<p>Ed Sheeran</p>

Ed Sheeran

Credit: AP Photo

Ed Sheeran prepping new album while on Taylor Swift's tour

Will the pair sing "Everything Has Changed" together?

Ed Sheeran is still riding high on his hit, “The A-Team,” with “Lego House” in the wings, but he already has his next album in mind.

The British singer/songwriter, who will hit the road with Taylor Swift this spring, tells Billboard that he has already written 26 songs for the next record. “I’ve got another nine months on the road to keep writing as well so the record’s definitely on his way.” He predicts a February 2014 release date. He expects to record on the road as well.

Sheeran, who co-wrote “Everything Has Changed” with Swift for her current album, “Red,” will be the opening act for Swift for her outing, which begins March 13 in Omaha, Neb.

He says the song, which they wrote on a trampoline, “was pretty much 100% her idea in the first place. I did what I could to help, but she definitely knows what she’s doing.” They'll have plenty of time to write together while on tour, so maybe a Sheeran/Swift compostion will show up on his new album.

As for his follow-up to “+,” Sheeran says to expect a slighter maturer sound. “Most of the first record was written when I was 17, 18, at the time, and I’m 21 now. So I’ve definitely evolved in the way I write songs and the way I perform. The whole mindspace. So it’s going to be a little more developed.”


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<p>Blake Shelton</p>

Blake Shelton

Credit: NBC

Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney have new albums this spring

They join Tim McGraw for a male country star motherlode

It’s turning into a banner year for releases from male country superstars.

Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton will join Tim McGraw with new albums out over the next few months.

Chesney’s new set is still untitled, but will be released on April 30.  He’ll begin touring behind it, or actually, in front of it, on March 16 in Tampa on the “No Shoes Nation” tour.

Blake Shelton will take some time off from “The Voice”  this summer for the "Ten Times Crazier" tour, but first, he’ll have a new album as well. The album is still untitled and the release date has only been narrowed down to “this spring,” according to his label. However, the first single, “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” is already climbing the country charts and is his fastest rising single so far.

McGraw's album, "Two Lanes of Freedom," comes out Feb. 19.

Shelton’s tour will start after the next season of “The Voice” concludes. It will kick off July 19 in Virginia Beach, Va. at the Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach amphitheater (that rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it).

Below are tour dates for Shelton. Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer will open.  For Chesney’s tour dates, go here, and for McGraw’s tour, which was announced earlier this week, go here.


7/19     Virginia Beach, VA             Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach

7/20     Bristow, VA                           Jiffy Lube Live

7/21     Wantagh, NY                       Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

7/26     St. Louis, MO                       Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

7/27     Noblesville, IN                     Klipsch Music Center

7/28     Cincinnati, OH                     Riverbend Music Center

8/1       Cuyahoga Falls, OH           Blossom Music Center

8/2       Burgettstown, PA                First Niagara Pavilion

8/3       Tinley Park, IL                      First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre

8/9       Raleigh, NC                         Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion

8/10     Camden, NJ                         Susquehanna Bank Center

8/11     Bethel, NY                            Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

8/29     Atlanta, GA                           Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood

8/30     Tampa, FL                            1-800-ASK GARY Amphitheatre

8/31     West Palm Beach, FL         Cruzan Amphitheatre

9/5       Holmdel, NJ                          PNC Bank Arts Center

9/6       Hartford, CT                          Comcast Theatre

9/7       Mansfield, MA                      Comcast Center

9/12     St. Paul, MN                         Xcel Energy Center

9/13     Milwaukee, WI                     Bradley Center

9/14     Auburn Hills, MI                  The Palace of Auburn Hills

9/19     Charleston, WV                   Charleston Civic Center

9/20     Columbus, OH                     Nationwide Arena

9/21     Lexington, KY                      Rupp Arena

9/26     Charlottesville, VA              John Paul Jones Arena

9/27     Knoxville, TN                       Thompson-Boling Arena

9/28     Nashville, TN                       Bridgestone Arena

10/3     Kansas City, MO                 Sprint Center

10/4     Tulsa, OK                              BOK Arena

10/5     Wichita, KS                          INTRUST Bank Arena          


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<p>The 'American Idol' crew</p>

The 'American Idol' crew

Credit: FOX

What to expect from the three new 'American Idol' judges tonight

Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban each bring different skills and styles

The new season of “American Idol” premieres tonight on Fox and with it, the debut of three new judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

The trio join Randy Jackson, the only judge who has been with the show since its 2002 launch. Here’s what we expect from each of the judges. Though their roles will morph as the season plays out, we have a pretty good idea how each will position him- or herself.

