Sunday March 5th, 2006                                                 


New CD's this past week:

- Ne-Yo - In my own words
- Martha Redbone - Skintalk (UK release)

Music news headlines this week:

Prince Runs The Musical Gamut On '3121'

Prince's new Universal album, "3121," is less than three weeks away from
its March 21 release, but seven of its 12 tracks have yet to be given
official titles. Regardless, the full disc was previewed yesterday (March
1) for media, who were told that Prince had declined to explain the
meaning of the album's title and that the release date was chosen simply
to coincide with it.
Never one to back away from unusual promotions, Prince is including a
limited number of "Purple Tickets" with the physical CDs, granting lucky
fans access to a private performance at his Minneapolis compound, Paisley
Park. Listeners who purchase the "Black Sweat" single via Apple's iTunes
Music Store will also be entered to win entrance.
"3121," which features guest appearances from new Prince protege Tamar as
well as saxophonist Maceo Parker, preserves the artist's hybrid style,
savvy instrumentation and flair for up-tempo jams. Beyond "Black Sweat"
(the top debut this week on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 60) and earlier
single "Te Amo Corazon," the only other selections with confirmed names
are the title cut, the Tamar duet "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed" and "Fury,"
which was performed last month on "Saturday Night Live."
Many of the remaining tracks are vintage Prince, with the expected
splashes of rock, R&B and jazz. One of two R&B-tinged tunes finds Prince
rapping swiftly, while a funky standout likely titled "Lolita"
("Lolita/you're sweet-a/but you'll never make a cheater outta me") seems
primed to be chosen as a single. Two tracks utilize special vocal effects
similar to the Vocoder that Zapp's Roger Troutman popularized in the
"3121" is the follow-up to 2004's "Musicology," which debuted at No. 3 on
The Billboard 200 and has sold 2 million copies in the United States,
according to Nielsen SoundScan.
A Prince world tour is in the works but dates have yet to be announced.


Toni Braxton Working To Stay Healthy For Tour

Toni Braxton, who sets off on her first concert tour in more than six
years March 10 in Atlantic City, N.J., is doing her utmost to stay healthy
and avoid coming down with colds or flu bugs -- a tricky task for the
mother of two sons, ages 4 and 2.
It was during her run on Broadway in "Aida" two years ago that the
40-million-album-selling, multi-Grammy-winning recording star collapsed
backstage and was subsequently diagnosed with pericarditis -- a condition
in which the membrane covering the outer surface of the heart becomes
inflamed. Viral infection is frequently the cause.
"My body had to build up immunity again," says Toni, who walks and works
out regularly -- and who has become an advocate for heart health education
and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Red Dress
campaign. "I have to take anti-inflammatories If I catch a cold, I have
to take antibiotics right away."
She says her boys will be with her on and off through the tour. "We never
let more than a week and a half or two go by without being together, and
that only in extreme situations," notes the singer, who wed Mint Condition
keyboardist Keri Lewis in 2001, and says family members have stepped in to
help while she's on the road.
Braxton says the fact that "I'm done having kids" and the boys are no
longer babies prompted her fresh career push -- which includes "Libra,"
her first album in more than three years and her first ever for the
Blackground/Universal label, in addition to the tour.
She considers her six-week concert trek "like a workshop for me, playing
smaller venues, theaters. I'm getting comfortable, getting my chops wet
again. It's a lot of work. It's like starting all over again," says Toni,
now 38. "Except, in the beginning, you have nothing to lose. Now, I could
have everything to lose -- or everything to gain. That's OK. I can gamble
on myself."

R&B Sensation Chris Brown Schedules Tour

R&B singer Chris Brown (tickets | music) has laid down the foundation of a
29-date tour in support of his self-titled debut album, which hit stores
in November of last year.
The 16-year-old prodigy will begin his outing March 24 in Seattle. Brown's
tour includes a mixture of large clubs, small arenas and college
auditoriums, and will keep the Virginia native's calendar busy through the
first week of May.
Brown's debut album features production by Scott Storch (Snoop Dogg, Busta
Rhymes) and assistance from the likes of The Underdogs and Dr. Dre.
Storch also produced Brown's "Run It" single, released in mid-2005, which
brought Brown to the attention of the R&B faithful. The single hit No. 13
on the Billboard R&B chart and entered the mainstream Billboard Hot 100
chart at No. 29, the highest position for a first-time chart performer
since Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" entered at No. 26 in February 1998.
Brown was recently nominated for an NAACP Image award in the Outstanding
New Artist category. The awards will be handed out March 3 during a live
telecast on the Fox Network.


Sammie Inks With Austin's Rowdy Records

R&B singer Sammie, who first burst on the scene in 2000 as a pre-teen, is
all grown up. Now 17, he's set to resurface on producer Dallas Austin's
Rowdy Records with his self-titled album, which is due in June.
Sammie released an album through Austin's Capitol-distributed Freeworld
label in 2000, "From the Bottom to the Top," which has sold 744,000 copies
in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It spawned the top
10 Austin-produced R&B hit "I Like It."
Sammie last charted with the album cut "Hardball" featuring Lil' Bow Wow,
Lil Wayne and Lil' Zane, which served as the title song on the So So Def
soundtrack to the 2001 Keanu Reeves movie. Afterward, he took a hiatus to
finish high school.
In addition to Austin, Sammie's new studio album features production
collaborations with Bryan Michael Cox, Jazze Pha, 112's Daron Jones,
Adonis Shopshire and Novel. Novel, whose Rawkus/MCA album was never
released, is also now signed to Rowdy.
Sammie describes the new album as "soulful" and "passionate." When asked
about going up against such new teen idols as Chris Brown, Sammie
confidently asserts that he welcomes the "friendly competition. It's all
good. No problem."


India.Arie Testifies On New Album

Neo-soul artist India.Arie will release her third album, "Testimony: Vol.
1, Life & Relationship," May 9 via Universal Motown. First single "I Am
Not My Hair" reached No. 6 earlier this month on Billboard's Hot
R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales chart; it can be streamed from Arie's official
Web site.
The artist told Billboard in June 2005 that "Life & Relationship" would be
the first half of a two-volume project, with the second installment
covering love and politics. It is unknown if that project is still in the
The new album will be the follow-up to 2002's "Voyage to India," which
debuted at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 1 million copies in the
United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Arie also co-wrote the title track of Stevie Wonder's 2005 comeback album
"A Time 2 Love" with the legendary artist.

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