<p>Miranda Lambert performs at the Grammy Nominations Concert.</p>

Miranda Lambert performs at the Grammy Nominations Concert.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Cee Lo, Bruno Mars, B.o.B give HitFix their reactions to their Grammy nominations

Go backstage with us at Wednesday night's Grammy Nominations Concert

HitFIx had a front row seat backstage at the Grammys Nomination Concert, held tonight in Los Angeles. We bring you an inside look at  the reaction from many of the evening’s top nominees in their own words.

Bruno Mars: “It’s kind of awesome,” said a still stunned Mars, of his seven nominations for his work on his debut as well as with Cee-Lo. However, humility was not his strong suit when he was asked about nominations for his songs. “I knew my music is just pretty incredible,”  he said (and we don’t think he was joking). “I don’t know what to say. It’s been a hell of a year for all of us,” he said, speaking for his partners in production team, The Smeezingtons, “We record these songs i not too far from here in a shabby studio. It’s a little surreal.”  As far as future collaborations, Mars’ wish list includes Alicia Keys, Prince and Kings of Leon.

Cee Lo Green:
The singer, who nabbed four nominations, including for the coveted song and record of the year for “F*** You,” remains stunned by its success. “It wasn’t meant to be a radio song. It was meant to be something with flair. It really took on a life of its own. I had no idea it would become what it has become.”  He admits he was stung a little when “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley, his group with Danger Mouse, didn’t win record of the year a few years ago. “It didn’t hurt, I grew from it... it was a little inconvenient and unfortunate because I truly believe we deserved it, but it’s cool.”  Speaking of Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo said he and Danger Mouse are already talking about a third album.   And if Prince is looking for a collaborator, Cee Lo is totally in.

B.o.B.: The newcomer missed out on a best new artist  nomination, but snared five other nominations, including record of the year. He thanked the team around him, adding “We’ve been envisioning this for a year. To see it really start to come around, it’s almost like the Twilight Zone.” He added that tonight was one of the highlights of his year, as well as performing for Barack Obama, and opening for Jay Z and Eminem in Detroit.  After collaborating with Bruno Mars, Hayley Williams and Rivers Cuomo, he’s keeping mum on future partners. “I want them to happen naturally. You never know. You can really want a collaboration, You force it and it doesn’t come out right. I’m open to whoever’s in my world.” However, when pressed by reporters, he added he’d love to work with Florence + the Machine and Mumford and Sons.

Hayley Williams: The Paramore lead singer was nominated for her work with Paramore as well as for “Airplanes,” her duet with B.o.B. When asked which nomination meant the most, she said, “It’s two completely different worlds. I’m always going to be stoked to represent Paramore. That’s my family.” She added that the B.o.B. song “fell into my lap. We were playing a show in New York, someone dropped the demo off for me to hear. The guys and I were like, ‘this is awesome.” Unbelievably, she and B.o.B. didn’t meet until months after the song became a smash. “We’d made the video, we ‘d talked on Twitter. The song was blowing up. We didn’t meet until the [MTV] VMAs. Hey, it’s 2010. It’s living in the future.”

Miranda Lambert:
The country superstar received three nominations; plus “The House That Built Me” earned a song of the year nomination (an award that goes to the songwriters). “I’m so lucky I got my hands on [that song],” she said. “It got nominated for song of the year, not just country song of the year, overall song of the year. This song was pitched to [Lambert’s fiance] Blake [Shelton]. When I heard it. It just hit me so hard. I had this crazy reaction. I just started bawling. It was just one of these songs. I had a great feeling about it. I have a great fiance. He handed it over to me; I’m sure he wants it back at this point.”

Bill Reynolds, Band of Horses:  The band received a nomination for best alternative music album for “Infinite Arms.” When asked how it felt to be nominated, Reynolds asked, “Can I cuss?” Assured that he could, he replied, “It feels fucking great.” As the only member of the band who lives in Los Angeles, he got a call at 11 p.m. last night telling him that he may want to be at the nominations. “They said, ‘Hey, we need someone from Band of Horses to come down to the Grammys. We’re not sure what that means, but we think it’s good news.” He hopped in his truck and drove down from Ojai.  It’s the band’s first nomination after three albums. “We put a lot more into this record,” he says. “We have more members who were writing. It was really a fun record to make. I think it shows.”

