Brandy, left, with Monica at the Grammys (1999 file photo)
Brandy, left, with Monica at the Grammys (1999 file photo)

Brandy, Monica Reunite on New Track

In 1998, Grammy-winning R&B stars Monica and Brandy had the best-selling single of the year with ?The Boy Is Mine.?  The song topped the Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks.  They recently reunited to record a new single, called ?It All Belongs To Me,? which RCA Records will release on February 6.  The track will appear on Monica?s upcoming album ?New Life,? due out on March 6, and Brandy?s yet-to-be-titled forthcoming collection.

X Factor Plans Big Changes

Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul

Big changes are planned for the second season of ?The X Factor.?  Host Steve Jones and judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul will not be returning to the FOX-TV singing competition.  Abdul released a statement that said, ?I?ve learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions often times override personal considerations.  Simon and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation.  Simon is, and will remain a dear friend of mine and I?ve treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle.  I want nothing more than for The X Factor to exceed ALL of their wildest dreams.  This truly has been a blessing and I am most grateful.?  A statement from ?The X Factor? creator Simon Cowell says, ?I want to say a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of The X Factor last year.  We had a lot of fun making the show together and importantly, we found some real talent and stars.  You do develop friendships with the people you work with and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend and I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future. I?m sure all three are going to have massive success in what they do next, but now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year.?  As of now, music producer L.A. Reid is expected to return as a judge and mentor.

McGraw's New Album Scores on Billboard 200 Chart

Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw

Country star Tim McGraw has the highest debut on this week?s Billboard 200 chart.  He sold 68,000 copies of his new album, Emotional Traffic, its first week of release to give him a Number 2 entry on the list.  That wasn?t enough to knock Adele out of the top spot.  According to Nielsen SoundScan, ?21? sold 116,000 copies during the past week to keep Adele at Number One for an 18th non-consecutive week.  Other Top 10 debuts include Lamb of God?s ?Resolution? (Number 3), ?2012 Grammy Nominees? (Number 4), Ingrid Michaelson?s ?Human Again? (Number 5), Kellie Pickler?s ?100 Proof? (Number 7), Seal?s ?Soul 2? (Number 8) and Kari Jobe?s ?Where I Find You? (Number 10).

McCartney's 'Kisses on the Bottom' CD Drops

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney

On February 7, Hear Music/Concord Records will release Paul McCartney?s new album, ?Kisses on the Bottom.?  The former Beatle?s first album since 2007 features guest appearances by Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton.  ?Kisses on the Bottom? includes McCartney?s interpretations of pop standards, plus two new songs.

MusiCares to Honor McCartney

On February 10, the MusiCares Foundation will honor 14-time Grammy winner Paul McCartney as its 2012 MusiCares Person of the Year.  The event will feature an all-star lineup of performers, including McCartney, Diana Krall, Tony Bennett, Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry, among others.  Proceeds go to MusicCares, which helps musicians with financial, medical and personal issues.

Clarkson Sings National Anthem at Super Bowl

Kelly Clarkson sings the National Anthem during th
Kelly Clarkson sings the National Anthem during the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, February 5, 2012.

Kelly Clarkson sang the National Anthem at Sunday?s Super Bowl XLVI.  Other artists who performed at the NFL championship game included Country star Blake Shelton and his wife Miranda Lambert, who sang a duet version of ?America the Beautiful? during the pre-game festivities.  Madonna performed the half-time show, which featured the premiere of her new single, ?Give Me All Your Luvin?.?

New Album Releases / February 7:

?Now That?s What I Call Music! 41? by various artists
?A Different Kind of Truth? by Van Halen
?Scars & Stories? by The Fray
?Home? by Dierks Bentley
?I?ll Take Romance? by Steve Tyrell
?Mr. P? by Patrice O?Neal
?Summer In Kingston? by Shaggy
?The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Volume II? by various artists.

