Usher scores his fourth consecutive Number One debut on the Billboard 200 chart this week with Looking 4 Myself.  The R&B star sold 128,000 copies of the album its first week of release.  Rush enters at Number 2 with Clockwork Angels. That’s the highest charting album of the classic rock band’s 38-year career.  Also making Top 10 debuts this week are Country singer Josh Turner’s Punching Bag (Number 4), British singer Ed Sheeran’s  + (Number 5) and rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s Triple F Life: Fans, Friends & Family (Number 10).

Bieber's 'Believe' Could Outsell 'MDNA'

Justin Bieber poses for photographers as he arrive
Justin Bieber poses for photographers as he arrives for the premiere of the film "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" in London (file photo)

Teen pop star Justin Bieber is expected to have the biggest debut sales week of 2012 with his new album Believe. According to sources, the set is on track to sell 400,000 to 500,000 copies its opening week.  Madonna currently holds this year’s first-week sales record with MDNA, which moved 359,000 copies.  Justin Bieber celebrated the release of  Believe by getting the title tattooed on his left forearm.

Perry Plans Record Label

Katy Perry, 27, recently told the Hollywood Reporter that she is forming her own record label.  “I’m preparing for it now.  And when this record label does come to fruition, I’m going to try and avoid the things that take away any fighting chance for an artist to have financial success,” she said.

Yearwood's Cooking Show Renewed

Trisha Yearwood
Trisha Yearwood

Earlier this year, Country star Trisha Yearwood launched her Food Network cooking show.  The six episode “test-run” of “Trisha Yearwood’s Southern Kitchen” attracted enough viewers for the network to renew it for a second season.  Trisha will soon begin taping 13 new episodes.   “Our viewers loved seeing a different side of Trisha," Food Network General Manager and Senior Vice President Bob Tuschman said.  "Her impressive cooking skills and family recipes, coupled with her natural Southern charm, really resonated with our audience.” 

“It was such a great experience, and the positive response from viewers was overwhelming and truly gratifying," Trisha responded. "I’ve always believed that food brings people together.  I can’t wait to share more family memories and recipes with Food Network fans.”

Gas Leak Sparks Explosion at Opryland Hotel

An explosion at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel on June 19 caused $750,000 damage.  Five-thousand guests were evacuated from the hotel, which is located next to the famous Grand Ole Opry House.  According to fire officials, a gas leak in a first floor mechanical room near the hotel’s convention center caused the explosion.  The force of the blast was strong enough to damage ceiling tiles on the third floor.  Normal operations resumed early Wednesday morning.
New Album Releases / June 26:

“Overexposed” by Maroon 5
“Living Things” by Linkin Park
“Days Go By” by The Offspring,
“Back In The Saddle” by Chris Cagle
“Casey Abrams” by Casey Abrams
“Another Country” by Cassandra Wilson
“Invisible Stars” by Everclear
“Suzie Cracks The Whip” by Blues Traveler
“Namaste” by Kenny G & Rahul Sharma
“Traveler” by Jerry Douglas
“The Duke” by Joe Jackson
“Rooster Rag” by Little Feat

Musical Events/Festivals/Benefits:

The 2012 Montreal International Jazz Festival takes place June 28-July 7.  Pop singer James Taylor will open the festival with a special concert on June 27.  Each year, the event draws 2.5 million music fans.  Some 3,000 artists from 30 countries will perform a wide variety of genres, including jazz, blues, Brazilian, African, soul, reggae, electronica, Latin-jazz, and more.  Esperanza Spalding, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Tangerine Dream, Chris Botti, Gilberto Gil and Stanley Clarke are among this year’s headliners.

Star Birthdays

Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood turned 70 on June 24.  From 1975 to 1990, Fleetwood Mac recorded fifteen Top 40 hits, including “Rhiannon,” “Sara” and “Gypsy.”  Fleetwood Mac reunited in 2003 to record the studio album Say You Will.  It marked the band’s first album to feature the classic lineup of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham and John McVie since 1987’s “Tango In The Night.”  In 2002, Mick teamed with California winemakers to create his own Private Cellar label.  In 2009, Savoy Jazz Records released the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band’s latest album, Blues Again.  The collection earned a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album.  Mick is also a photographer.  His “Rhythm of a Rose” exhibit is being shown until June 25 at the Mouche Gallery in Los Angeles.  Ten percent of proceeds from sales of his art will benefit the Music Unites program, which works to get music education in inner city classrooms. 

On June 25, singer Carly Simon celebrated her 67th birthday.  In 1971, she made her first appearance on the pop charts with the Top 10 single, “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.”  That same year, Simon won the Best New Artist Grammy.  In 1972, she recorded her biggest hit, “You’re So Vain.”  Several of her singles have been featured in motion pictures, including “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me, “Coming Around Again” from Heartburn, and “Let The River Run” from Working Girl.  In 1995, Arista Records released Simon’s 3-CD anthology Clouds In My Coffee (1965-1995).”  The following year, she signed a book deal with her father’s publishing firm, Simon & Schuster, which issued Carly’s fifth children’s book, “Midnight Farm.”  In 1997, she recorded the album, Film Noir, which includes her interpretations of tunes by Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and others.  Carly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.  She reflected on her health problems in the songs on her 2000 CD, “The Bedroom Tapes.”  Carly’s latest album, Never Been Gone, includes acoustic versions of many of her hits.  She’s now writing her autobiography, which will be published by Random House. 

