For The Record: Quick News On Britney Spears, Diddy, 'American Idol,' Madonna, Guns N' Roses, DMX, U2 & More

Spears' Mother's Day gift helps kids; Diddy takes in Spring Fest; Madonna gets back in the saddle.

Whether or not Britney Spears is expecting a second baby may still be up for debate, but she's making the most of being a mother — of one, at least. The singer has teamed with 1-800-Flowers for Mother's Day, offering a Britney Spears Foundation stuffed bear that comes with a photo of Britney and the bear. For each one purchased, $5 of the proceeds will be donated to the singer's charity foundation, which funds a performing-arts camp for underprivileged kids. ...

Memorial Day came early this year in South Beach, Florida. A myriad of celebrities and fans were in town for the So So Sexy Spring Fest, a weekend's worth of concerts put on by Radio One. Young Jeezy, the Diplomats, Jermaine Dupri and Dem Franchize Boyz, Beenie Man and Sean Paul were among those who took the stage, and Diddy was also there. Interscope Records held a separate artist showcase, where several members of the G-Unit — including 50 Cent — were on hand to perform. (See snaps from the event right here.)

"American Idol" contenders past and present made news Saturday, and they didn't even have to appear onscreen to do it. Carrie Underwood received a Bachelor of Arts degree at a ceremony at Northeastern State University in her home state of Oklahoma. The "American Idol" winner graduated magna cum laude, majoring in mass communications with an emphasis in journalism. Finalist Kellie Pickler reunited with her just-released-from-prison father at a public celebration in their home town of Albemarle, North Carolina. The pink-themed event (Kellie's favorite color) also featured a parade and Pickler performing the national anthem. Also in North Carolina, Rockingham Mayor Eugene McLaurin II declared it Bucky Covington Day and the town held a Bucky Bash in honor of their "Idol" finalist. Bucky's twin brother, Rocky Covington, performed. ...

Madonna is back in the saddle after being thrown from a horse last year. The singer poses with six stallions in a 58-page cover story/photo spread in W magazine's June issue, on newsstands nationwide next week. Photographer Steven Klein shot Madonna on a Hollywood soundstage, where the singer played beauty to the beasts — striking poses in the horses' stalls, wearing a bridle in her mouth, catching a horse by the tail and, taking a cue from Lady Godiva, posing topless with a riding crop.(Click to see photos from the W layout.)

Axl Rose made a very rare, surprise in-studio appearance on a radio show this weekend, during which he discussed the upcoming Guns N' Roses tour and set yet another tentative due date for the band's long-awaited Chinese Democracy, according to The Associated Press. "Friday Night Rocks" guest co-host and ex-Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach rang up Rose's cell, and he later visited the studio, saying Democracy would drop "Sometime this fall or late fall." ... Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards underwent surgery in New Zealand on Monday (May 8) to relieve pressure in his head, according to AP. That problem was caused by an accident he suffered in late April, the details of which are still being kept under wraps. ...

DMX's long-delayed Year of the Dog ... Again now has a release date of August 1. X just released his next single, the Scott Storch-produced "Lord Give Me a Sign." ... U2 frontman Bono will serve as the guest editor of British daily newspaper The Independent May 16 to help raise money to fight AIDS in Africa. The paper will donate half its revenue for the day to Project RED, an initiative set up by Bono and Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa chairman Bobby Shriver to get the corporate world behind the fight against HIV/AIDS. "Our readers have already shown, by their contribution to our annual charity appeals, their interest and concern in Africa," Editor in Chief Simon Kelner said. "Bono has a unique insight into world affairs, and, as guest editor, will produce a newspaper that, in the best traditions of The Independent, will be challenging, ground-breaking and exciting." ...

