<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

UPDATED: Britney Spears reveals she's 'really focused' on new music right now

Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines also delivers solo album details

While the rest of us were ringing in the New Year and taking down the tree, some artists were hard at work.

Britney Spears took to Twitter  to tell fans that she was “really focused on my music right now.” Whether that’s a veiled reference to all the rumors that swirled over the holidays that she has been kicked off of “X Factor,” we don’t know, but it’s good news for Spears fans regardless.

In her chat, she also reveals that she’s “collaborating with some new inspiring producers,” without naming names, and that she’s “excited” about the new stuff.

Spears last album was 2011’s “Femme Fatale,” though she and will.i.am more recently dropped the tune, “Scream And Shout,” late last year. It debuted at No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100.

In December, Elijah Blake, who’s written for Usher and Rihanna, revealed that he’s working with Spears on a new album. “I think her fans will be surprised by it,” he told thatgrapejuice.net. “I would say it’s definitely the ‘unexpected’ Britney in so many ways, in that she’s playing with new textures and stomping on new grounds and genres.” He added that “she’s definitely trying to push the envelope this time and really talk from a more personal point of view.”  

As we reported in October, it looks like Spears may be working with “Blackout” collaborator/producer Nate “Danja” Hills. 

Spears wasn’t the only one working on a new set over the holidays. The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines tweeted  that she had finished her first solo album, “Mother,” which will come out May 7.  The first single is the title track, a cover of the Pink Floyd song.

Producer Ben Harper produced the rock album, according to a number of outlets. She and Harper have performed the song together live on selected Harper tour dates this past year.

The song also appears on “West Of Memphis: Voices of Justice,” a compilation album also featuring Lucinda Williams, Marilyn Manson, Band Of Horses, Eddie Vedder, Bob Dylan and others. The album is the companion to “West of Memphis,” a documentary about the West Memphis Three, three young men convicted for the murder of three 8-year old boys. Their conviction was overturned in 2011 after a number of artists, including Maines, had worked hard for their release.

The album will be Maines’ first release since the 2006 Dixie Chicks’ album, “Taking The Long Way.” While there are no plans for Dixie Chicks to record together any time soon (if ever again), they will reunite for a show on July 13at the Craven Country Jamboree in Canada. The Chicks are filling in for Lady Antebellum, who canceled the date due to Hillary Scott’s pregnancy.

UPDATE: Spears is also working with will.i.am and Hit-Boy, who has become very sought after following his collaborations with Kanye West and Jay-Z on "Ni***s in Paris" and Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle," according to Entertainment Weekly.  A rep told EW that Spears has not worked with Blake, as we wrote above.

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Credit: AP Photo

U2 reveals working title for 13th studio set

Is it a joke or for real?

The working title for U2’s new album is “10 Reasons to Exist.” 

Lead singer Bono revealed the moniker, perhaps jokingly,  in a radio interview after Christmas, according to The Independent newspaper.

There’s no release date yet for the group’s 13th studio album, which the band worked on throughout 2012.  Bono added, “Within the band, we’ve been calling it ‘10 Reasons to Exist,’ —but I will tell you we might have at least six of them.” Call us crazy, but we're betting that this will not be the final title, but it's a fascinating idea for a concept album.

U2’s last studio album was 2009’s “No Line On The Horizon.” 


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<p>Green Day</p>

Green Day

Credit: Bruce Gilbert/AP

Green Day to hit the road again in March 2013

Band returns after six months off for Billie Joe Armstrong's recovery

After canceling some dates outright and postponing others while lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong attended rehab, Green Day will hit the road again on March 28, starting at Chicago’s Allstate Arena.

The trio, who released three albums between September and December of 2012, called off all promotional shows and a planned tour after Armstrong went into an explosive rant  at the IHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas in late September. When originally announced in October, the group canceled all remaining dates for 2012 and postponed shows for January- February.  Those early 2013 shows are now canceled.

Armstrong thanks his fans and friends for their support over the last several months. "Dear friends... I just want to thank you all for the love and support you've shown for the past few months. Believe me, it hasn't gone unnoticed and I'm eternally grateful to have such an amazing set of friends and family. I'm getting better everyday. So now, without further ado, the show must go on. We can't wait to get on the road and live out [loud]! Our passion has only grown stronger."