*Mariah Carey:
Look for Mimi to put aside the diva-tude and step into the role of earth mother. No, she’s not going to go all hippie on us, but look for the mom of Moroccan and Monroe to show how kind and compassionate she can be as she treats all of the contestants with a little gentle tough love.  As the panel’s biggest superstar and biggest voice, expect her to offer the most valid critiques of the contestants’ voices, especially for the singers who exhibit anywhere near her tremendous range. But pity the misguided contestant who thinks he/she can impress Ms. Carey by trying to take on one of her songs and hit her calling-all-dogs high notes.

*Nicki Minaj: Minaj has the finest line to walk: she’s doing this for the money and the exposure, but she can’t abandon whatever perceived edge she still has (not that some profane mixtape won’t cure that). Expect her to celebrate the oddballs, the misfits that the other judges may not initially embrace. She’s also the judge most likely to take in the whole package, as opposed to just the vocal performance, since she is such a visual artist.

*Keith Urban:
  Urban has the most to gain here. A superstar in the country world, he’s best known to the rest of the world as Nicole Kidman’s husband. If he plays this right, he could have the same kind of mainstream breakthrough as Blake Shelton from “The Voice.”  Urban will be unfailingly kind, but he will be firm and direct in his critiques. He’ll look for overall musicality, given his excellent guitar chops and songwriting ability, and a feel for someone’s authenticity. He’s talked about wanting to show the contestants how to strip down to their core, so look for him to stress to contestants to pack up any bells and whistles and concentrate on the basics. Urban was a judge last year on the Australian version of ‘The Voice,” so also look for him to try to mentor the contestants just as much as he judges them.

Who do you think will be the best judge?

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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: AP Photo

Bruno Mars tops Billboard Hot 100 again and Justin Timberlake debuts

Where does 'Suit & Tie' enter the chart?

Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” locks the competition out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the sixth consecutive week. But next week it will face serious threats for No. 1 from not only Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but Justin Timberlake, as well.

The track, from “Unorthodox Jukebox,” holds off a charge from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop,” which jumps 5- 2 on the Hot 100. Sales and airplay propel the title to No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it knocks Rihanna’s “Diamonds” out of No. 1 after 14 weeks.  “Thrift Shop” is also No. 1 on Digital Songs, making it the first independently-distributed tune to top that chart since Artists for Haiti’s “We Are The World 25: For Haiti” in March 2010, according to Billboard.

The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” rises 4-3, trading places with Taylor Swift’s “I Knew Your Were Trouble.” Rihanna’s “Diamonds” falls 2-5.
Will.i.am and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout” rises 8-6. Swedish House Mafia earns its first Top 10 with “Don’t You Worry Child” featuring John Martin surging 11-7. Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj slides 7-8, Phillip Phillips’ “Home” slips 6-9 and Flo Rida’s “I Cry” holds at No. 10.

So how does Justin Timberlake’s new single, “Suit & Tie” fare? The track debuts at No. 84 based solely on two days of airplay. The tally does not include the 350,000 downloads the track is expected to sell in its first week of release. That’s because Nielsen Soundscan tracks sales from Monday-Sunday, so this week’s sales tracking was completed by the time the track went on sale at midnight Sunday. Conversely, radio information runs Wednesday-Tuesday, so this week’s chart includes the first two days’ worth of radio play.  Billboard is predicting that “Suit & Tie” could leap into the Top 5 next week.

