Ne-Yo's publicist is flatly denying claims that the singer will announce that he's gay during a New York press conference this week and in an upcoming issue of Essence magazine. An e-mail purportedly including quotes from the interview and attributed to a woman named Barbra Stradoff at Essence has also been circulating. "It's completely false," a Def Jam representative said. "There's isn't a staff member by that name at Essence, nor is Ne-Yo going to be featured in the October issue of the magazine."...

After lining up a series of media appearances promoting her new album, A Public Affair, Jessica Simpson has canceled nearly all the scheduled stops — but she did appear on "TRL" Tuesday (August 29) after all. The singer has lost her voice and will not join "Today" on Tuesday or "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Wednesday, while what was set to be a performance on "TRL" was scaled back to just an appearance and autograph signing. "Her voice capabilities are at a minimum," her label rep said. Simpson won't be canceling all her plans while she's in New York — her roller-skating record-release party set for Tuesday night at the Roxy is still a go. ...

William Smith, the music producer Taylor Hicks filed suit against on August 22 after he made three of the singer's pre-"Idol" recordings available on iTunes, told MTV News Tuesday afternoon that the proceedings have been killed. Smith said the two sides reached a settlement before the matter made its way into the halls of Alabama's U.S. District Court, but he would not discuss the specifics of the agreement — a court order prevents him from detailing the terms. Still, Smith did say, "Taylor has thanked me for helping his career," and called the settlement "amiable." ...

Beyoncé will perform in New York's Times Square on September 8 as part of her appearance on "Good Morning America" that morning. The show airs at 7 a.m. ET on ABC. ... Even though his platinum tank has run out of steam, No Limit founder Master P continues to motor forward with business ventures. According to representatives for the rapper, the New Orleans native has launched a hip-hop inspired play based on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Written and produced by P, the touring drama is also set to feature his son Lil Romeo and brother Silkk the Shocker. Uncle Willy, which stars Terry Miles, revolves around a Vietnam veteran regrouping his family after his home, possessions and city are all destroyed by the catastrophe. The project will be the first in a series of upcoming gospel plays by Master P. Uncle Willy begins September 7 in Meridian, Mississippi. ...

Tanya Stephens, the woman suing Lil' Kim for copyright infringement over the song "Durty," has issued a statement defending the lawsuit — which Kim's lawyer characterized as a "money and media play" — as an attempt to get some credit. "If she had bothered to give props where due even once, I would have said, 'Let it go,' " Stephens said. "That isn't even one of my better works. Really, if she had linked me, I would've written her a much better song for free." ... "The Cheetah Girls 2" was the most watched program on TV all day Friday, with the Disney Channel original movie even scoring higher ratings than the wildly successful "High School Musical," according to The Hollywood Reporter. The original cable musical, which stars Raven-Symone and members of 3LW, attracted 7.8 million total viewers and a whopping 61 share in the girls 9-11 demo. ...

Linkin Park have finally made their catalog available on iTunes. All three of the band's albums will also feature two bonus tracks and an iTunes exclusive apiece. "We were really excited when iTunes told us that we were one of their most requested acts," Mike Shinoda said in a statement. "We will never ignore our fans and the timing seemed right to make our music available, with some special additions." ... Six-String Masterpieces: The Dimebag Darrell Art Tribute — featuring Dean ML guitars designed by the likes of Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, "Rock Star: Supernova" host Dave Navarro, Kiss' Ace Frehley, Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Slayer's Kerry King, Rob Zombie, Korn and even Kelly Clarkson — will be traveling with the Family Values Tour beginning Friday with a stop in Holmdel, New Jersey, through the September 20 show in West Palm Beach, Florida. ...

