Is Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour  already in trouble?
Credit: AP Photo

Is Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour already in trouble?

Half price tickets and slow sales add up to empty seats

Britney Spears’ “Femme Fatale” tour opens in Sacramento, Calif. tonight at the Power Balance Pavilion, but is it in trouble before the first synthesized, autotuned note is played?

Unlike her past tours that have sold out quickly,  tickets for Spears’ current tour have not moved as fast. Therefore tour promoter Live Nation Entertainment is offering tickets for half price in most markets in a promotion through Groupon.

We did a quick search and found Groupon offerings in a number of cities, including June 16’s show in Sacramento, where 1,400 offered tickets went for $30, a 49% discount, according to local paper, Sacramento Bee.

Similar deals have been available in many other tour stops, including Detroit, San Jose, and St. Paul’s Xcel Center.  In some of the deals, even front sections of the venue are deeply discounted. For example, the Xcel Center Groupon promoted floor seats and sections in the 100s very close to the stage for $83. The tickets were originally priced at $165 including fees.

I then went to Ticketmaster to try to buy tickets for tonight's show and was able to purchase two seats for the fourth row of the front section of the floor, closest to the stage, for a whopping $749.20 for the pair. Those aren't scalpers prices, people. That's the face value plus service charge.  For Spears’ stop at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Monday, June 20, I was able to get two choice seats: row 5 of a section one section away from the stage on Ticketmaster. The pair were $386.80. I think we're starting to see the problem here.

What’s going on here? First off, even though “Femme Fatale” received largely strong reviews and debuted at No. 1, the album hasn’t had a smash hit that’s resonated with fans.  “Till the World Ends” is at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, but that’s largely due to remixes featuring Nicki Minaj and K$ha that gave it a new life.

Plus, the album hasn’t ignited. It has sold a little more than 550,000 since its release 11 weeks, which is certainly respectable, but in comparison with other current superstar releases, is slow. For example, Adele’s “21” just surpassed the 2 million mark in 16 weeks. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” although falling precipitously, has already sold around 1.4 million copies in three weeks.  Tourmate Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday” has sold close to 1.5 million in its 29 weeks of release.

The biggest reason is likely that Spears has been her own worst enemy, as the very few live television performances to promote “Femme Fatale” were awkward and leaden and consisted of her walking more than dancing. Plus, her last tour, 2009’s “Circus,” was heavily criticized for her lipsynching. Maybe going the $350 VIP ticket route for close seats wasn't the way to go here (although we think they were even higher, $500, for "Circus").

We’re all for lower concert prices, so her fans are the big winners here with all the discounts, but we’re also all for artists really putting on a show and if they’re not up to the rigors of the road, waiting until they are. Hopefully, Spears will prove the doubters wrong. Regardless we’ll be back tomorrow with a round-up of reviews from tonight’s show.

We're requested a comment from Live Nation about slow sales and will amend the story if we hear back.

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Strange bedfellows: Metallica and Lou Reed record album together

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers' combo set almost complete

In the odd pairing department, Lou Reed and Metallica have joined together to record an album of 10 new Reed compositions.

The metal band and pioneering rocker entered Metallica’s studio near San Francisco, according to Rolling Stone, which describes the set as a cross between Reed’s dark “Berlin” and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”  That sounds like a really tall order since both are considered classic sets.

The union came about after the two titans played together at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts in October 2009. Metallica backed Reed on two tunes.  That set the wheels in motion.

Initial plans called to cut older Reed material, but shortly before recording started, Reed changed gears and suggested they record a song cycle he wrote for “Lulu,”  a play running in Berlin. Metallica then crafted arrangements for the tunes.

Of course, they think the project is awesome. Reed told Rolling Stone is was “a marriage made in heaven,” whereas Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said “I don’t think we’ve ever felt this free.”  Ulrich adds the set is "90 percent" done.

Speaking of freedom, it turns out that Metallica is done with Warner Bros. and Reed doesn’t have a current album deal so there’s no word yet on which label will release the collaboration.

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<p>Lil Wayne</p>

Lil Wayne

Credit: AP Photo/Dave Martin

Listen: Lil Wayne's 'Dear Anne' pays homage to Eminem's 'Stan'

Plus, new Weezy mixtape as 'Tha Carter' is further delayed

Who knows when “Tha Carter IV” is actually coming—it’s now been pushed to Aug. 29—but in the meantime, it looks like we might get an apology for the delay in the form of  a new Weezy mixtape.