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Listen: Samuel L. Jackson sings Taylor Swift's 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together'
Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Samuel L. Jackson sings Taylor Swift's 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together'

Instantly qualifies for best cover ever

This may be the best cover ever: Samuel L. Jackson took a go at Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” when he appeared on U.K.  radio station Capital FM recently.

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: Dawestheband.com

Dawes set to release 'Stories Don't End' in April

Band looks for a more 'modern' sound

Southern California folk rockers Dawes will release their third album, “Stories Don’t End,” on April 9.  The set marks the band’s first since its departure from ATO Records. "Stories" is the follow-up to 2011's "Nothing Is Wrong," a collection that made many critics' best-of lists, including mine.

Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith says to expect the band to wear its influences a little less on its collective musical sleeve this time out. “"I feel like a big part of our existence is, 'Dawes is this cool band that takes us back to the Seventies,' which is never something we wanted at all," Goldsmith tells Rolling Stone. "Obviously we have our influences, and I know that some of what we do as a band is of another time, even simple aspects like guitar solos. So I get it, I'm not mad at it, but at the same time, we just wanted to make sure people saw us as a modern band as well.” Of course, when you're backing Robbie Robertson or Jackson Browne, being seen as a little retro is part of the package.

Working with producer Jacquire King, Dawes recorded the album over five weeks in Asheville, N.C. 

A spring and summer tour will follow the album’s release.

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<p>Lady Antebellum</p>

Lady Antebellum

Credit: AP Photo

Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks come together for CMT's 'Crossroads'

Edition of genre-mixing show will air later this year

Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks will come together for an edition of CMT’s “Crossroads,” which will air later this year on the cable outlet.

The Fleetwood Mac singer and the country trio will tape the show, which features each act singing the other’s biggest hits. The show generally pairs a country artist with one of his or her musical heroes from another genre. Past collaborations include Taylor Swift with Def Leppard, The Avett Brothers with Randy Travis, Ryan Adams with Elton John and Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler.

The episode will tape later this month in Los Angeles. The taping comes at a period of great activity for Nicks: in addition to the deluxe re-issue of “Rumours” out Jan. 29, Nicks and her Fleetwood Mac band mates will kick off a tour later this spring. Additionally, she is part of Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” band, composed of musicians featured in his new documentary about the landmark Van Nuys, Calif., recording studio.  The band will play at the film’s premiere at Sundance, as well as a Los Angeles premiere on Jan. 31.


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<p>&quot;X Factor&quot;&nbsp;Season 2 winner Tate Stevens performs during the show's December finale.</p>

"X Factor" Season 2 winner Tate Stevens performs during the show's December finale.

Credit: AP Photo/FOX, Ray Mickshaw

'The X Factor's' Tate Stevens signs with Syco/RCA Records Nashville

When will the country crooner's album come out?

Tate Stevens, the winner of “The X Factor’s” second season, has signed with Syco Music/RCA Records Nashville.

The country singer, whose musical heroes are George Strait and Garth Brooks, is writing and recording material for his debut album, which will come out this spring. He began working on the album earlier this month.

Stevens was a member of L.A. Reid’s Over 25s team.

Melanie Amaro, the winner of the first season of “The X Factor,” is also expected to release her debut album, “Truly,” this  spring.  The is signed to Reid’s label, Epic Records.

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Watch: Bono and Rolling Stones herald Muscle Shoals' studios in new doc

Watch: Bono and Rolling Stones herald Muscle Shoals' studios in new doc

Film about two top Alabama recording studios premieres at Sundance

“You’re in rock and roll heaven, man.”  That’s how The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards describes recording at Alabama’s  legendary FAME Studios.

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: Ap Photo

Is 'Stay' a good choice for Rihanna's next single from 'Unapogetic?'

Can it shine as brightly as 'Diamonds?'

With “Diamonds” still shining brightly on the Billboard Hot 100, Rihanna’s label has chosen “Stay” as the second pop single from “Unapologetic.”

The quiet, plaintive ballad caused a ripple when she debuted the tune on “Saturday Night Live” in November, bolstered by her stark performance.

[More after the jump...]

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