Ice Cube is already a rap icon, actor, director and more, but now he's branching into a new field: philanthropy. Last week he visited the St. Paul, Minnesota, campus of the McNally Smith College of Music to announce the Ice Cube Scholarship, to be awarded each year to an incoming McNally student. A spokesperson for the college told MTV News that the first Cube scholarship would be handed out to a deserving fan in the fall, though he wouldn't reveal any financial details. The college — which offers degrees in music performance, recording technology and music business — also has scholarships named for soul legend Diana Ross and former Minutemen and Firehose bassist Mike Watt. ... After testifying Friday at a federal bankruptcy hearing, Suge Knight said he would attempt to revive Death Row. "Got to play for the people," Knight said outside of court, according to an AP report. The hip-hop mogul, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 4, blamed his incarceration for the label's decline. He failed to answer a number of questions at the hearing, which was convened to give creditors an opportunity to gather information about his assets and debts. According to documents filed April 20, Knight had only $11 in the bank, and owned $1,000 worth of clothing, $2,000 in furniture and appliances, and $25,000 worth of jewelry. The Internal Revenue Service has placed a lien on Knight's largest asset, unspecified publishing and copyrights worth $4.4 million. ...

Shakira, Daddy Yankee and Marc Anthony were among the honorees at the 2006 Alma Awards, presented by the National Council of La Raza to celebrate achievements by Hispanic artists in music, television and film. Shakira and Daddy Yankee were named outstanding musical performers, and Shakira also took the Best Spanish Album prize. Anthony was honored with the Celia Cruz Award for Excellence in Music, presented by Brian McKnight, who performed Anthony's Grammy-nominated "You Sang to Me" in English and Spanish. The ceremony, hosted by Eva Longoria, airs June 5 on ABC. ... Nickelback are doing the road thing again. The Canadian rockers will headline 10 Midwest and Northeast shows June 30-July 26, open eight Bon Jovi performances at even bigger venues, then snake through the rest of the country August 8-September 16. The band's All the Right Reasons has been sitting pretty on the Billboard albums chart since its release in October. ...

Grant McLennan, leader of long-running band the Go-Betweens and one of the most respected singer/songwriters in Australian rock history, died in his sleep on Saturday in Brisbane, Australia, according to a post on the band's Web site. He was 48. No cause of death was given. McLennan formed the Go-Betweens with Robert Forster in the late 1970s, and the pair released a string of influential indie-rock albums before splitting in 1989. McLennan released four solo albums and worked with the band Jack Frost before reuniting with Forster in 2000 for the Go-Betweens album The Friends of Rachel Worth, which featured members of Sleater-Kinney. Groups from R.E.M. to Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian have cited the Go-Betweens as an influence. ... Hot 97 isn't going to be smoked out without a battle. According to The Associated Press, the owners of the New York hip-hop station filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against their landlord on Friday in response to an eviction suit filed last week by the Carpenters Union Pension Fund, which owns the building. The Fund is seeking to evict the popular radio station because it says a series of violent incidents — including three shootings and two bomb threats and a dozen other incidents since 2000 — have made it fear for its other tenants' safety. Hot 97 has six years left on its lease.

05.05.2006

Michael Jackson is demanding GQ pull its May issue, now on stands, after the magazine chose to run a series of photos depicting a Jackson impersonator, The Associated Press reported Friday (May 5). The May issue article "Where's Michael?" is accompanied with photos featuring the impersonator at various locations in Bahrain, where the singer now lives. A Jackson representative released a statement Friday saying the singer is "furious" with the spoof and is also demanding an apology from the magazine. ...

It's been a while since Guns N' Roses weren't the headline act. Axl Rose's band — even if it's comprised of unknowns who aren't Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Matt Sorum — shouldn't have to open for anyone. But it seems that Axl is willing to make an exception when it comes to the Rolling Stones. GN'R will join the band on their Bigger Bang European tour, opening for the band on July 10 in Nürnberg, Germany, and July 12 in Leipzig, Germany, according to the Stones' Web site. Guns N' Roses have opened for the Mick Jagger-fronted group before, warming up the crowd during a four-night stand at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum back in 1989. GN'R have four headlining gigs scheduled for May 12, 14, 15, and 17 at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, the band's first U.S. concerts in more than three years. ...