Star Birthdays:

On February 5, Country singer Sara Evans celebrated her 41st birthday.  Sara was born and raised in Missouri.  She moved to Nashville in 1991, where she recorded one independent album.  In 1997, Sara?s major label debut, ?Three Chords and the Truth,? was released on RCA Records.  Her Number One singles include ?No Place That Far,? ?Born To Fly,? ?Suds In The Bucket,? ?A Real Fine Place To Start? and ?A Little Bit Stronger.?  In 2007, Sara divorced her husband of 14 years.  Reports of her personal problems broke in late 2006 while she was competing on the ABC reality show ?Dancing with the Stars.?  In 2008, Sara married Jay Barker, who hosts a radio show in Alabama. She has co-authored two books, ?The Sweet By and By? and ?Softly and Tenderly.?  Sara?s first album in six years, ?Stronger,? was released last year.  Its Number One hit, ?A Little Bit Stronger,? became Sara?s first million-selling single.

Natalie Cole's Memoir
Natalie Cole's Memoir

Singer Natalie Cole turned 62 on February 6.  The daughter of the late Nat King Cole made her professional debut at age 11.  In 1975, Natalie won the Best New Artist Grammy award.  Early in her career, she recorded pop and rhythm-and-blues material, but in 1991, she decided to return to her musical roots and recorded an album of her father?s pop standards.  The Grammy-winning collection included a studio-made duet version of ?Unforgettable? with Nat King Cole.  Her next two albums, ?Take A Look? and ?Stardust,? contained similar material.  In 2002, Natalie recorded ?Ask A Woman Who Knows,? her first album on jazz label Verve Records.  The set earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  For her 2006 release ?Leavin?,? Natalie covered songs made popular by Shelby Lynne, Sting, Fiona Apple, Kate Bush, and others.  Her latest album, ?Still Unforgettable,? contains a virtual duet with her late father on ?Walkin? My Baby Back Home.?  The collection brought her a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.  In May 2009, Natalie underwent a kidney transplant.  She returned to performing later that year.

New Album Pays Tribute to Bob Marley
Brandy, Monica Reunite; Abdul to Leave X Factor

February 6 marked the birth date of the late ?King of Jamaican Reggae,? Bob Marley (born 1945).  In 1965, Marley formed The Wailers, a group that was responsible for popularizing reggae music worldwide.  His songwriting credits include ?I Shot the Sheriff,? a Number One hit for Eric Clapton in 1974.  Marley died of cancer at age 36 on May 11, 1981.  

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

Country superstar Garth Brooks turns 49 on February 7.  Garth?s rise to fame began in 1987, when he moved from Oklahoma to Nashville.  The following year, executives at Capitol Records saw him perform and signed him to the label.  In 1989, his self-titled debut album was released, which produced four Number One Country singles, including ?If Tomorrow Never Comes? and ?The Dance.?  Garth?s ?No Fences? album stands among the biggest-selling Country albums of all time with 17 million copies sold in the U.S.  Sales of his 1994 anthology, ?The Hits,? reached 10 million, making it the best-selling greatest hits release in Country music history.  The Recording Industry Association of America lists him as the second best-selling male solo artist of all time.  Elvis Presley leads with 130.5 million albums sold.  To-date, Garth?s total sales stand at 128 million.  Garth announced his retirement from touring in 2001.  Garth married Country singer Trisha Yearwood in 2005.  Their 2006 duet, ?Love Will Always Win,? peaked at Number 23 on the Country chart.  ?More Than A Memory,? from Garth?s 2007 ?Ultimate Hits? anthology, became the first single ever to debut at Number One on the Country chart.  Garth was among the performers in Washington, D.C. during President Obama?s inaugural festivities.  He?s currently performing an extended solo engagement in Las Vegas.  Garth plans to reunite with his band in 2014 to launch a full tour.

February 8 marks the birth date of late Country-pop singer Dan Seals (born 1948).  The Texas native began performing at age four with his brother Jim.  In 1976, Dan helped form England Dan & John Ford Coley.  He left the pop duo four years later to pursue a solo career in Country music.  Throughout the 1980s, Dan recorded a string of Number One Country hits, including ?Bop,? ?I Will Be There,? ?One Friend? and ?Big Wheels in the Moonlight.?  His final album releases included the acoustic greatest hits collections ?In A Quiet Room? and ?In A Quiet Room II,? and 2002?s ?Make It Home.?  In 2007, Dan was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin?s lymphoma.  The following year, he underwent radiation treatments and received a stem cell transplant.  Dan succumbed to the disease on March 29th, 2009 at age 61.

