<p>Britney Spears on her last &quot;Circus&quot;&nbsp;tour.</p>

Britney Spears on her last "Circus" tour.

Credit: AP Photo/Pete Kramer

Grammys sidestep Britney Spears performance queries

Should performances by limited to nominated artists?

Rumors are flying around the internet that Britney Spears will appear on the Grammys. As you know, Spears released “Hold It Against Me,” the first single, to her March album yesterday and the world exploded. Well, not quite, but the song, which we reviewed here,  shot to the top of iTunes download chart and set records for the number of radio spins, according to her label, Jive Records. In its first day, the song had close to 600 plays at Top 40 stations, thanks to some outlets, like LA’s KIIS, which debuted the track, banging it 18 times.

Let the rumors fly says the Recording Academy, The folks who put on the Grammys. They coyly told Hitfix, when asked about Spears’ possible appearance, “Until a press release is issued by The Recording Academy, there are no performers or presenters confirmed.” When asked when the Academy will start putting out press releases about performers, the answer was “shortly.” Uh, thanks.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Ricky Martin</p>

Ricky Martin

Watch: Ricky Martin's new video, 'The Best Thing About Me Is You'

Come join the beautiful people, bring your magic marker

Oh my. This is tough. It’s clear that “The Best Thing About Me is You,” the new single and video from Ricky Martin is a deeply personal statement for him since coming out last March. It offers a clear, heartwarming message about inclusion that, quite frankly, in these divisive times, can never be stressed enough.

It’s a relentlessly earnest and upbeat song and clip. The simple video, shot primarily against a white or black background often with equality scribblings in a black marker,  features people of all different races, religions (there’s a woman in an abaya) and sexual orientation. Of course, the unifying feature is that they’re all stunningly gorgeous and straight from a modeling agency. (He could have stood to have thrown some normal-looking people in there, I’m just saying...no one could ever possibly object to a world populated by such staggering pretty people, no matter what their political, sexual or religious persuasion).

The video opens like an Amnesty International promo clip. Martin, arms crossed, is silenced by a piece of tape over his mouth (on which is written “You=Me”) as images of different people—a gay couple, a Muslim and  Westerner, a young girl, a very pregnant woman stroking her belly—swirl by and a portentous voiceover says “Love/Equality/Justice/Innocence/Freedom.” If there was ever a well-intentioned clip, this is it. By the end, the multitudes are all together, gently swaying back and forth with Martin. And it bores me to tears. Plus, where's Joss Stone, who sings on the track?

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Green Day</p>

Green Day

Watch: Green Day goes crazy in live clip from 'Awesome as F**K'

Who's their skinny friend?

Green Day is known for its vibrant live shows for good reason: Billie Joe Armstrong often runs around like a man possessed.  Now, even if Green Day hasn’t come to a town near you, you can still enjoy their show via “Awesome As F***K,”  a DVD/CD combo coming out in March culled from its stadium tour behind “21st Century Breakdown.”  We pegged it as one of the most anticipated releases of 2011.

Below is a montage clip of the band as they perform “Know Your Enemy.” Trust me, you’ll be pogoing by the end.  Forget about a concert video, this could be the best workout tape ever. You may be an "American Idiot" if you don't want this one. The band's previous live release as 2005's "Bullet in a Bible."

[Video after the jump...]

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<p>Janet Jackson</p>

Janet Jackson

Credit: AP Photo

Janet Jackson sets US tour dates based on fan votes

Did your city make the cut?

Last November, Janet Jackson tipped her fans that she was planning a world tour that would, in part, be routed according to her fans’ wishes. The greatest hits tour will feature many of Jackson’s No. 1s compiled on her recent best-of set.

Now you can see if your city made the cut. Below are the dates for the U.S. portion of her global outing.

[More after the jump...]

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Cake and Cage the Elephant lead new album releases for Jan. 11

Will they be overshadowed by Britney and Jay-Z/Kanye West's singles

The focus on this week will be on new single releases from Britney Spears (read our review here)  and Jay-Z/Kanye West, but there are a number of noteworthy albums hitting the streets on Jan. 11, including sets from British Sea Power, Cage the Elephant,  Cake and Steel Magnolia.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Listen: Britney Spears' new single, 'Hold It Against Me' drops early

Review: Is her resurrection complete?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: “Hold It Against Me,” the new single from Britney Spears, is a solid smash that we predict will debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The tune, the first single from her March album, is a fuzzy dance slab full of electronic beats, spoken word, shifts in feel, and, oh yeah, some breathy, monotone (and autotuned) vocals by Spears.

