For The Record: Quick News On Michael Jackson, Alex Lifeson, Ruben Studdard, Trapt, Colin Farrell, Beyonce & More

Studio estimates on Sunday had “Big Fish” topping the box office a few hundred thousand dollars ahead of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” but final numbers Monday put the finale of the epic hobbit trilogy at #1. “The Return of the King” has now been the most popular movie in the U.S. for four straight weekends. …

The judge who will preside over the Michael Jackson trial has made his first ruling — no cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. Judge Rodney Melville has yet to rule on a second motion, to unseal certain court documents such as the search warrant, the alleged victim’s affidavit, and the list of items seized during the search at Neverland. Jackson’s attorney Mark Geragos filed a motion opposing the media’s request to unseal the documents, so Melville is now allowing the defense to take a look a the documents before he decides if the media gets a peek as well. His ultimate decision is expected Friday at the arraignment. …

In a move that surprised the music industry Tuesday, Antonio “L.A.” Reid was forced out as president and CEO of Arista Records. Reid was one of the more popular executives in the business and was responsible for stewarding the careers of artists like Outkast, Usher, Pink, TLC and Avril Lavigne. One of the motivating factors behind the move could be the impending merger between Sony and BMG, which owns Arista, RCA/J Records and Jive. … Jadakiss, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Carl Thomas, Fat Joe and Jaheim will all be appearing at this year’s Mixtape Awards. The ceremony takes place Wednesday in New York at an undisclosed location. …

Rush fans are being told to cool it by Sheriff Don Hunter, who’s investigating Alex Lifeson‘s arrest for aggravated battery on a law-enforcement officer, among other offenses, on New Year’s Eve. In an article in Florida’s Naples Daily News, Hunter asked fans to stop verbally attacking his personnel, the hotel where the incident took place and the community. Lifeson’s arraignment is scheduled for January 26. … “Sesame Street” will be the most musical road in town this spring when Norah Jones, Ruben Studdard, Cher and Harry Connick Jr. drop by the children’s program, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. In a tribute to the sometimes vowel, Jones will sing the parody “Don’t Know Why ‘Y’ Didn’t Come.” …

Like Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves and Kevin Bacon before them, Juliette Lewis and Colin Farrell are the latest actors to get into the music game. Lewis and her band the Licks, which features ex-Hole drummer Patti Schemel, played the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve and are in the process of recording an EP with the help of Svengali-come-lately Linda Perry. Farrell, meanwhile, performs a cover of “I Fought the Law,” a tune popularized by the Bobby Fuller Four in 1966, on the soundtrack to his film “Intermission.” The flick hits theaters March 19, while the soundtrack, which also features contributions from U2, Ron Sexsmith and the Thrills, is due March 16. … Trapt will headline the annual SnoCore package tour, scheduled to begin March 4 in Washington, D.C. Smile Empty Soul, Finger Eleven and Strata, a new band whose debut album is due this summer, will serve as openers. In addition to the music, the two-month trek features giant video screens projecting the extreme antics of free-riding snowboarders. …

Kurtis Blow Jr., the son of the hip-hop pioneer, is taking after his old man. The 18-year-old MC is working on his debut album, which is expected in April. Blow Sr., meanwhile, is working on a documentary film, “The History of Hip-Hop.” … Cee-Lo‘s Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine has been pushed back to March 16. Timbaland produced the first single, “I’ll Be Around,” while the Neptunes, Organized Noize, Jazze Pha and DJ Premier also produced tracks. …

Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan became a father in late December. His daughter, Maya Jean, was born in Chicago to Dan and his girlfriend. “She’s got big wisps of a full head of black hair,” Disturbed frontman David Draiman said. “She’s very cute and he’s very, very happy.” … Thrice will launch a U.S. tour with screamo bands Poison the Well, My Chemical Romance and Moments in Grace on March 17 in Latham, New York. The trek, which will begin after Thrice return from their world tour, ends in Ventura, California on April 8. …

Diana Ross‘ lawyers indicated Monday that the singer will accept a plea deal on drunken driving charges in Tucson, Arizona. Ross earlier pleaded not guilty in Tucson City Court, but under the new arrangement she will change her plea and avoid a trial. … Nominees for the British answer to the Grammy Awards, the Brit Awards, were announced Tuesday. David Bowie and Dizzee Rascal are among the artists up for Brit Male Solo Artist of the Year, while the Darkness, Sugababes and Radiohead are among the nominees competing for British Group of the Year. The Brits are taking a look across the pond as well, as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera are among the artists up for international recognition. The awards show takes place February 17 in London. …

Kid Rock has extended his North American tour through March 6 in Memphis, Tennessee. The 19-show trek kicks off January 22 in Saginaw, Michigan. … Slipknot have returned to producer Rick Rubin‘s Hollywood Hills studio to record a final three or four songs for the follow-up to their 2001 album, Iowa, the band posted on its Web site. The post added that singer Corey Taylor will be laying down vocals for at least the next couple weeks. The record is tentatively scheduled for summer. …