On Tuesday, Mack Maine, the head of Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label, tweeted “Breaking News! Lil Wayne mixtape ‘Sorry 4 the Wait’ coming soon!!”

In the meantime, check out the full version of Lil Wayne’s  “Dear Anne.”  The full track, parts of which leaks a while ago, finally surfaced today. The tune, according to the BoomBox, is based on Eminem’s “Stan.” The Swizz Beatz-produced track is a letter from Weezy to a fan, as opposed to “Stan,” which is a fan letter.  There are also some ethereal female vocals that serve as a counterpart to Lil Wayne’s spoken part, as does the tinkly piano. Swizz Beatz apparently sent the idea to Eminem for "Recovery," but it ended up with Lil Wayne.

What do you think of “Dear Anne?”

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<p>Chris Brown</p>

Chris Brown

Watch: Chris Brown can't quit dreaming of 'Your Body'

Go ahead, paste on your head if you want....

Chris Brown must have blown his video budget for “Your Body” on the music clip for “Next 2 U” with Justin Bieber because “Your Body’s” video is a low-budget effort that basically consists of Brown walking the city streets thinking back to his girl’s body.... well, someone’s body.

He takes the “body’ part quite literally as the reverie is confined to a woman’s torso. As he freestyles in this largely spoken tune, the camera pans down a woman clad in bra, panties and garter belt, but we never see anything above the neck. But as he raps, Brown is all about equal opportunity: he sends a shout out to black, hispanic and white girls.  It’s a fairly stream-of-consciousness tune--how else to explain how he gets from “wondering how cops feel” to “cop a feel” to “David Copperfield?”

The track, which is not on "F.A.M.E.," may be on a hip-hop mixtape that Brown hinted at via Twitter that would come out before his next album, "Fortune." Or not... He tweeted: "Before my Fortune album drop ima put out a hip hop mixtape. Well, still kinda debating." While the debate society meets, check out "Your Body" and tell us what you think.


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Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Madonna to get back into the groove on new studio album

Superstar set to return to recording

New Madonna is on the way. Or at least will be. Madge can’t let Lady Gaga and Britney Spears steal all her thunder, can she?

Her manager, Guy Oseary, tweeted today that the singer-turned-director will begin work soon on her follow-up to 2008’s “Hard Candy.”  “Madonna goes into the recording studio next month to begin work on new album,” Oseary tweeted.

He also added that “she has a good idea on which producers she will be working with,” but spilled no names.

As far as a tour, he says there’s nothing to report. “You guys know how this works...first comes the album and next comes the....” 

As you know, Madonna has been busy with working on her film career behind the camera. The Weinstein Co. announced on Monday that it had picked up U.S. distribution rights to “W.E.,” a romantic comedy directed and co-written by the Material Girl.


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<p>Lenny Kravitz</p>

Lenny Kravitz

Listen Lenny Kravitz takes a 'Stand' on summer's best song

The sun will instantly come out when you play this

Pure awesomeness. That’s what the new Lenny Kravitz single is. “Stand,” came out a few days ago, but just came to our attention today and we loved it so much we wanted to call it to your attention. It is a perfect pop slice that is implanted into your head after one listen. We promise.

It’s been quite a while since Kravitz released a song that we cared about-- maybe 10 years?  But this little gem makes up for all the stuff we already forgot about. Is it original? Not particularly. We also can’t quite figure out when he started sounding so much like Elvis Costello (or at least for the first verse or so) crossed with Sheryl Crow.  And just when things threaten to get boring, he goes into a fun, flirty guitar break. But those things are unimportant when it’s a beautiful summer day, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the open road is calling. Put this on, snap your fingers and escape.

As we previously reported, Kravitz has been cast in "The Hunger Games" and is on tour with U2. His new album comes out in August. It's really, really good to be Lenny right now.

What do you think? 

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<p>Fiona Apple</p>

Fiona Apple

Listen: Fiona Apple's take on Buddy Holly's 'Everyday'

Is it sweet or tart?

It’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten any new music from Fiona Apple. While more time may have to pass before we get her own album, today we got her cover of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.”