Conductor, composer and arranger John Williams will turn 80 on February 8.  In 1980, he replaced Arthur Fiedler as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.  Williams held the post until 1993.  Williams also composes theme music for films and has received more Oscar nominations than any other living person.  In 1999, Sony Records released his film music anthology, ?Greatest Hits (1969-1999).?  He composed themes for four Olympic Games - the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Summer Olympics and the 2002 Winter Olympics.  Williams was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor in 2004.  He composed the music for two new films, ?The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn? and ?War Horse.?  Both are among this year?s Academy Award nominees for Best Original Score.  Throughout his long career, Williams has won five Academy Awards and 21 Grammy Awards. 

Singer and influential songwriter Carole King celebrates her 70th birthday on February 9.  One of the ?Brill Building? songwriters in the late 1950s, she collaborated with former husband Gerry Goffin on hits such as ?Will You Love Me Tomorrow,? ?Take Good Care of My Baby,? and the dance sensation ?The Loco-Motion.?  Her 1971 solo collection ?Tapestry? spent 302 weeks on Billboard?s Top 200 chart, 15 of those at Number One.  Sales reached 25 million copies worldwide.  Known as one of the most successful female songwriters of the rock era, Carole King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (along with Gerry Goffin) in 1990.  Numerous performers, including Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, All-4-One and Amy Grant recorded new versions of songs from ?Tapestry? for the 1995 tribute album, ?Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute To Carole King.?  King?s latest studio album, ?Love Makes the World,? was released on her own Rockingale Records in 2001.  The title track was a hit on the Adult Contemporary chart.  In 2003, King?s 1971 Number One single, ?It?s Too Late,? was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  ?Tapestry? was added to the Hall in 1998.  King and Goffin received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences? Trustees Award in 2004 for their ?outstanding contributions to the industry outside of performance.?  In 2005, Concord Records released King?s double-CD live set ?The Living Room Tour,? which was recorded during her 2004 tour of the same name.  King was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.  A new version of ?Tapestry? was released in 2008.  The first disc of the double CD features the original album, plus one bonus track.  The second disc contains live versions of the songs that King recorded in 1973 and 1976.  In 2010, Carole teamed with James Taylor for a concert tour.  The ?Troubadour Reunion Tour? was attended by more than 700-thousand fans and grossed over 59-million dollars.  Last year, she recorded her first Christmas album, ?A Holiday Carole.?  King?s memoir, ?A Natural Woman,? will be published in April.  

On February 10, pop and rhythm-and-blues singer Roberta Flack will celebrate her 75th birthday.  An Arlington, Virginia native, she worked as a high school music teacher in North Carolina.  Jazz musician Les McCann discovered Flack at a nightclub.  Her Number One singles include ?The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,? ?Killing Me Softly With His Song,? and ?Feel Like Makin? Love.?  This week (February 7), 429/Savoy Records will release Flack?s first new album in eight years.  ?Let It Be Roberta: Roberta Flack Sings The Beatles? features her interpretation of classic Beatles songs. 

On February 11, R&B singer Brandy will celebrate her 33rd birthday.  At age 15, the Mississippi native arrived on the music scene with her self-titled debut album.  The collection sold more than four million copies and produced such hits as ?Baby,? ?I Wanna Be Down? and ?Best Friend.?  In 1998, Brandy recorded her second CD, ?Never Say Never.?  She also starred in her own sitcom, ?Moesha,? from 1996 to 2001.  Other acting credits include the lead role in the 1997 television movie ?Cinderella? and the motion picture ?I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.?  In 1999, Brandy appeared in the ABC television movie ?Double Platinum? with Diana Ross.  Her 2002 album, ?Full Moon,? featured the singles ?What About Us?,? ?Full Moon? and ?He Is.?  Brandy secretly married producer Robert Smith in the summer of 2001.  She gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Sy?rai, in June of 2002.  Two years later, the couple separated and Smith announced they were never officially married.  Brandy countered that they had ?a spiritual union and a deep commitment to each other.?  Her 2004 album, ?Afrodisiac,? spawned two minor hits, ?Talk About Our Love? and ?Who Is She 2 U.?  She had more success in the U.K., where the album?s title track reached the Top 20.  In 2006, Brandy split from her career-long label, Atlantic Records.  Epic Records released Brandy?s fifth album, ?Human,? in 2008.  In 2010, Brandy placed fourth on ?Dancing with the Stars.?  She collaborated with her brother Ray J, mother Sonja and father Willie Norwood on the 2011 album, ?Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business.?  Brandy?s next solo album is due out in March.  Her new duet with Monica, ?It All Belongs To Me,? marks their first collaboration in 14 years.  