Detroit rapper and onetime FOE (Friend of Eminem) Royce Da 5’9″ is releasing a new studio album on February 24 called Death Is Certain. Production comes from Gang Starr‘s DJ Premier, who produced the album’s first single, “Hip-Hop,” as well as Carlos Broady, who once worked as one of P. Diddy‘s original “hitmen” producers. … So-Called Chaos, Alanis Morissette‘s follow-up to 2002′s Under Rug Swept, now carries an April 12 release date. The album’s first single, “Everything,” is expected to surface in early April. …

The inaugural Lepcon, a Def Leppard fan convention, is set to take place May 15 at Las Vegas’ Sahara Hotel and Casino. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Raven Drum Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by drummer Rick Allen that offers educational programs in American Indian arts. … Rolling Stone magazine cofounder Jann S. Wenner will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year in the non-performer category. Wenner is among the Rock Hall’s founders. … Skid Row‘s drummer Phil Varone has left the band for “personal reasons,” a post on the band’s Web site said. The band will announce his replacement soon. And before the end of the month, the group will film a video for “Ghost,” from its latest album, Thickskin.

01.12.04

On what would have otherwise been her honeymoon, Britney Spears spent her post-marriage/annulment days in Miami filming promos for her upcoming Showtime concert special. The program is a live, full-length concert from the Miami stop of her Onyx Hotel Tour. The concert, which will be shot on HDTV, will air March 28 at 9 p.m. ET, and will be tape-delayed on the West Coast. …

Clay Aiken spent Saturday afternoon at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, only he wasn’t there just to watch the game against East Carolina. At halftime the “American Idol” star, dressed in a green Charlotte jersey with his name on the back, presented a check for $20,000 to the school and performed “The Way” and “Invisible.” Charlotte won the game 81 to 65. …

Slick Rick‘s first show after being held in custody by immigration officials for nearly a year and a half was postponed just two days before it was set to take place January 9 at Brooklyn, New York’s Southpaw club. The eye-patched MC will instead re-emerge onstage January 23 at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan. Rick will also open Chris Rock‘s string of shows at Madison Square Garden, beginning January 28. …

At a conference over the weekend, Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), expressed disdain for a series of television ads featuring Snoop Dogg promoting Nokia cell phones. Nokia was the title sponsor of college football’s Bowl Championship Series Sugar Bowl game on January 4. Brand felt the commercials, in which Snoop solicits the viewing public to help him find out who swiped the national championship trophy using their Nokia phones, to be “inappropriate” for the collegiate atmosphere. He didn’t specify if it was the commercial’s content or Snoop’s presence that caused him concern. … The English royals need to brush up on their knowledge of heavy metal history. Prince Charles sent Ozzy Osbourne a bottle of Scotch as a get-well gift, unaware that the recovering rocker has had his problems with alcohol in the past. Osbourne is doing well after being seriously injured in an ATV accident last month. Ozzy’s wife, meanwhile, will return to her talk show, “The Sharon Osbourne Show,” on Monday (January 12) for the first time since the accident. …

Nick Lachey had better get used to having panties thrown his way. He’s set to play Tom Jones and sing “It’s Not Unusual” on the March 14 episode of NBC’s “American Dreams.” Also appearing in the episode is Liz Phair, who’ll perform “Walk in the Room” as Jackie DeShannon. Both artists are slated to tape their parts January 21. A week after their episode airs, Jason Mraz will adopt his best Dion for a rendition of “Ruby Baby,” while Fefe Dobson will be remade as Tina Turner, tentatively to sing “River Deep, Mountain High.” Mraz and Dobson are scheduled to tape their episode February 4. …

With shipments of more than 117 million copies, Elvis Presley has resumed his place as the King. Presley, who would have turned 69 Thursday, is the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history, according to the RIAA. Presley bumped Garth Brooks, who cracked the 100-million mark in October 2000, from the position. Meanwhile, “Tribute,” an 11-hour documentary on the rock pioneer, is in the works. … Hip-hop forefather Grandmaster Flash will officially announce the formation of his newly founded label January 26 at the MIDEM music conference, which will take place January 25-29 in Cannes, France. Called Adrenaline City Entertainment, the label will look to sign artists from all genres. …

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey‘s first new album in nearly seven years, You Are the Quarry, is expected to drop in April. Among the roughly 30 songs recorded for the follow-up to 1997′s Maladjusted are the tentatively titled “Teenage Dad On His Estate” and “Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice.” … The fifth annual Coachella Festival will be held May 1-2 at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. Last year, the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined a lineup of more than 75 artists. …

Before R.E.M. drop their new studio album at the end of the year, fans can get their fix for Athens’ finest on “Perfect Square,” a live DVD recorded July 19 in Germany. Performances of favorites such as “Man on the Moon,” “Losing My Religion” and “Orange Crush” are among the highlights of the 23-track disc, which is set for release February 23 in the U.K. There’s no word yet on a domestic release. … Bassist John Mark Bechtel has resigned from Systematic, the California band that was first to sign to Lars Ulrich‘s Music Company label. Bechtel, who replaced Nick St. Dennis in 2002, played on the band’s second album, 2003′s Pleasure to Burn.