Mary-Kate Olsen has changed her mind about going back to New York University for the fall semester. Where before she was considering doing an independent study instead, she's now decided to take an approved leave of absence, "to focus on business and to pursue personal interests," according to her rep, who stressed that the actress is not dropping out. ...

Foxy Brown is going deaf, suffering severe and sudden sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. "I started breaking down in tears and screaming and I couldn't even hear myself scream," she told People magazine. Even though she's not responding to treatment, she has hope that she'll rap again. "I know God is working on me," she said. "I'm on a personal journey. I believe God wants to be the only voice I hear right now. I know I will be all right." ... R. Kelly appeared in a Chicago court on Friday to ask for yet another continuance for a pretrial hearing in his upcoming child-pornography case. The request was granted, and his appearance at the next hearing, to be held October 28, is being waived so that the R&B singer can perform at a hurricane relief benefit concert in Los Angeles. ...

He's been killing the mixtapes all year, the latest gem being his "Best of Both Hoods" freestyle with Young Jeezy. But what about the album? From the reaction Juelz Santana got on Thursday night from the crowd at New York's Sony Studios to hear his sophomore LP, What the Game's Been Missing, he has nothing to worry about. There's a track on the album with Cam'ron and Sizzla called "Shottas" that's aimed to close the clubs down. He has another record he's considering for his second single called "Oh Yes," which samples "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes. Also on the set is "Daddy," on which Santana talks to his newborn son. After the listening party, Juelz ducked into LL Cool J's session at the studios. Pharrell Williams was also there working Thursday night. ... Pink wants Chicago circuses to pack their trunks — the city is already considering an elephant-protection ordinance, after the sudden death of three elephants at a local zoo. So the singer wrote a letter to Chicago mayor Richard Daley on the behalf of PETA, telling him that the big tops use bullhooks and electric prods. "Elephants need many acres to roam and suffer a great deal when chained or kept in cramped spaces for extended periods," she wrote. The ordinance will be discussed at an upcoming committee hearing before going to a full city-council vote. ...

Carrie Underwood has named her debut album, due November 15, Some Hearts. The first single is titled "Jesus Take the Wheel." ... It turns out Tommy Lee suffered minor burns on his arms and face in Wednesday night's pyrotechnic mishap during the band's gig in Casper, Wyoming, according to Mötley Crüe's Web site. Lee was treated for his injuries and is expected to make a full recovery. The online post said that Friday night's (October 14) show in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Saturday's gig in Rapid City, South Dakota, will go on as scheduled. ... A Static Lullaby's Philip Pirrone was seriously injured Wednesday in a car accident in Chino Hills, California, according to his label spokesperson. The bassist is currently in an intensive care unit, but doctors expect a full recovery. ...

Taking time out from his busy schedule of breaking bad guys' arms and practicing hard-core Buddhism, Steven Seagal is making his way down to Memphis to record an all-star blues album. He's gathered the "last of the living blues legends" (according to a hyperbolic press release) to record an LP full of blues standards and Seagal's own tunes, taken from his album Songs From the Crystal Cave ("a #1 seller in France!"). Artists scheduled to appear on the album include Bo Diddley, Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, Ruth Brown and Jamaican gangster/Seagal nemesis in "Marked for Death" Screwface (not really). The still-untitled album is due in 2006. ... No Doubt's Tony Kanal and Rancid's Tim Armstrong are playing together in tribute to Sublime, who will be honored October 24 at a benefit concert for the MusiCares MAP fund and hurricane relief at Los Angeles' Henry Fonda Theater. Joining Kanal and Armstrong will be Fishbone's Angelo Moore, and together they'll play a Sublime tune "plus more," according to event organizers. Also on the bill are Unwritten Law, Ozomatli, Blackalicious and more. ...

Tom Petty is getting the top honor at the upcoming Billboard Music Awards, called the Century Award, which salutes the creative achievement of an artist's still-developing body of work. "This award comes at a particularly nice time as the Heartbreakers and I go into the 30th year of our career," Petty said. The show will air live on FOX from Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 6 at 8 p.m. ET (tape delayed PT). ... What's $99, plays MP3s and looks like a Pez dispenser? Well, the new Pez MP3 player. The pocket-sized device was cooked up by a stay-at-home dad/inventor and it looks exactly like the classic Pal Boy character, but instead of hard candy, it holds about 120 songs or can be used as a USB drive to store data. It comes pre-loaded with songs by obscure indie rockers like the Icicles, Bearsuit, Kiddo and Sodastream, and can be loaded up with songs from most major download sites, except iTunes. Look for more information at pezmp3.com. ...

10.13.2005

Christina Aguilera is now hitting for the other team. Despite being a lifelong Coke drinker — or at least claiming to be one when she did a Coke commercial for Latin America — the singer just shot an ad for Pepsi that will also only air internationally. In this one, she wears a feathered tiara, sarong and a swimsuit, although Pepsi won't divulge what the concept is. What the soda giant will say is that Xtina has "truly encapsulated the 'Dare for More' approach." Even though this ad isn't for American audiences, it'll likely break through on the Internet the way Britney, Beyoncé and Pink's gladiator-themed Pepsi ad did in early 2004, so keep an eye out. ...