The cast of "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale: The Fantasia Barrino Story" — a Lifetime movie based on the autobiographical book of the same name by the "American Idol" winner — is heading to New Orleans. Principal photography will begin this month for the flick, which now includes her mother, JoJo Barrino; Loretta Devine ("Crash," "Waiting to Exhale"); "Get Rich or Die Tryin' " actress Viola Davis; and Kadeem Hardison ("A Different World," "Biker Boyz"), who will play the Grammy-nominated singer's father. Debbie Allen — who has directed episodes of "All of Us," "A Different World" and "Girlfriends" — will be behind the lens. ...

It's been three months since Great White's former tour manager Daniel Biechele pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from his role in the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that claimed 100 lives. One week away from sentencing, Biechele is working to avoid prison. The AP reports that Biechele's lawyers filed a sentencing memorandum Thursday, requesting community service rather than hard time. The memo said that Biechele never intended to harm anyone and couldn't have known about the flammable foam that lined the club's walls and fueled the fire. The attorney general's office is seeking the maximum prison term allowable, but Biechele's attorneys said he'd "better serve the memory of these victims by performing community service and working as a productive citizen than by sitting in a prison cell." The document also claims that the manager attempted to douse the flames inside the Station nightclub with a hose. ...

According to Rob Zombie's Web site, Anthrax will serve as the openers for the upcoming American Witch Across America Tour, which will kick off sometime this spring. An announcement revealing the dates and cities for the run are expected this month. ... Shooter Jennings, the son of country greats Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, will be opening for two of Alice in Chains' five U.S. club dates. Jennings will warm up the crowd for the Los Angeles gig set for May 18 and San Diego show May 19. Alice in Chains will also be performing in Chicago (May 21), Boston (May 22) and New York (May 23). The opening acts for those shows have not been revealed. ... Former Fuel frontman Brett Scallions has moved on, hooking up with Circus Diablo, a band featuring the Cult's Billy Duffy and Camp Freddy's Billy Morrison. But Scallions is not going to be singing with the group — he'll be slapping the bass instead. "It is an absolute pleasure to work with Brett," Morrison wrote on Circus Diablo's Web site. "We played shows with each other during the Cult tour, and his work in Fuel was outstanding. Let me tell you, not only can the man sing, he can lay that sh-- down on the bass as well." ...

Along with joining the Warped Tour for two weeks in June, the Buzzcocks will headline their own dates before and after. The influential punk band is promoting the just-released Flat Pack Philosophy. ... Cracker have set a June 6 release date for their new record, Greenland. The album features guest appearances from David Immerglück from the Counting Crows and Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse. ... Three Days Grace will release their second album, One-X, June 13. The first single, "Animal I Have Become," was just released. ... And in yet more new-releases news, Los Angeles buzz band the Silversun Pickups will release their debut full-length, Carnavas, July 11. ...

The two-CD rap compilation Rep Yo Set, due August 8, will feature songs from 27 members of Los Angeles' most notorious street gangs who are trying to realize their hip-hop dreams. A spokesperson called the effort a kind of " 'American Idol' for the 'hood." The album, slated to be followed by a documentary, is an attempt by producers to give gangbangers a chance to turn their lives around by doing something positive — a portion of the proceeds will go to local communities. The producers say they've discovered such untapped talents as G-Cell of the Avalon Gangsta Crips, Squeak RU from the Neighborhood Pirus and Red Rum of the Avenue Pirus. ...

The Candlebox reunion is in full swing. After a seven-year hiatus, the Seattle rockers are about to issue a career-spanning retrospective, The Best of Candlebox, on May 27. And on June 10 in Kansas City, Missouri, the band plans to launch a 48-date U.S. tour, which will run through September 5 in Amarillo, Texas. ... Blue October are postponing their current tour after singer Justin Furstenfeld was sidelined with a broken leg following a post-show run of the bases at Clearwater, Florida's Bright House Networks Field on Saturday. The band's manager says dates scheduled for May will be made up in late June and July, and estimates that Furstenfeld will be back onstage June 17 for Houston radio festival Buzz Fest XVII, which also features Staind, Hoobastank, Shinedown and Trapt.

[This story originally published at 8:03 p.m. ET on 05.05.06]