Beck will curate this year's Wired Next Music series. Artists slated for the event, set for September 26 at New York's Irving Plaza, include Jamie Lidell and Of Montreal. Last year's bill was curated by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and included Joanna Newsom and the Handsome Family. ... Speaking of Tweedy, the Wilco frontman will release "Sunken Treasure," a DVD documenting his 2006 solo tour. Due October 24, the disc will include 17 tracks from his stints in Wilco, Uncle Tupelo and Loose Fur. ... SpiralFrog announced Tuesday that it had signed a deal with the world's leading record label, the Universal Music Group, to make UMG's music and video catalogs available for legal download in the U.S. and Canada. The catch? The digital-rights-managed downloads are free and legal. The site, supported by ad revenue, said it aims to launch later this year. ...

Tom Cruise has made a deal with a group that will finance the overhead costs of his film-production company, the Los Angeles Times reports. Daniel M. Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, is one of the investors behind the two-year deal, which amounts to less than $3 million. Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner had been receiving about $10 million annually from Paramount Pictures (owned by Viacom, which also owns MTV) to cover their overhead under the previous deal. ... The Black Crowes announced Monday that longtime keyboardist Eddie Hawrysch — who has played with the group since 1991 — has been "released from the band due to personal issues." The group did not specify what the issues were. Hawrysch will be replaced by Rob Clores on the group's fall tour. In other Crowes news, a manufacturing error is keeping the band's two-disc Lost Crowes collection, originally due Tuesday, off store shelves until September 26. ...

The typically private Bruce Springsteen took to his Web site this week to refute rumors that his marriage to E Street Band backup singer Patti Scialfa is on the rocks. "I hesitate to use this Web site for anything personal believing it should remain a place where fans of my music can come free of the distractions that occasionally arise with the rest of my job," Springsteen wrote. "However, due to the unfounded and ugly rumors that have appeared in the papers over the last few days, I felt they shouldn't pass without comment. Patti and I have been together for 18 years — the best 18 years of my life. We have built a beautiful family we love and want to protect and our commitment to one another remains as strong as the day we were married." The move was prompted by a tabloid report last week that claimed Springsteen's marriage was shaky due to an alleged relationship with a September 11 widow he'd met while organizing a charity event.

08.28.2006

Lil' Kim's legal problems aren't over yet — though the rapper is out of jail after serving 10 months on perjury charges, she's now facing a copyright-infringement lawsuit. The suit, which also names Kim's record label Atlantic and was filed last week in a New York federal court, claims that Kim stole her song "Durty" nearly word for word from a 1997 track by Jamaican reggae singer Tanya Stephens called "Mi and Mi God." In response, Kim's lawyer L. Londell McMillan claims the song wasn't stolen, but interpolated, "which happens all the time in hip-hop." Stephens claims in her suit that she was shocked to hear her words in Lil' Kim's song — even though Kim had flown her out to New York in 1999, asked her to sing on one of her albums, and sang "Mi and Mi God" to Stephens to demonstrate how much she liked her music. Kim counters, however, that Stephens never objected to the use of her song until after she failed to get more money for it being licensed. "This matter should have been resolved, but it appears to be another money and media play at Lil' Kim's expense," her lawyer said. Stephens claims she should receive all past and future royalties on the song. ...

Foxy Brown (real name Inga Marchand) pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges Monday (August 28), but then quickly tried to retract her plea, The Associated Press reports. The charges stemmed from her notorious nail-salon fight in 2004, and the plea deal will result in three years of probation and anger-management classes — but no jail time, according to a Manhattan, New York, district attorney spokesperson. She is due to be sentenced October 23. Brown's plea has wavered since the incident: In April 2005, she pleaded not guilty to the charges, but was then expected to make a deal in December. On Monday, after entering her guilty plea, she returned to the courtroom claiming she had been rushed into the decision. "The plea stands," the judge told her. ...

Protests have prompted concert promoters in Moscow to change the venue for Madonna's long-awaited concert there on September 12, AP reports. City officials feared police would not be able to monitor the originally scheduled venue in Vorobyovye Gory, and now it will be taking place at Luzhniki Stadium instead. ... The All-American Rejects have no intentions of returning home anytime soon. In late October, the band will launch its Tour-Nado run with openers the Gym Class Heroes, Starting Line and the Format on the first half of the tour, with the latter two bands plus Motion City Soundtrack warming up the audience on the second half. The trek kicks off in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 27, with 26 dates scheduled through December 19 in Chicago. ...