The song is included on “Rave On: Buddy Holly,” the June 28 set featuring covers of Holly-penned and/or recorded songs by the likes of the Black Keys, Paul McCartney, Florence + the Machine and lots of others.

Unlike some of the artists who have tackled Holly and revamped the tunes, Apple and producer Jon Brion do a fairly straight-up interpretation of the song. If anything, they’ve made it even sweeter with a lilting, playful xylophone that is, quite frankly, just adorable. There’s a certain dreamy wistfulness to the tune that’s very appealing due to her understated vocals and Brion's harmonies.

As we previously reported, the last we heard from Apple was almost a year ago on a collection of tunes for a Los Angeles non-profit and on Margaret Cho's album



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<p>Shania Twain</p>

Shania Twain

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Does Shania Twain's new 'Today is Your Day' impress you much?

'Today is Your Day' is superstar's first new track in six years

Shania Twain’s first single in six years “Today is Your Day,” hit radio and iTunes today.  The tune, which she previewed Sunday night on her OWN show, “Why Not? With Shania Twain” is a bromide-filled tune about grabbing the day with gusto. More importantly, it’s also her first song written without ex-husband and producer/collaborator Robert “Mutt” Lange.

The message is uplifting and will surely appeal to anyone going through a tough time as a reminder that it can and will get better. But it’s also in a certain no-nonsense, “don’t expect too much” manner. As she sings, “Life’s gonna kick you around/Brush yourself off no regrets/don’t expect more or less/just go out and give it your best.” In other words,   forget dreaming for a better day, today is all you’ve got.

More than anything, she seems to have written the song as a message to herself. As her OWN show chronicled, Lange allegedly slept with her best friend. Twain is now married to former best friend’s former husband (are you still with me?).  But she’s had a hell of a time moving on and the stress affected her ability to sing.

Enough of the backstory. How is the actual song? Well, it’s a bit snoozy. The good news is that Twain sounds reasonably strong vocally. She’s not pushing or belting in any way, but she’s upfront and center. However, her delivery is hardly the peppy rallying call that the lyrics call for and if a song ever demanded to be uptempo, this would be it, instead of the slow mid-tempo draggy tempo we have here. And perhaps in an effort to compensate for that, producer Nathan Chapman has surrounded her (after a relatively uncluttered start to the song) with a banjo, strings and assorted other instrumentation.

Is it just us or isn’t the piano opening totally reminiscent of “Easy” from The Commodores? That’s kind of funny since Twain, who will start a Las Vegas residency in 2012, cut a remake of “Endless Love” with ex-head Commodore Lionel Richie.

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Britney Spears reveals secrets from her 'Femme Fatale' tour

What does she never leave home without? It's not her AMEX card

Britney Spears’s “Femme Fatale” tour kicks off Thursday, June 16, at Sacramento, but she teases us with a little hint of what we can expect in this new interview.

Watch below as a tired, but fit looking, Spears, says not much of anything at all, other than  that this upcoming tour is “more me than any show I’ve ever done.”  She also promises amazing costumes and lots of surprises. In other words, “buy a ticket, don’t expect me to spill it all for free, y’all.”

Plus, sweetly, she admits that she still gets nervous, but “after the third song, I calm down.”

She also reveals what she won’t leave home without.

The interview is for the U.K. morning show “Daybreak” to promote her fall U.K. concerts, hence the focus on England. Wouldn't it have been awesome if the interviewer had asked her how she manages to sing when she's dancing around so much? 

Are you going to see Britney this time around?

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<p>Billie Joe Armstrong</p>

Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong playing St. Jimmy in 'American Idiot' film adaptation

Tom Hanks' Playtone will produce musical adaptation

As has been rumored, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong will appear as pusher St. Jimmy in the movie version of “American Idiot.”

Armstrong, who appeared in the role in Broadway last fall and then reprised his role for the closing shows in March.

Tom Hanks’ Playtone is adapting the musical for screen, making it the second musical adaption for the company following the blockbuster “Mamma Mia,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

No word on how filming will affect a new Green Day album. A few weeks ago, Armstrong tweeted that the group is penning a new set: “There’s a ton of new songs,” he says. “The direction is fresh and hi energy. Feels great.”


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