The Game, Celine Dion, Chingy, JoJo, Jesse McCartney and Ruben Studdard are among the artists lending their voices to the hurricane relief charity single "Come Together Now." Actress Sharon Stone and songwriter/socialite Denise Rich teamed up to write the track, which will be unveiled on Monday during a press conference in Hollywood. Mya, Nick Carter, Joss Stone, John Legend, Angie Stone and Wyclef Jean are also on the song, the proceeds from which will go to Habitat for Humanity. ... That's only the first of two hurricane relief songs Wyclef has done recently. The second is a duet with Norah Jones called "Any Other Day," which will be released on Friday and benefits the American Red Cross and AmeriCares for Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief. "As a child growing up in Haiti, I experienced the wrath and destructive power of hurricanes," Jean said. "And as an adult, going back, I have had the opportunity to serve in hurricane relief efforts as well. No one can challenge Mother Nature. All we can do is band together the best we can as one family and help everyone get back on their feet." ...

50 Cent and Young Buck have announced two new grants they'll be distributing through 50's G-Unity Foundation. The first, going to the Nashville Alliance for Public Education, will help fund AVID (Advance Via Individual Determination), which is a national program designed to increase students' academic performance. Then Houston's Teach for America will be presented with a $100,000 grant, which will be used to assist in the organization's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Houston's Independent School District has taken in thousands of students displaced by the devastating storm. ... Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba raised more than $150,000 for hurricane relief last month through three benefit concerts his band staged; all featured Coheed and Cambria, the New Amsterdams and the Honorary Title in the opening slots. Money raised from the gigs will be presented to Save the Children, Direct Relief International and AmeriCares. Carrabba also donated the track "Ghost of a Good Thing," a song he performed during MTV's "ReAct Now: Music and Relief" concert. The song is available for download at various online music retailers, with all proceeds earmarked for the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. ...

Jessica Simpson's boots are made for walkin' — the singer is rolling out a footwear line next month, starting with slouchy boots in styles called "The Daisy" and "The Jessica." The Jessica Simpson Footwear line will be followed by studded heels and strappy sandals in the $59-$159 price range in the spring. ... Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony must subscribe to the notion that the couple that plays together, stays together — they're both headlining a three-day fiesta in the Dominican Republic this weekend, the annual Presidente Latin Music Festival in Santo Domingo. Other acts on the bill include Daddy Yankee, Chayanne and Diego Torres, as well as a whole slew of local performers. ...

Mariah Carey admits in her cover story in the November issue of CosmoGirl that she has a bit of a case of arrested development — she still walks barefoot on tiptoe the way she did when she was 4 years old, and she's still writing about things that happened when she was a little girl. It's that innocence, she says, that makes her songs profound. "I think I am a romantic and that's why I can write love songs that people relate to," she told the mag. "It might even be a memory from eighth grade. I haven't lost that side of who I am." ... Nelly will get a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame next month. The rapper is being honored because he often makes reference to and promotes his hometown through his music and videos, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Nelly's in good company on the Walk of Fame: Other inductees include Chuck Berry, Phyllis Diller, T.S. Eliot, Redd Foxx, Ozzie Smith and Ike and Tina Turner. ...

Civil-rights activist and anti-hip-hop crusader C. DeLores Tucker died Wednesday in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She was 78. Well-known in Pennsylvania politics, Tucker gained national prominence in the mid-'90s for her high-profile battle against what she deemed misogynistic and obscene rap lyrics. She was, she once famously declared, "ready to go to jail, ready to die, whatever is necessary to stop this pornographic filth," and for years was embroiled in contentious legal and occasionally intensely personal battles with some of rap's biggest names, including Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. Tucker filed numerous lawsuits against rappers and record companies, including one against the late Tupac's estate for rhyming her name with an obscenity on his album All Eyez on Me. A federal judge eventually tossed the suit. ... Isley Brothers frontman Ronald Isley went on trial in Los Angeles on Wednesday for several charges of tax evasion. R. Kelly's preferred vocalist allegedly abused funds, demanding payment of tour fees in cash, making it tough to track where exactly that money went, like whether it was used to pay off legitimate expenses or pocketed for his own personal profit. Prosecutors say he also lifted royalty checks meant for other "Isley Brothers-related enterprises and people," according to Reuters. If convicted, Isley could face up to 26 years behind bars. ...

Pam Anderson and Bryan Adams are shooting a video on Thursday (October 13) in Hollywood for their new duet, "When You're Gone." The song will be included on Adams' greatest-hits collection Anthology, due Tuesday. The two first worked together when Adams shot Anderson for his 1999 photo book, "Made in Canada," in which she wore nothing but a flag. ... The Lovehammers, the Chicago band featuring "Rock Star: INXS" runner-up Marty Casey, have been tapped to open for INXS on their Switched On winter tour, as was hinted at on the show. The trek kicks off January 18 in Vancouver, British Columbia. ...

Tegan and Sara recently took a break from touring to tape a guest appearance on Showtime's "The L Word." The episode will air in the spring. ... Black Rob wants you to bet on black: To help promote his first album in five years, The Black Rob Report, out October 18, the rapper is offering a chance for fans to win a trip for two to Las Vegas (call 1-888-ROB-1018 to enter). Tracks on the new album include "Star in the Hood," "Watch Your Movements" featuring Akon, "She's a Pro," "B.L.A.C.K." and the first single, "Ready." ...