Collectively, the band also issued its thanks: "Dear friends... I just want to thank you all for the love and support you've shown for the past few months. Believe me, it hasn't gone unnoticed and I'm eternally grateful to have such an amazing set of friends and family. I'm getting better everyday. So now, without further ado, the show must go on. We can't wait to get on the road and live out load! Our passion has only grown stronger."

West coast dates will be announced in early 2013. Refunds for the now-canceled January and February shows are now available.


28th - Chicago, IL - Allstate Arena
29th - Moline, IL - I Wireless Center
31st - Pittsburgh, PA - Consol Energy Center   
1st - Rochester, NY - Blue Cross Arena
3rd - Philadelphia, PA - Liacourias Center
4th - Fairfax, VA - Patriot Center
6th - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
7th - Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center
9th - Providence, RI - Dunkin Donuts Center
11th - Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
12th - Quebec City, QC - Quebec Colisee
7th - Green Bay, WI - Resch Center
10th - Wilkes-Barre, PA - Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
11th - State College, PA - Bryce Jordan Center - Penn State Univ.
18th - Manchester, NH - Verizon Wireless Arena
25th - Portland, ME - Cumberland Co. Civic Center
30th - Cleveland, OH - Wolstein Ctr. / Cleveland St. Univ.
2nd - Madison, WI - Alliant Energy Center Mem. Coliseum
4th - Omaha, NE - CenturyLink Arena                                     
6th - Broomfield, CO - 1STBANK Center 
8th - Las Vegas, NV  - MGM Grand Garden Arena              


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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Jordan Strauss/AP

Taylor Swift set to lead Billboard 200 for last week of 2012

'Les Miserables' soundtrack may surge into Top 10

While sales figures are sketchy because of the holidays, look for Taylor Swift’s “Red” to top the Billboard 200 next week.

Early estimates have the superstar’s fourth studio album spending a seventh non-consecutive week at No. 1 with sales of up to 225,000, according to Billboard. The tally will include Amazon’s Christmas Eve sales price of $1.99 (Nielsen SoundScan counts the discounted sales because the album has been out more than four weeks).

“Red” stands atop the leader board this week as well, with sales of 276,000. If “Red” does remain in the top spot, Swift will have registered 24 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, tying Adele as the female artist with the most weeks at No. 1 since the launch of SoundScan in 1991. Swift’s feat spans three albums: 2008’s “Fearless,” 2010’s “Speak Now” and “Red,” while all of Adele’s 24 weeks come from “21.”

In other chart news, look for the soundtrack to “Les Miserables” to possibly vault into the top 10. The title, which is No. 1 on iTunes following the movie’s Dec. 25 opening, debuted at No. 33 this week.

Billboard also expects Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” and One Direction’s “Take Me Home” to remain in the top 10.

The New Year’s Day holiday will delay the chart results until Thursday, Jan. 3 instead of Wednesday, Jan. 2.

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<p>Whitney Houston</p>

Whitney Houston

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: 'The Music They Made' song montage from musicians who died in 2012

Four-minute clip encompasses Whitney Houston to Adam Yauch to Dave Brubeck

If you want to not only see the names, but hear the music from the top musicians who left us this year, this four-minute montage, "The Music They Made," posted by the New York Times last night is well worth your time.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo

Justin Bieber expands 'Believe: Acoustic' to include new material

Is he working with Ed Sheeran?

It turns out that eight isn’t enough. Justin Bieber’s  “Believe:Acoustic” continues to expand. Originally slated as an 8-song EP, Bieber keeps adding new songs to the Jan. 29 release.

On Thursday night, he tweeted that he “had to write some new ones. Now I’m putting out 10 SONGS on #Believeacoustive. I’m telling u. PREORDER it now : ).”

In addition to the sales plug, the Biebs also gave more details: “Every song has a new guitar arrangement...1 w/ piano. Everything feels new.” 

Idolator has speculated that Bieber may have been writing new material with “The A-Team” singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.

As Hitfix previously reported, Bieber announced the EP earlier this month. Bieber released “My Worlds Acoustic” in 2010, which featured stripped-down versions of songs from “My World 2.0.”


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Music sales from holiday shopping drop double digit percentage over 2011

Lack of blockbuster titles leads to 10% decline

Retailers received coal in their Christmas stocking this year: sales during the pivotal holiday period were down 10% from last year, according to Billboard.

Comparing Nov. 18-Dec. 23 with the same five-week period in 2011 shows sales of 54.9 million albums this year versus 61 million last year.