The lyrics, not that they really matter, are about seeing someone across the club, lovingly referred to as  “Hey over there” (and who wouldn’t respond to that?), and being so drawn to them that you want to break away with them, maybe to the unisex bathroom for a quickie, maybe for a lifetime or until divorce do us part. It's a fun fantasy.

But this song, which debuted today on Ryan Seacrest's KIIS morning show, is all about the production by Dr. Luke and Max Martin (and the way Brit Brit makes “hazy” a three-syllable word) and on that account, it’s a win, if a qualified one.

[Song and more after the jump...]

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<p>Cage the Elephant</p>

Cage the Elephant

Album Review: Cage the Elephant's 'Thank You Happy Birthday'

Should you open the cage and let it out?

“Thank You Happy Birthday” opens with a howl of discontent as lead singer Matt Shultz puts us on warning that all is not right in his world. In fuzzy first track, “Always Something,” lovers cheat, friends lie and trouble waits right around the corner, ready to attack unsuspecting passersby.

“TYHB” is Cage The Elephant’s successor to its self-titled  first album,which contained three alternative chart smashes: “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Back Against the Wall” and “In One Ear.” The new set builds on the strengths displayed on the group’s bow and expands their musical palette in a nice show of growth.

A sense of ominous dread pervades much of the Bowling Green, Ky.’s group’s second album, not only because of the lyrical content but also because of the sonic landscape created by Lincoln Parish’s Dick Dale-type guitar licks,  Jared Champion’s precise, often military-style drumming and Schultz’s anguished delivery. 

The opening salvo of pain has abated somewhat by the fourth song—first single and alternative hit “Shake Me Down”; the sun has come out again, albeit briefly. From there, the album morphs into a number of different styles. Musically, the album is all over the place, from aggro rock of “Indy Kidz”  to the slacker roll of “Aberdeen” and shimmery, country leanings of album closer “Shiver.” In lesser hands, that would just seem like a lack of focus, and maybe it is, but CTE handles all the styles represented here with admirable command. So many acts making pop music stick to a formula or don’t play outside of the lines too much; CTE feels no such strictures.

The Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo vets channel Cake on more than on occasion, but no more so than on tracks like “Always Something,” when Schultz breaks into a John McCrea-like monotoned spoken vocal.  But there’s more going on here than that. For all the aggression of some of the tracks, CTE has a solid pop, melodic sensibility that is downright Weezer-like on the delightfully power poppy “Right Before My Eyes.” and very homey on the largely acoustic “Shiver.”

There’s an appealing lack of polish and rawness to much of the set that serves the band well, although it could have pulled back on the distortion on the White Stripe-ish, loosey-goosey “Sabertooth Tiger.”  But all in all, it looks like Cage the Elephant has largely avoided sophomore slump.

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

What dubious record could Taylor Swift set on this week's Billboard 200?

It's still Christmas for Lady Antebellum

Taylor Swift is no stranger to setting records, but she may set one this week that she’s surely like to forego: she’s on track to land a No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with the lowest weekly sales tally since the 1991 advent of SoundScan.

As post-holiday sales taper off and we wait for the first true blockbuster release of 2011, we’re left with the remains of the top 2010 sellers as they continue to sell bits and bobs. Swift’s  “Speak Now” will likely sell between 55,000-60,000, according to Hits Daily Double. If it sells less than 60,000, it will have the dubious distinction surpassing the “Dreamgirls” soundtrack for selling so little and still landing at No. 1. “Dreamgirls” set that low watermark the week ending 1/14/07.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Snoop Dogg</p>

Snoop Dogg

Watch: Snoop Dogg's NSFW video 'Wet' for Prince William's bachelor party

We bet the Royals are not amused

Just in case Enrique Iglesias’s video for “I’m Fucking You Tonight” wasn’t enough to get you going, here’s another NSFW clip featuring lots of scantily -clad ladies who just can’t get enough of a rock star. In this case, it’s Snoop Dogg who’s getting all the sexed-up loving in his clip for “Wet.” As you know, Snoop, being the big Royal lover that he is, has offered his services to Prince William in planning the king-to-be’s bachelor party prior to his marriage to Kate Middleton. He’s a giver, that Snoop.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Britney's back.</p>

Britney's back.

UPDATE: We reveal what time you can hear Britney's new single, 'Hold It Against Me' single

Plus, why should you know who Bonnie McKee is

There were hints before the new year that we’d get a sneak peak of  Britney Spears’ new song, “Hold It Against Me,” on Friday (7), but it sounds like we’ll have to wait until Tuesday (Jan. 11), although we can pass the time staring at the single cover, as well as listening to a demo of the song sung by Bonnie McKee. The cover is surprisingly innocent, a close-cropped photo of Spears’ face, given the sexy song.

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