Alex Da Kid: The co-songwriter and co-producer of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna said  the song got to Eminem just as he was wrapping up recording “Recovery.”  “Em heard the song and recorded it in two days. It was the last song on the album. Rihanna was recording her part as he was mixing.” Adding Rihanna was Eminem’s idea. “Once he heard the demos, he really wanted her. She can relate to the song and it makes sense.” Alex da Kid, whose real name is Alexander Grant, said the demo, which featured new artist Skyler Grey singing Rihanna’s part, “sounded pretty similar” to the final version.

Monica: The R&B singer received two nods, including  best R&B album for “Still Standing,” an album that has tremendous emotional resonance for the artist. “[Still Standing] is something that I always used to say to myself. ‘Stand on your own two feet,’” she said. After going through some troubling times and leaving the industry for six years to have her two children, she said she “Every song [on the album] talks about coming through something. I wanted younger girls to feel empowered by it. I knew these were the type of messages I wanted to send...This is my first nomination since 1999. At 16 years old, I didn’t understand what it meant. Now at 30, I'm shocked.”

Craig Ferguson: The host of  “The Late Late Show”  found out he’d received a nod for best spoken word album for the audio tape of his book, “American on Purpose,” when  LL Cool J told him on air. “I didn’t know I was nominated [before hand],” he said. “I was here being a corporate shill.  I was like, ‘Did I sing and forget?’ This is kind of awkward. Other than my wife being pregnant, this is the highlight of the year. “ Informed of his competition, which includes Jon Stewart, Woody Allen and Sarah Silverman, he said, “I’m the crappiest person on this list. Chances [of winning]? Zero.” [A side note: Craig, we adore you, but please understand how disrespectful it is to Nashville to deliver the nominations for best country female vocal performance in a fake southern drawl.]

Jimmy Jam: The mega-producer and former Recording Academy chairman praised Justin Bieber, who performed from London and garnered a best new artist nomination:  “I’m a Justin Bieber fan. The thing about Justin to me that I like is he’s a musician. He has a root in being a musician, which I think is really important. You can’t be a one trick pony. He’s a good singer, writer, dancer. He’s a good musician. He wants to get better at what he does. He’s a hard worker. He’s pretty good at 'Guitar Hero'.” And, as anyone trolling the web lately has seen, he can also solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes.

 Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter at @MelindaNewman

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<p>Michael Jackson</p>

Michael Jackson

Listen: Michael Jackson's newly released track, 'Much Too Soon'

Beautiful ballad showcases gorgeous Jackson vocal

Michael Jackson’s immense talent was so overshadowed by the freak show that became his life in the last 15 years or so and subsequent death that it’s easy to forget how remarkable he was. However, all it takes is about 30 seconds of “Much Too Soon,” the third song revealed from Dec. 14 posthumous album, “Michael,” to remind us of his remarkable talent.

The song, which Jackson penned during the “Thriller” era, is streaming on iTunes Ping for a week. It’s an understated beauty.  “Much Too Soon” opens with acoustic guitar and swelling, but subtle, strings (arranged by Beck’s dad, David Campbell) before going into a tale of a man who learns too late that his neglect had irreparable consequences on his relationship. Hear it here.

The spare musical bed is the perfect fit for Jackson’s restrained voice. In fact, his vocal delivery is beautiful here. He understands the key is underplaying the pain and hurt, especially at the end. There’s also a sweet Stevie Wonder-like harmonica interlude that ties the two parts together.

Jackson “always liked the song and would pull it back out of the vaults for each subsequent project, but never found the right home for it,” according to a blurb on www.michaeljackson.com.


