York has announced that legendary singer Barbra Streisand will perform a concert at the new 19,000-seat venue on October 11.  Streisand was born and raised in Brooklyn but has never performed there publicly.  The 70-year-old Grammy-winner said, “Brooklyn to me means the Loews Kings, Erasmus, the Yeshiva I went to, the Dodgers, Prospect Park, great Chinese food.  I’m so glad I came from Brooklyn‚ down to earth.  I guess you CAN come home again.”  Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark added, “Barbra Streisand in Brooklyn will be a huge moment and a defining experience for Barclays Center.  We are truly honored to bring Barbra full circle, to the borough where it all started for her, just down Flatbush Avenue from her old neighborhood.  We are continuing our goal to bring the best of everything to Barclays Center. Brooklyn, after all, deserves nothing less.”

Gospel Music Hall of Fame to Honor Aretha Franklin

The Gospel Music Association will soon induct Aretha Franklin into its Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  The ceremony is set to take place on August 14 in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  Also being added to the prestigious Hall are Ricky Skaggs, The Hoppers, Dallas Holm, Love Song and late TV evangelist Rex Humbard.

New Album Releases / May 15:

“The Graduation Album” by the Glee Cast
 “Shape Shifter” by Santana
 “Rize of the Fenix” by Tenacious D
 “Storm & Grace” by Lisa Marie Presley
 “Heroes” by Willie Nelson

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

On May 16, Country trio Lady Antebellum will perform a special show for students in Henryville, Indiana whose high school was severely damaged by a tornado earlier this year.  The event will be held in nearby Louisville, Kentucky and will be followed by another concert, which is open to the public.  All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the New Hope/Indiana Bankers Association to benefit the Disaster Relief Fund.

Star Birthdays

On May 13, legendary singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder will turn 62.  At age 12, he recorded his first hit single, “Fingertips, Part 2.”  Wonder’s popularity peaked in the 1970s with songs such as “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and “Sir Duke.”  His 1995 studio collection, “Conversation Peace,” marked his first non-soundtrack album in eight years.  That same year, Motown Records also released his live double-CD, “Natural Wonder,” which was recorded in Osaka and Tel Aviv.  That was followed by the 1996 release “Song Review: A Greatest Hits Collection.”  The 21-track anthology contains such Wonder classics as “Isn’t She Lovely,” “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and “Superstition.”  In 1998, he recorded “True To Your Heart,” a duet with 98 Degrees that appeared on the soundtrack to the animated Disney film “Mulan.”  In 2003, Motown Records released the tribute album, “Conception: An Interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s Songs.”  Included are many of his classic songs performed by Brian McKnight, Eric Clapton, Marc Anthony, India.Arie, and others.  Stevie received the Johnny Mercer Award at the 2004 Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony.  The award honors a songwriter who “has previously been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and who has continued to establish a history of outstanding creative work.”   Wonder was first inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.  In 2005, Universal Motown Records released Wonder’s latest album, “A Time 2 Love.”  Stevie received his 25th Grammy Award in 2007.  He won Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for his duet with Tony Bennett, “For Once In My Life.”  In 2008, Stevie performed his first European tour in more than a decade.  In 2009, he was named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations (UN).  The title is given to “individuals widely recognized for their talents in the arts, academia, literature, sports and entertainment, (who) help to raise worldwide awareness of UN ideals and activities.”  Last year, Stevie was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s Apollo Legends Hall of Fame. 

Singer Darius Rucker celebrates his 46th birthday on May 13. Darius formed the pop/rock band Hootie and the Blowfish with Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld.  Their debut album, “Cracked Rear View,” was released in 1994 and went on to sell 25 million copies worldwide.  Since then, the group has released five more albums.  Their latest was 2005’s “Looking For Lucky.”  Darius recorded his first solo album in 2002.  His second solo project was the 2008 Country album, “Learn To Live.”  Its first three singles, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” and “Alright,” all reached Number One on the Country chart.  Darius also topped that chart with “Come Back Song” and “This,” which were the first two singles released from his latest Country album, “Charleston, S.C. 1966.”  He’s currently performing a North American tour with Country trio Lady Antebellum. 

