For The Record: Quick News On Mary J. Blige, Snoop, Pharrell, Michelle Branch, My Chemical Romance & More

Blige to headline Essence fest; R. Kelly remixes national anthem; Branch gets testy.

Mary J. Blige will headline the Essence Music Festival, which is usually held in New Orleans but will take place at Reliant Park in Houston until the hurricane-ravaged city is rebuilt. Additional artists for the festival, happening July 1-3, remain to be announced. ...

You may have missed it if you're not a boxing fan, but R. Kelly's expanded his body of work to include a remix of the national anthem, which is now circulating on the Internet as a bootleg clip. Before the Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor match at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay two weeks ago, the R&B singer put a little step into "The Star-Spangled Banner," adding dancers steppin' in the ring. Between phrases, Kelly urged the crowd to clap along — but boxing fans seemed offended and have taken to tearing Kelly apart on message boards. As ESPN's Scoop Jackson wonders in his column, "Did Kelly bastardize it, or beautify it?" ... Snoop Dogg's record as a Pee Wee Football coach just keeps improving. After his Rowland Heights, California, Rolling Raiders took their division's Super Bowl title, Snoop's team bested the Victorville, California, Hawks in the inaugural Friendship Bowl this past weekend. According to the Victorville Daily Press, Coach Snoop said of his team's 40-0 trouncing of the Hawks following the shutout, "That's just business as usual. I wouldn't expect nothing less. We took them behind the toolshed and whooped them." ...

Scott Storch is heated about being snubbed for a Producer of the Year Grammy nomination, but he did wipe the frown off his face to party in Miami on Friday night. Timbaland, Alex Rodriguez, Pharrell Williams and Hulk Hogan all came out to wish him a happy birthday. ... Michelle Branch posted a late-night tirade recently on her Wreckers band Web site, taking her fans to task for them "bitching" about her new music taking so long to come out, and complaining that her record label forced her to do "a lame ass tour" while she was pregnant and made her record with Santana when she didn't want to (the message board was then taken down). Now her partner in the Wreckers, Jessica Harp, and her manager Stuart Dill have responded to the rant, explaining that the singer is under a lot of pressure, and her response was understandable. Harp told the Tennessean newspaper, "Perhaps Michelle did overreact a little bit, but she's human. It was the middle of the night. ... Everyone gets angry sometimes. I completely support her." Meanwhile, Dill told the paper, "There are always pressure points and often huge hurdles in making a record and getting it out." The Wreckers album is due in May. ...

The soundtrack to the forthcoming film "Underworld: Evolution" will feature exclusive fresh and remixed material from My Chemical Romance, Hawthorne Heights, Alkaline Trio, Senses Fail, Slipknot, Atreyu, Trivium and others. In addition, the album will include the first solo recording from Linkin Park's Chester Bennington and a track from Puscifer, Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's side project with former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner. ... Beck's Guero won Best Made-for-Surround Title last week at the 2005 Surround Music Awards. Ben Harper won Best Concert Video for "Live at the Apollo" at the ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. ... Boy George's Monday (December 19) court appearance on drug charges was adjourned by a Manhattan judge because the singer is in England. The singer, who was arrested October 7 after he called 911 to report a burglary and police found cocaine in his apartment, is due back in court February 1.

The Rolling Stones spent a good part of 2005 on the road, and will start off 2006 in much the same way. The group has booked 14 more North American gigs, and has lined up a host of openers for those dates. Sloan will warm up crowds in Boston on January 13 and 15, Metric will perform for the tour's New York stops on January 18 and 20, Antigone Rising will take the stage in Chicago on January 23 and 25 and in Baltimore on February 1, and Queens of the Stone Age will join the trek for the March 4 date in Las Vegas and the March 6 stop in Los Angeles. ... Toronto's No Warning have called it quits. But there's a new project on the way from some of the band's members, according to a statement posted on the group's MySpace page. The unnamed band is "very different ... musically with a fresh start, but we promise you will dig it." No Warning's last album, Suffer, Survive, was released in 2004 through Linkin Park's Machine Shop imprint. ...

