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Ricky Martin, Janet Jackson to Release New Albums

A change has been made with the audition process for the sixth season of American Idol. Beginning in August of 2006, preliminary auditions will take place at malls and other venues in all 50 states. The first 500 singers who meet the talent show's requirements will perform for a live audience. Winners will be given immediate access to the regional auditions that typically take place in six or seven major U.S. cities.

Alex Drosdin, President of Glowcast Ventures says, "We look forward to partnering with Fremantle Media on this new venture. By bringing the auditions to the local level, we believe that this event will not only break new ground on television, but will allow American Idol to become America's most accessible show, while increasing the already extraordinary level of viewer engagement." The audition process for the upcoming fifth season of the show will remain the same. Beginning next month, auditions will take place in Austin, San Diego, Memphis, Chicago, Denver and Boston.

Columbia Records plans to release the first new English-language album in five years by Latin pop star Ricky Martin in October. His last release was 2003's Spanish CD, Almas del Silencio. The first single from his upcoming collection is an uptempo dance track called "I Don't Care." It features New York rapper Fat Joe and R&B singer Amerie. A sample of the song is available on Martin's web site .

Janet Jackson is working on a new album that teams her once again with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The release follows her 2004 album Damita Jo, which sold less than one million copies in the United States. No word yet on a release date for Janet's upcoming album.

Barry and Robin Gibb are planning several Bee Gees events for 2006. They include a tribute album to honor their brother Maurice, who died in 2003. The album will be produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and will include Bee Gees songs recorded by the likes of Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow, Wyclef Jean, Rascal Flatts, Snoop Dogg, and others. Also in the works are a Broadway musical called You Win Again, a film and book, a prime time television special and a free summer concert in Central Park, tentatively set for the July 4 weekend in 2007.

A motion picture on the life of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. (real name Christopher Wallace) is being made. The film will tell the story of his rise from a Brooklyn, New York drug dealer to hip-hop star. The rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles in March 1997. The murder has not been solved. Wallace's mother, Voletta, will produce the movie with his former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.


Japan's Fuji Rock Festival will take place July 29-31 at the Naeba Ski Resort near Tokyo. This year's lineup includes the Beach Boys, Steel Pulse, the Pogues, Fatboy Slim, Cake, and the Kaiser Chiefs, which recently earned a nomination for the U.K.'s prestigious Mercury Music Prize for its debut album Employment.


Singer Bonnie Raitt will receive the National Association of Recording Merchandisers Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award on August 12. Previous recipients include Kenny Rogers, former Recording Industry Association of America president Hilary Rosen and Bob Geldof. The honor recognizes social, environmental and humanitarian efforts. Raitt has worked to end war in Central America and for environmental protection and rights for women and Native Americans. She also took part in the South African anti-apartheid movement.


On July 25, singer Neil Diamond kicked off a U.S. concert tour in Omaha, Nebraska. The 44-date outing is scheduled to run through October 26. Diamond has been working with rock producer Rick Rubin on his upcoming album. The still untitled project, due out in August, follows his 2001 collection, Three Chord Opera.

Country star Tim McGraw sold out his entire two-month summer tour before the first concert took place. McGraw performed July 23-24 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days festival in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He has three more concerts scheduled for this week in Michigan and Kentucky. In other news, Tim will be seen in his first leading film role in the remake of My Friend Flicka, which is scheduled to hit theaters nationwide in February 2006.