Billboard attributes the drop in sales to two factors: the lack of a superstar blockbuster like Adele’s “21” or Michael Buble’s “Christmas” that provided sustained sales of more than 200,000 for several weeks running,  as well as the fact that last year’s figures included Dec. 24, which is one of the biggest shopping days of the the year.

The breakdown between physical and digital sales followed the shift during non-holiday periods: Digital album sales rose 5.3% during the five weeks, while physical CD sales were down 15.4%. Individual track downloads, however, were down 4.8% to 139.8 million units compared with 2011 sales over the same period.

While there were no sustained superstar sales retailers mentioned such titles as One Direction’s “Take Me Home,” Taylor Swift’s “Red,” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox,”  Mumford & Sons’ “Babel,” Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” and Pink’s “Truth About Love” as strong holiday sellers.


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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: AP Photo

Bruno Mars' 'Locked Out of Heaven' locks into Billboard Hot 100's top spot

Taylor Swift and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis surge on this week's chart

Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” stays locked into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, as the tune logs a third week at No. 1.

The song is also No. 1 on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart,  as well as the Digital and On-Demand Songs charts, making it the first song to top all four charts, according to Billboard. The On-Demand Songs chart bowed in March.

“Locked” is Mars’ fourth No. 1 tune on Radio Songs chart, tying him with Sean Paul and T.I. for fifth place for males on the chart. The male leader is Usher with seven chart toppers in the chart’s 22-year history. The men have a far way to go to catch up with Mariah Carey, who has 11 No. 1s on the Radio Songs chart.

Back on the Hot 100, former No. 1, “Diamonds” by Rihanna, holds at  No. 2, while the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” remains at No. 3.

Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” soars 10-4 and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj climbs 7-5, marking Bieber’s third Top 5 hit.

Rounding out the Top 10, Ke$ha’s “Die Young” falls 4-6, Maroon 5’s “One More Night” slips 5-7, Flo Rida’s “I Cry” 6-8 and Phillip Phillip’s “Home” 8-9.

There’s good news for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz as the rappers’ independently released single rises 13-10 to be the only new entry in the Top 10.

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Watch: Heart brings Led Zeppelin to tears during 'Stairway to Heaven'

Watch: Heart brings Led Zeppelin to tears during 'Stairway to Heaven'

Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz also pay tribute at Kennedy Center Honors

Heart fans who have seen the Wilson sisters in concert know that Ann Wilson can wail Led Zeppelin tunes like no one since, well, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, so it’s no surprise that the group brought the house down at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, which aired last night on CBS.

What is surprising is that the ladies’ version moved  Plant, who was watching in the balcony with band members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, to tears time and time again at the Washington, D.C. event, which was taped last month. Or maybe he was just in awe of her ability to hit every single note with astonishing power. Or maybe seeing late LZ drummer John Bonham’s son Jason Bonham behind the drums also proved emotional.

The Wilson sisters weren’t the only ones paying tribute to whom Jack Black called “the greatest rock n’ roll band.” The Foo Fighters performed “Rock  and Roll” —with Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals— and Lenny Kravitz played “Whole Lotta Love.”  Watch those performances here and here. As you know, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Jones are in Them Crooked Vultures together. Turns out President Obama knows the words to "Whol Lotta Love." 

The annual event honored Led Zeppelin, as well as Dustin Hoffman, Buddy Guy, Natalia Makarova and David Letterman.

We’re quite sure Washington, D.C.’s collective ears are still ringing.


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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Lady Gaga plans 'ARTPOP' documentary with Terry Richardson

Film chronicles her life and creation of her new album

Lady Gaga fans rejoice: Mamma Monster is making a film just for you with her favorite photographer at the helm.

On Christmas, she tweeted, “Merry Christmas little monsters! Terry Richardson @Terry_World is making a #LadyGagaMOVIE documenting my life, the creation of ARTPOP + you!”

She later thanked fans for being “so patient waiting for my new album,” which still has no release date. And then sent a tweet to Richardson: “I love you @Terry_World thank you for believing in me and my fans, I have looked up to you and your work for so long, its a dream come true! Lady Gaga recently tweeted that she has written more than 50 songs for the new album.

Maybe the documentary will include more footage of her doing a striptease and cavorting with two other women in a bath tub.

As for any other clue as to how Lady Gaga spent her holiday (other than on Twitter), she later tweeted, “I'm listening to @MariahCarey 's christmas album dancing in my room with my weed xmas sweater. all i need now is my box wine #bestdayever

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