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<p>Aaron Lewis</p>

Aaron Lewis

Staind's Aaron Lewis is country strong on new EP

First single, 'Country Boy,' debuts Dec. 1 on CMT

First Jessica Simpson, then Darius Rucker and now Aaron Lewis? The Staind frontman is the latest rocker to turn country... and he’s got some mighty friends welcoming him to the fold.

Lewis’s first single, the blatantly named “Country Boy,” features George Jones and Charlie Daniels, as well as newcomer Chris Young.  The video for the song debuts on CMT on Dec. 1. It is the lead-off song from “Town Line,” a five-song EP out in February on uber-producer James Stroud’s Stroudavarious Records. The set also includes a new version of Staind’s “Tangled Up in You.” We’d like to hear a country version of  “It’s Been Awhile,” but that probably wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

The press release heralding Lewis’s arrival on Twang Town tries mightily to hit all the right chords to stress that Lewis isn’t a carpetbagger: He grew up in “rural Vermont.” He spent his summers with his “WWII veteran grandfather hunting and fishing.” I’m sure he rode around in a pick up truck with a gun rack on it and had a flag on his porch.

Anyway, Lewis starts a solo tour in January.  Below are the tour dates.


15                    Uncasville, CT                       Mohegan Sun

28                    North Las Vegas, NV            Aliante Casino

29                    Temecula, CA                       Pechanga Casino


18, 19             Atlantic City, NJ                     The Borgata

20                    Westbury, NY                       Westbury Music Fair


3                      Detroit, MI                              Motor City Casino

4, 5                  Verona, NY                            Turning Stone Casino

17                    Snoqualmie, WA                    Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom

18                    Reno, NV                               Silver Legacy Resort & Casino

19                    Las Vegas, NV                      The Joint – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

26                    Walker, MN                            Northern Lights


14                    Elizabeth, IN                           Horseshoe Southern Indiana

15                    Robinsonville, MS                  Horseshoe Tunica – Bluesville

16                    Biloxi, MS                               Hard Rock Biloxi

21                    Council Bluffs, IA                   Harrah’s Council Bluffs

22                    N. Kansas City, MO               Harrah’s North Kansas City


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<p>Black Eyed Peas' &quot;The Beginning&quot;</p>

Black Eyed Peas' "The Beginning"

Album Review: Black Eyed Peas' 'The Beginning'

I gotta feeling the party starts right now

For way longer than it seems remotely probably, the Black Eyed Peas have been crafting beat-driven, synth-laden songs that provide the anthem for a sports game or wedding/graduation/bar mitzvah party.

So there’s no reason for them to switch it up on “The Beginning,” which, despite the title, is more like “The Continuation.”

Similar to the BEP music that has come before, the songs on “The Beginning,” out today (30),  are sterile and, for the most part, devoid of emotion, other than an occasional positive bromide. The lyrics are simply in service of the beats beyond supplying a catch phrase or two, such as with past smashes,  “Let’s Get It Started,” “I Gotta Feeling,”  or “Boom Boom Pow.”

The members of BEP—Will.I.Am, Fergie, Taboo and Apl.de.ap— are really alchemists, collecting beats from around the world, a snippet here, a synth line there, to concoct a dance party, which Fergie then weaves her serviceable voice around. Or at least that’s what happens when it works.

First single, “The Time (Dirty Bit),” gets all its pizazz from lifting “Dirty Dancing’s end-theme, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life,” whose  instantly recognizable chorus is juxtaposed with a robotic, futuristic verse. It shouldn’t work, but it does.  It can be a risky gambit. Taking a beloved tune and pairing it with beats can alienate or work to draw new listeners in (see Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love.”

Sadly, the first single is also the high point of the album. To be sure, there are other flashes of inspiration and undeniable beats, but no song ever settles into a sustainable groove. Instead, the songs careen from one hammer hit to the next, using repetitive droning as connective tissue.

BEP mix up the beats in a “from-Point- A-to-Point-B” way, but there’s really no more innovation than that.  Sometimes Fergie starts a song, sometimes Will.I. Am does. Sometimes there’s a hint of a reggae beat, other times a touch of ska or ‘80s dance, but that’s really about as far afield as “The Beginning” strays.