After more than a decade of making ultra-literate, low-fi alt-country, the Silver Jews are finally gearing up to launch their first-ever tour. The band — a vehicle for the work of poet/musician David Berman that occasionally also features guitars and drums from former Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich — will hit the road starting March 10 in Athens, Georgia, and wrap things up March 25 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Silver Jews released their fifth album, Tanglewood Numbers, in October. ... Travis have just finished their third session at London's Hospital studio with producer Nigel Godrich, who twiddled the knobs on the band's 1999 album, The Man Who, and the 2001 follow-up, The Invisible Band. The group has written around 20 songs for the still-untitled new album, which is tentatively due next year. ...

12.16.2005

R. Kelly appeared in a Chicago court Friday (December 16) to once again try to get the child-pornography charges against him dismissed. His attorneys argued that the prosecutors' phrasing that the singer "knew or should have known" that the girl was underage was contradictory, vague and unconstitutional. They'll get to make the argument about the wording, which, the state attorney's office said, is used in "all kinds of statutes," during a hearing scheduled for February 10. ...

With barely enough time to recover after being voted world's worst dog owner by readers of New York Dog and Hollywood Dog magazines, Paris Hilton has topped PETA's worst-dressed list, thanks to her fondness for wearing fur. "Now we know what happens to all of Paris Hilton's cast-off pets," PETA writes. Also on the animal-rights activists' list are Kimberly Stewart, Victoria Gotti, Lisa Gastineau and Tara Reid, who are all castigated ("Gotti's fur coats make her an accessory to murder, and it's a look that goes well with cement shoes") for their furry wardrobes ... Talk about father of the year. Master P has agreed to fill in for his son, Romeo, in the upcoming second season of the hit reality show "Dancing With the Stars." With Romeo reportedly sidelined by a basketball injury, P will team up with professional dancer Ashly DelGrosso, the bubbly stepper who paired with ex-New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre last season. P will be battling against actresses Tia Carrere, Tatum O'Neal and Lisa Rinna, journalist Giselle Fernandez, actor George Hamilton, WWE personality Stacy Keibler, ex-98 Degrees member Drew Lachey, ESPN host Kenny Mayne and legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice. ...

A whole mess of A-listers are featured in David LaChapelle's forthcoming photo book "Artists and Prostitutes" — from Madonna (as a Hindu goddess), Paris Hilton (wearing a bikini reading "Eat the Rich") and Diddy (about to lick a gold-painted woman) to Jennifer Lopez (in a "Flashdance" pose), Alicia Keys (with piano aflame), Pink (setting her bedroom on fire with a flame thrower), Eminem (with a stick of dynamite strategically placed) and Outkast (climbing through a window into a room with naked women on all fours). The limited-edition book, due in March, also includes iconic shots of Britney Spears, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker and others. ... Mya, Jill Scott and Stevie Wonder are on the lineup to pay tribute to Dionne Warwick for her 45th anniversary show, to be held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on January 26. Also on the bill are Gloria Estefan, Olivia Newton-John, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Angie Stone and Nancy Wilson, among others. Warwick will perform for the first time with all of her composers, including Burt Bacharach and Isaac Hayes. The gala will be taped for a broadcast to be announced at a later date. ...

Former "American Idol" contestant Julia DeMato, 26, appeared in Connecticut's Danbury Superior Court on Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to drug-possession charges stemming from an incident on December 4. The singer, who was arrested in the parking lot of Brookfield, Connecticut's Pancho and Gringos and charged with possession of narcotics, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of less than four ounces of marijuana, is due back in court on January 12. ... Before Story of the Year join the Deftones, Thrice and As I Lay Dying on the Taste of Chaos Tour in mid-February, they'll be taking Every Time I Die and From First to Last on the road with them for a 15-date run that'll kick off in Salt Lake City on January 5. The tour will traverse the Midwest, dart over to the East Coast for two dates, and then make two stops in Canada before winding down on January 31 in Columbia, Missouri. ...

Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis is stepping out in February with her first solo shows in support of her forthcoming album, Rabbit Fur Coat. She'll perform with the Watson Twins February 2 in Los Angeles, February 3 in San Francisco and February 5 in New York. ...Metric have announced dates for the second leg of their tour in support of Live It Out: The 20-date trek will kick off March 7 in Boston and end five weeks later in Detroit. The Toronto synth-rockers have also scored an opening slot for the Rolling Stones, on January 18 and 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Meanwhile, their single "Monster Hospital" was recently remixed by MSTRKRFT, a Death From Above 1979 side project. ... Bombastic Scottish noisemakers Mogwai will release their new album, Mr. Beast, in March, according to Matador Records. The band will launch a U.S. tour in support of the LP in early 2006. ...