On June 26, singer George Michael will celebrate his 49th birthday.  Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London, he formed the British duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley.  Their first album, Fantastic, was released in 1983.  The following year, Wham’s “Make It Big” album made them international superstars.  It produced the Number One hits “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper” and “Everything She Wants.”  In 1987, George recorded his first solo album, Faith. Sales of the collection surpassed 10 million copies in the U.S.  It also topped the Billboard 200 chart and became the first album by a white solo artist to reach Number One on the R&B chart.  The album produced four chart-topping singles, including the title track, “Father Figure,” “One More Try” and “Monkey.”  In 2006, George performed his first European tour in 15 years to support his greatest hits album, 25.  His 2008 “25 Live” tour marked his first North American tour in 17 years.  25 was released in the U.S. in April 2008.  It features six new songs, including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige.  George announced on his website that he’s releasing a new single this week.  “On the 29th of June this year it will be 30 years to the day that ‘Wham Rap,’ my first single, written with Andrew Ridgeley (on an afternoon that the two of us should have been at school!), entered the British charts," he wrote. "To celebrate and commemorate those 30 wonderful years I am releasing my most recent song, ‘White Light’, to radio on the exact anniversary of that chart date.” 

Singer Leigh Nash will turn 36 on June 27.  In the early 1990s, Leigh formed the pop band Sixpence None The Richer with guitarist Matt Slocum.  In 1999, the group gained international attention with its third album.  The self-titled collection included the smash hit “Kiss Me,” which climbed to Number 2 on the Hot 100 chart.  Their fourth and final album, Divine Discontent, was released in 2002.  After Sixpence None The Richer broke up, Leigh launched a solo career.  In 2006, she released Blue On Blue on her own One Son Records label.  In 2007, Leigh performed vocals on the album Fauxliage by the Canadian electronic music group Delerium.  In 2010, Sixpence None The Richer reunited to record a new album.  Following several delays, Lost In Transition will finally be released on July 31. 

On June 28, Country singer Kellie Pickler will celebrate her 26th birthday.  Kellie finished sixth in the fifth season of American Idol.  Following a tour with the other Top 10 finalists, Kellie recorded her debut album for BNA Records.  Small Town Girl produced three Top 20 Country singles, “Red High Heels,” “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind” and “I Wonder,” a song she wrote about her estranged relationship with her mother.  Kellie’s self-titled second album also included several hits, including “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful,” “Best Days of Your Life,” which features Country star Taylor Swift on guitar, “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” and “Makin’ Me Fall In Love Again.”  On January 1, 2011, Kellie married Nashville songwriter Kyle Jacobs.  Her new album, 100 Proof, received many positive reviews, but has sold only 74,000 copies since its release in January.

June 28 marks the birth date (b. 1914) of the late Lester Flatt.  In 1948, he and Earl Scruggs formed the bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs.  During their years together, they recorded such bluegrass standards as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which topped the Country charts for three months.  The duo split up in 1969 and Lester formed the Nashville Grass.  He died 10 years later  on May 11, 1979, at age 64. 

On June 29, rhythm-and-blues singer Evelyn “Champagne” King will celebrate her 52nd birthday.  The New York native was discovered at Sigma Recording Studios, where she worked as a cleaning person.  King scored her biggest hit in 1978 with the million-selling Top 10 single, “Shame.”  In the early 1980s, her R&B hits included “I’m In Love,” “Love Come Down” and “Betcha She Don’t Love You.”  In 2008, King recorded Open Book, her first new studio album since 1995. 

American Idol Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino will turn 28 on June 30.  Her debut album, Free Yourself, sold nearly two million copies and earned four Grammy nominations.  Its hits included “I Believe,” “Truth Is” and “Free Yourself.”  Fantasia’s Grammy-nominated self-titled sophomore album was released in December 2006.  From April 2007 to January 2008, she starred on Broadway in “The Color Purple.”  In 2009, Fantasia reprised her role of Celie in the touring cast of the show.  Her third studio album, Back To Me was released in 2010.  Its first single, “Bittersweet,” reached the Top 10 on the R&B chart and brought her a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.  Last year, Fantasia was cast to play the role of late Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the upcoming biographical film, “Mahalia!”  Fantasia recently announced on Twitter that she’s also working on her fourth studio album. 

June 30 marks the birth date of legendary jazz singer Lena Horne (born 1917).  At age 16, Horne began her professional career as a member of the chorus line at New York’s famous Cotton Club.  She later sang with touring big bands before heading to California in 1941.  Horne appeared in several motion pictures and is credited with breaking racial barriers in Hollywood’s film studios.  Her numerous industry honors include two Grammy Awards, a Tony Award for her 1981 one woman Broadway show “The Lady and Her Music,” and a 1984 Kennedy Center Honor.  In 1997, she received the Society of Singers’ Ella Award for lifetime achievement.  Her 1998 Blue Note Records release, “Being Myself,” featured 10 classics, including “Autumn in New York,” “It’s Alright With Me” and “Imagination.”  In 2005, Blue Note issued Seasons Of A Life, a collection of previously unreleased songs she recorded between 1994 and 2000.  Horne died of heart failure on May 9, 2010 at age 92. 

Look Who's Going On Tour!

Following the recent death of drum technician Scott Johnson, British rock group Radiohead has postponed seven European concerts.  Johnson was killed on June 16 when the stage collapsed prior to the band’s show in Toronto.  

“We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew," Radiohead’s drummer said.  "We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott’s family and all those close to him.” 

The collapse injured three other crew members and much of the band’s stage equipment and lighting was destroyed.  Radiohead is scheduled to resume its tour on July 10 with a sold out concert in France.