[More after the jump...]

At 15 tracks, “The Beginning” is about five songs too long, guaranteeing that at a certain point, you’ll run screaming for the exits in search of a real piano or an acoustic guitar.  It’s better to mete it out in smaller, a-few-songs-at-a-time doses.  It is impossible to listen to “The Beginning” from, uh, beginning to end, and not have a headache at the end from all the thumping. Having said that, it’s clear that some songs are meant for the beginning of the evening at the club, while others are definitely meant for after some mind-altering substance has kicked in (yes, “The Coming,” we’re talking to you.)

Among the notable tracks are “The Situation,” in which Fergie summons up her inner Terri Nunn. The new-wave dance rave up has nothing to do with “The Jersey Shore” and everything to do with a lover who is constantly let down by her partner.

Other influences abound. “Fashion Beats” borrows from Chic, then Fergie breaks into a rap redolent of Blondie’s “Rapture.”  “Do It Like This”  has a Lil Wayne feel to it in its hypnotic repetition and piercing beat.  (It also liberally throws around the N word. Fair warning in case you find that offensive).

“Love You Long Time” isn’t about some hooker with a poor command of the English language,  as the title would indicate, rather it’s a monotonous love song that sounds like it’s sampling the opening chords of “Lady, Lift Me Up” by the Commodores. 

On “Own It,”  BEP try to switch things up a bit. “Everybody is a star, it don’t matter who you are, no, keep on reaching for your dreams because it ain’t as crazy as it seems,” an auto-tuned Will.I.Am sings, as a military beat taps out in the background.  It’s as inspirational a song as BEP has ever recorded. 

Similarly, “The Best One Yet (The Boy)” is about celebrating the good times in life.  But again, Will.I.Am seems to be channeling T.I. through half the songs. It could be a BEP anthem, but it never takes flight.

Album closer, “Play It Loud,” is, the name notwithstanding, one of the quieter tracks on the album and one of the most endearing with its U2-like guitar.  When Will.I.Am sings “I pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound,” you know he means it.  You just wish he promised such equal fidelity to a little heart and soul as well.

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<p>Surprise - Nicki Minaj won't be up for best new artist this year.</p>

Surprise - Nicki Minaj won't be up for best new artist this year.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Why your favorite artists won't be eligible for a Best New Artist Grammy

No Nicki, Janelle or Bruno. Who's your pick?

On Dec. 1, The Recording Academy will announce Grammy nominations including Best New Artist, but some of the most obvious names will be missing.

Nicki Minaj and Janelle Monae, both of whom would seem to be shoo-ins, won’t be on the ballot because neither meets the Recording Academy’s eligibility requirement.

Nicki Minaj isn’t allowed because her debut album, “Pink Friday,” came out after the Sept. 30 cut off. “The current eligibility requirements state that the artist must have released, as a featured performing artist, at least one album but not more than three,” according to the rules. The eligibility period for the upcoming Grammys ran Oct. 1, 2009-Sept. 30, 2010. Similarly, Bruno Mars, who also stood a strong chance, released his debut, “Doo-Wops $ Hooligans” too late.

Monae’s case is a little more complicated. She released an EP that was previously nominated, and, according to a Recording Academy representative, anyone previously nominated for a “body of work” such as an EP or full LP, is not eligible in the new artist category. Both she and Minaj are, of course, eligible in a slew of other categories.

The Recording Academy is always reviewing the eligibility requirements and updating them. For example, after Lady Gaga was ruled ineligible last year because “Just Dance” had been nominated in the dance category, the rules were changed this summer to allow an artist whose single had previously been nominated to still be eligible. The rule changes usually occur too late to help the artist whose circumstances prompt the re-examination, but we give credit to the Recording Academy that it has shown willingness to adopt and change with the times.

One of the most famous changes was to allow artists who had been featured on other acts’ records to be eligible for best new artist. That change came about after Whitney Houston was ruled ineligible for the category because she had duetted with Teddy Pendergrass. In other cases, the Academy has made the rules more restrictive. After Shelby Lynne won best new artist after her eighth album release (or something like that), the three-album limit was imposed. As we move more into the digital era and continue in a singles-driven world, we expect to see more changes. Oh, and if you’ve previously won a Grammy in any category, don’t even try to pretend you’re a new artist.