Singer Janet Jackson will celebrate her 46th birthday on May 16.  One of three daughters in the famous musical Jackson family, Janet launched her solo career in the early 1980s.  Her albums “Control” and “Rhythm Nation 1814” both contained several Top 10 singles.  In 1991, Janet left A&M Records and signed a 32-million-dollar deal with Virgin Records.  Her debut album, “Janet,” sold more than six million copies and spawned six chart hits.  In 1995, A&M Records released her anthology, “Design of a Decade - 1986/1996.”  1997’s “The Velvet Rope” featured collaborations with Vanessa Mae, Joni Mitchell, Blackstreet and Q-Tip.  The album produced the hit “Together Again.”  In 2006, she fulfilled her obligations to Virgin Records with the album “20 Years Old.”  In 2008, Island Def Jam released her latest CD, “Discipline,” which made a Number One debut on the Billboard 200.  Only one of its four singles cracked the Top 20.  In 2010, Janet had a Number One dance hit with “Make Me.”  The track appears on her second greatest hits CD, “Number Ones/The Best.”  Janet’s 2011 self-help book, “True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself,” was a New York Times Number One best seller.

On May 18, Country singer George Strait will turn 60.  Since the early 1980s, he has sold more than 68 million albums in the U.S.  In 1992, Strait made his major film debut in “Pure Country” playing Rusty Wyatt, a singer who gave up his superstar life to return home to his roots.  Strait set a career record with the lead single from his 2008 Grammy-winning album, “Troubadour.”  “I Saw God Today” debuted at Number 19 and made it to Number One in only 11 weeks.  In 2007, Strait was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Two years later, he received the Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade Award.  Strait’s new album, “Here For A Good Time,” has produced two Top 5 hits, the title track and “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.”  He’s currently climbing the Country chart with its third single, “Drinkin’ Man.”

British rock guitarist Pete Townshend will celebrate his 67th birthday on May 19.  In 1964, he formed The Who with John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey.  Townshend wrote many of the group’s hit songs, as well as its rock opera “Tommy.”  Townshend has also recorded several solo albums.  His highest charting solo hit was the 1980 Top 10 single, “Let My Love Open the Door.”  The song was featured on the motion picture soundtrack to “Grosse Pointe Blank.”  Townshend donated memorabilia to Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the Who exhibit, “Tommy: The Amazing Journey.”  It ran from April 2005 through March 2006 and featured displays of never-before-seen archives of the group’s concept album.  In 2006, The Who recorded “Endless Wire,” their first new studio album in 24 years.  In December 2008, Townshend received a Kennedy Center Honor.  His autobiography, “Who I Am,” will be published in October. 

Awards Presenters/Winners:

On May 15, publishing rights organization BMI will present its 60th annual BMI Pop Awards in Los Angeles.  Legendary singer-songwriter Carole King will receive the BMI Icon award for her “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”  Previous recipients include the Bee Gees, Paul Simon, James Brown and Dolly Parton, among others.  An all-star lineup of artists will pay tribute to King by performing songs from her catalog.  The BMI Pop Song, Songwriter and Publisher of the Year awards will also be presented during the ceremony.  
Look Who's Going on Tour!

On May 18, Country star Brad Paisley will kick off his “Virtual Reality Tour” in St. Louis, Missouri.  Special guests on select dates include The Band Perry, Scotty McCreery and Easton Corbin.  A second stage in The Escape Plaza will feature newcomers Kristen Kelly, Jana Kramer and Love and Theft.  The outdoor plaza also offers games, contests, photo opportunities and food vendors.  Brad’s U.S. tour wraps up on October 18 in Los Angeles.

The Dave Matthews Band begins its North American summer tour on May 18 in Woodlands, Texas.  Forty-two dates are scheduled through September 9.  A few months ago, the Dave Matthews Band began recording a new album for release later this year.  The collection is the group’s first studio effort since 2009.  The band recently premiered the album’s first confirmed track, “Mercy,” on a late-night television talk show.

On May 18, the “2012 Country Throwdown Tour” will begin in Gulfport, Mississippi.  Gary Allan is this year’s headliner.  Other acts appearing on the third annual tour include Rodney Atkins, Justin Moore, Josh Thompson, Eric Paslay and Sunny Sweeney.  Up-and-coming songwriters will also be featured on the Bluebird Café stage.  They’ll perform “in-the-round” sets in each city.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge Akua Allrichi
|| 0:00:00
September 30, 2015 1:02 PM
On this episode of Soul Lounge, Jazz vocalist, Akua Allrich sits down with Shawna Renee to talk about the connection between Jazz and Soul Music and how both inspired her latest album Soul Singer. You’ll also get to see why she’s been called one of the most dynamic and electrifying performers of her generation.

On this episode of Soul Lounge, Jazz vocalist, Akua Allrich sits down with Shawna Renee to talk about the connection between Jazz and Soul Music and how both inspired her latest album Soul Singer.