Sheryl Crow's '100 Miles From Memphis' CD
Sheryl Crow's '100 Miles From Memphis' CD

Rock singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow will turn 49 on February 11.  The Missouri native moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and got her first big break singing backup vocals on Michael Jackson?s 18-month ?Bad? tour.  Crow?s debut album, ?Tuesday Night Music Club,? was released in 1993.  It was slow to make an impact until 1994, when the single ?All I Wanna Do? was released.  The album went on to sell more than seven million copies in the U.S.  Her 1996 album, ?Sheryl Crow,? produced the hits ?Everyday Is A Winding Road? and ?If It Makes You Happy.?  Sheryl?s 2002 CD, ?C?mon, C?mon,? featured such guests as Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, Lenny Kravitz and the Dixie Chicks? Natalie Maines.  Hits from the collection included the title track, ?Soak Up the Sun? and ?Steve McQueen.?  Crow?s triple platinum 2003 CD, ?The Very Best of Sheryl Crow,? featured her hit remake of Cat Stevens? ?The First Cut Is The Deepest.?  Crow?s 2005 album, ?Wildflower,? earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.  Her 2008 album, ?Detours,? produced the single ?Love Is Free,? which was inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Other songs on the album dealt with events in her life, including her breakup with cyclist Lance Armstrong and battle with breast cancer.  In 2010, Sheryl appeared on the ?Hope For Haiti Now? telethon.  Her performance of ?Lean On Me? with Keith Urban and Kid Rock was included on the ?Hope For Haiti Now? album.  She also joined many of today?s biggest music stars to re-record ?We Are The World,? which also raised money for relief efforts in Haiti.  Sheryl?s latest album, ?100 Miles From Memphis,? failed to produce any big hits.  

Awards Presentations / Winners:

On February 11, the Recording Academy will present its Special Merit Awards at an invitation-only ceremony in Los Angeles.  This year?s Lifetime Achievement Grammy Awards are going to the Allman Brothers Band, Glen Campbell, Antonio Carlos Jobim, George Jones, the Memphis Horns, Diana Ross and Gil Scott-Heron.  Trustees Award recipients include Dave Bartholomew, Steve Jobs and Rudy Van Gelder.  Celemony and Roger Nichols will be honored with the Technical Grammy Award.  The Recording Academy?s Neil Portnow said, ?This year?s honorees offer a variety of brilliance, contributions and lasting impressions on our culture.  It is an honor to recognize such a diverse group of individuals whose talents and achievements have had an indelible impact on our industry.?

Look Who's Going On Tour!

On February 9, R&B singer Trey Songz will kick off his ?Anticipation 2our? in Cleveland, Ohio.  The 18-city North American tour features special guest Big Sean.  Trey will be supporting his albums ?Anticipation? and ?Anticipation 2.?  He says, ?This tour has literally been years in the making.  Every sound, every emotion that I ever expressed through my music you will get every single night.  No one will leave this show untouched.?

Hot Chelle Rae begins a 34-city North American tour on February 10 in Metarie, Louisiana.  The pop group?s itinerary also includes 12 shows in Australia and New Zealand from March 2-18 as the opening act for Taylor Swift.  Hot Chelle Rae?s new album, Whatever, includes the hits ?Tonight Tonight? and ?I Like It Like That.?