It’s a very strong field this year with no clear winner. Here’s whom we believe will be the leading nominees (with a few extra acts thrown in to hedge our bets). Five artists will get the nod.

Justin Bieber:
He and Drake are the leading contenders here.  Bieber may suffer because of his teeny bopper status, just as the Jonas Bros. were locked out a few years ago.

B.O.B.: He’s had such a strong year, but voters may believe that much of his popularity is due to his co-stars, such as Hayley Williams, Bruno Mars or Rivers Cuomo more than due to his talents.

Drake: He’s the male Nicki Minaj in that he’s guested on so many people’s records that by the time his solo debut finally came out (and we’re no including the previous mix tapes), we felt like we already knew him.

Ke$ha: It’s a long shot because the Grammys like to pretend they’re too highbrow to recognize someone as low class as Ke$ha, but you can’t deny the impact she has had over the past year after coming out of nowhere.

Mumford & Sons: A cinch for the alternative voters, although they may not have enough mainstream support to push this British new folk outfit all the way too the top.

Florence & The Machine: 
She wasn’t even a possibility until she blew everyone away with her performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards in Septmeber. And now she’s a prime contender.  Adele was the last female Brit to win this award two years ago.

Other possible contenders: The Avett Bros., Susan Boyle, Adam Lambert,  Ryan Bingham, Jason DeRulo, Taio Cruz,  Neon Trees, Orianthi, Mike Posner and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.

Whom do you hope to see nominated?

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Watch: Justin Bieber wants a better world in 'Pray' -- bring a hankie

And the countdown to a country cover starts now

It would be so easy to be cynical about Justin Bieber’s new video for “Pray,” the one new song on his acoustic set, “My Worlds Acoustic.” But we come to praise the Bieb, not bury him.

The song, which we reviewed here, is a lovely testament to the power of prayer. It’s for True Believers, not just True Beliebers (sorry, we couldn’t resist), and even those sitting on the fence.

The song is Bieber’s “Man in the Mirror” moment. To be sure, “Pray” doesn’t have that staying power or that  resonance of the Michael Jackson classic, but its themes of being the best self you can be (with or without a higher power) and how to affect change are the same.

[More after the jump...]

Scenes of Haiti, our troops in harm’s way, the homeless and other dispiriting images are interspersed with Bieber visiting with Make-A-Wish kids and hospitalized children.  Say what you will about the kid’s talent, but it is remarkable that at 16 he is mature enough to handle  spending time with a terminally ill children. Just try to look at some of the Make-A-Wish footage without crying.

Two things to look out for: it looks like our little Bieber may not be old enough to vote in the U.S. (and, oh yeah, he’s Canadian), but he’s not above making a political statement or two. One of the images features people holding up signs that read “Health Care Can’t Wait.” Is that a veiled endorsement of Obamacare (In Canada, health care is a right)?  He also sings, “I pray for the life not started,” which could be interpreted as a pro-life message.

There’s no misinterpreting the final message written across the screen: “God Speaks in the Silence of the Heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.”  Pop and rock powers-that-be are often squirmy about unambiguous, clear religious messages for fear of their acts seeming like Bible Thumpers, but Bieber clearly is not. We don’t know if there was any label push back about any of the messages in the video, but we have a hunch he just found himself a whole bunch of new Youth for Christ fans (although, please note, he never mentions a denomination, nor the word “God.”)

Country music is not so scared to embrace religion (as long as it is Christianity), so we bet within four months, there’s a country cover of this song.

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<p>Black Eyed Peas</p>

Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas, Jazmine Sullivan and Flo Rida lead Nov. 30 release slate

Tim McGraw and Soulja Boy also check in

After two extremely crowded release slates, we start to see the trickle to year’s end begin. To be sure, there are still big acts putting out new sets  this week, such a The Black Eyed Peas and Flo Rida, but don’t look for a near total takeover of the Billboard 200 as we’ve seen in recent weeks.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: Nousha Salimi/AP

Does Kanye West or Nicki Minaj come out atop the Billboard 200 next week?