When he's done working on new music with Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, Swizz Beatz plans to move on to the next Usher album — which the singer can't really record until he finishes up his current Broadway stint in "Chicago" on October 1. "He's a music man, so he's probably studying his lines and coming up with hooks at the same time, multitasking," Swizz said. "I've been in the background working on the album, so when he spins the wheel and it stops on me, I deliver." Don't worry, Swizz — Usher promises he's thinking ahead: "You got to stay tuned," he teased. That's good news for label head Clive Davis, who Usher claimed disrupted his Broadway debut with his Cassie ringtone (Clive swears it wasn't him). "Get off your cell phone and make a great album 10 weeks from now," Davis teased. "That's an order!" ...

Now that he's showed off his rhyming skills, Kevin Federline is setting out for triple-threat territory. The singer/dancer is scheduled to appear on an episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS this fall. The 28-year-old — whose previous TV series experience came with the widely panned reality show "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic" — started shooting his part in Los Angeles on Thursday night. He plays a menacing, arrogant teen who harasses two investigators on the show. The episode is tentatively scheduled to air in October. ...

John Mayer will also appear on "CSI," but he's sticking with what he does best. Mayer will have a cameo on the series' two-part season premiere (airing September 21 and 28 on CBS) in a scene set in a Las Vegas club. He'll perform the tracks "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" from his latest album, Continuum, due September 12. In other John Mayer news, the singer missed a concert in Hartford, Connecticut, on Saturday due to "sudden onset" of laryngitis, according to a press release. The show went on with co-headliner Sheryl Crow and opening act Mat Kearney. Ticket holders who did not enter the gates are eligible for a refund. ...

Teddy Geiger is playing a benefit show at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in New York on Wednesday. The concert will help support the Stella Maris Regional School Music in Education program, which provides keyboards, guitars and music lessons to students. For more information on the show, visit WHBPAC.org. ... Guitarist Jesse Pintado, a founding member of grindcore/ death-metal specialists Terrorizer and the man who replaced Bill Steer in Napalm Death back in 1990, died over the weekend in a hospital in Holland, a spokesperson for his label has confirmed. The pioneering metal guitarist left Napalm Death in 2004 to revive Terrorizer. Century Media Records will be releasing further details on Pintado's passing later this week. ...

A Broadway-style musical based on Michael Jackson's biggest hits, "Thriller Live," made its debut in London's West End theater district on Sunday, according to BBC News. The show features more than 80 performers singing and dancing along to the '80s pop star's most memorable tunes — from the early Motown years as part of the Jackson Five, to his success with Thriller and other solo albums — alongside a gospel choir and a children's ballet troupe. While Jackson was not involved with the production, he has given it his blessing, according to the show's producer. ... And it may no longer be his home, but Jackson was likely watching intently on Friday as a wildfire came within a quarter-mile of his Neverland Ranch in California, scorching more than 40 acres but not harming any of his zoo animals or amusement park rides, The Associated Press reported. The cause of the blaze is being investigated. ...

"High School Musical" took two of the six Emmys it was nominated for — scoring Choreography and Children's Program honors at last week's presentation of Creative Arts awards — while "American Idol" was shut out after receiving seven nominations. The winners of the big prizes at Sunday night's 58th annual Primetime Emmy Awards were "24" and "The Office," while "The Daily Show" took two trophies. (Click to see red-carpet shots of Eva Longoria, Randy Jackson, Stephen Colbert and more.) ... When they're not using their MySpace page to post diatribes against Paris Hilton or Danger Mouse, long-idle British trip-hoppers Portishead are posting material from their much-anticipated third album on the site. They've just posted two selections that are really just beats — an ominous, jittery number called "Greek Jam," and a chiming piece called "Key Bored 299 03," reminiscent of a Boards of Canada tune. There is still no title or release date for the band's new album, their first since 1997's Portishead.