What about new sets from Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance and Justin Bieber?

Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” which is garnering rave reviews, is a lock to come in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week (read our review here).

Targeted sales are around 575,000 for the title, which means it will best West’s last album, “808s and Heartbreak,” by more than 100,000 units in its first week, according to Hits Daily Double.

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Credit: Charles Sykes/AP

Music Power Rankings: Rihanna's our only girl in the world

What happens to last week's leader, the Beatles?

Rihanna’s “Rated R” may have been a slight commercial career slip, but with “Loud,”  the Barbados singer is back, uh, loud and clear. “Loud” lands at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, but even more impressively, Rihanna scores her second No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in three weeks.  After “What’s My Name,” the second single from “Loud,” reached the summit, “Only Girl (In the World,” the album’s first single, peaked at No. 1, marking the only time a debut single from an album has reached the top after the next single. More importantly, “Only Girl” is her ninth No. 1, making her the most successful artist on the Hot 100 this millennium. We don’t know how long she’ll have that record, but it sure sounds impressive.

1. Rihanna (not ranked last week): 
As “Only Girl (In the World)” goes to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100,  she sets the record for the most chart toppers on the Hot 100 for any artist in the millennium.  Another week, another record.

2. Kanye West (not ranked):
He can’t get out of his own way every time he opens his mouth, except for when he steps into the studio and and records groundbreaking music. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” may finally get him all the recognition he so clearly believes he deserves.

3. Black Eyed Peas (not ranked): After years of turning to middle-aged white male rockers to supply the half-time entertainment, the Super Bowl names the Black Eyed Peas as headliners for the 2011 games. That’s so “2000 and late,” but better late than never.

4. Groupon (not ranked):
Amid rumors of a purchase by Google, Groupon makes major moves into the music industry by offering Rihanna’s “Loud” through its daily promotional deals for $5.

5. NKOTBBSB (not ranked):
Yes, after their show-closing performing on Sunday’s American Music Awards, tickets for New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys’ joint arena tour went on sale with the July 1 Los Angeles Staples Center date selling out. Looks like they still have the right stuff.

6. Justin Bieber (not ranked):
He goes four for four at the American Music Awards. The Awards, however, are not so lucky—they garner the lowest ratings in their history. Coincidence?

7. Kenny Chesney (not ranked):
After taking a year off to road, Chesney returns with a vengeance by setting records for most career stadium sellouts at both Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium and Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field Stadium next year. This boy of fall just became a boy of summer.

8. The Beatles (No 1): In the Fab Four’s first week on iTunes, they sell more than 450,000 albums  and 2 million individual songs worldwide. Rocky Raccoon may be the only one who doesn’t own music by the Fab Four.

9. Susan Boyle (No. 2): Despite tremendous competition, including eight new acts debuting in the top 10, Boyle continues to reign supreme on the Billboard 200, as her second week’s sales remain almost the same as her debut week. She’s the gift that keeps on giving.

10. Jackie Evancho (not ranked): 
Pint-sized singer with preternaturally big voice proves her “America’s Got Talent” success was no fluke as she debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Unlike “American Idol,” this reality show still sells albums for its contestants.

Music Power Rankings appear every Friday in The Beat Goes On.

Last week's power rankings


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<p>After some time on the big screen, Janet Jackson is returning to music with a brand new tour.</p>

After some time on the big screen, Janet Jackson is returning to music with a brand new tour.

Credit: AP Photo/Pete Kramer

Janet Jackson takes 35 of her best friends on the road next year

Fans pick the cities for her greatest hits tour

Janet Jackson will undergo her “largest ever world tour” next year. The routing? It’s up to the fans.

“This tour will be different from the those of  past in the way I will perform music exclusively from my No. 1s. You’ll hear all the hits,” Jackson says in a message to her fans on the website.

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