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The Last Word: Alicia Keys Plays Lena Horne, Mary J. Blige Speaks Out About Amy Winehouse, and Pretty Ricky Lands In Court

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What’s up everyone? The week was too much for me so I can’t even give you the non-entertainment highlights of the week. The only thing I can think of is the whole thing with Britney’s sister Jamie Lynn being pregnant, but that’s about it. I’ll have to come stronger next time.  In the mean time, shout out to Venus Williams for graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an associate degree in fashion design, Denzel Washington for donating $1 million to Wiley College to re-establish its debate team Lily Allen, who is expecting her first child with her boyfriend Ed Simons and the sounding boards, who have the week off for the holiday.  And now…the Last Word for the week ending Dec. 21, 2007. 1. Mario Has More Music For Love Even with a new album recently hitting music stores, celebration is far from Mario’s mind as the crooner is hard at work on his fourth album.  According to Billboard.com the release, titled Music For Love will be a the continuation of a creative spurt Mario has been on that started with his third album and latest release Go. The effort resulted in 70 songs that were considered for Go before the singer wittled it down to 12.  “You can imagine how many different concepts and things I had,” Mario told Billboard. “But there’s really even more than that, ’cause I’m gonna start recording, like, [at] the end of January.”While Go featured production and writing from Akon, Timbaland, the Neptunes and StarGate, Mario plans to collaborate “with no more than four producers, maybe two or three, but no more than four.” for the new project.Look for Music For Love to hit stores in late January. Soon after the singer will hit the road in support in February or March. 2. Akon Trades Languages With Indian-Mexican MC; Makes Billboards Top Album List The Akon success train continues to roll on as the singer is heard singing in English and Portugese on a new song with Indian-Mexican rapper Kidd Skilly. The single, called “Ni Sohniye” (Hey Pretty Girl), is featured this week on Web site http://www.desihits.com.  According to Desihits, the collabo came about through a mutual friend of Akon’s and Skilly’s who thought the rapper’s voice would be a good fit with Akon’s melodic hooks. The new song is the latest in a long line of pairing’s for Akon, who has logged in time with Snoop Dogg, Young Jeezy and DJ Khaled. “I love collaborating with other artists,” the crooner said. “There are times when I’m in the studio with someone and the chemistry just clicks.”  Chemistry with other artists wasn’t the only thing that clicked for Akon this year, as he had the second most popular album of the year with his latest release Konvicted. Billboard states that Konvicted earned the ranking by selling 2.7 million copies. Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie rounded out the top three with 2.4 million copies sold of her debut solo album The Dutchess.  As for the most popular album of 2007, that honor belongs to former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry, who’s band Daughtry sold 3.2 million copies of its self-titled freshman release.  2007’s top single was Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” Rihanna took the number two spot with “Umbrella,” while Gwen Stefani came in at No. 3 with “The Sweet Escape.” Fergie cracked the top five with the fourth top single, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and T-Pain grabbed the fifth spot with “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’).” 3. Pretty Ricky’s Pleasure Bringing Ugly Group Business to Court Former Pretty Ricky singer Pleasure has become the newest casualty of music polictics. But he’s not taking it lying down/MTV News reports that the Pleasure’s attorneys have filed a federal complaint on behalf of the singer. In the complaint, Pleasure (born Marcus Cooper), alleges a number of wrongdoings against Joseph “Blue” Smith. Pretty Ricky’s management and booking company, International Artist Agency, is also named in the suit, which alleges that Smith “exploited conflict of interests in the competing roles he occupied in Cooper’s life.”  According to Pleasure, Smith deceived the singer by first acting as a surrogate father to him and also serving in roles that were conflicts of interest for Pleasure and the group, including acting as a personal manager, business manager, booking agent, record exec and music publisher. The suit further alleges that Smith used physical intimidation. According to the complaint, when Pleasure began to distance himself from the group and sought out the friendship of others, in one instance, Smith attacked a friend of the singer’s as a means of coercion.  Robert Meloni , one of Pleasure’s attorneys, told MTV News that a formal notification stating the singer’s withdrawal from the group was sent to Bluestar and Atlantic Records in August, prior to the public announcement. He added that Pleasure’s complaint was first drawn up as a draft and sent to the offices of Bluestar as a notice. Meloni said the action was done in hopes of avoiding litigation. According to a press release sent Monday, however, Bluestar has filed a lawsuit of its own against Pleasure for breach of contract. In light Pleasure’s lawsuit, plans to discuss the terms for releasing the singer’s solo album have been put on hold.  Let’s see who comes out of this one in one piece.  4. Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z and Former Teacher Weigh in on Amy Winehouse As much drama that’s been thrown her way, Amy Winehouse continues to find support amongst music lovers. But a cloud of concern for the embattled songstress is apparent as some entertainers see shades of their former selves in Winehouse’s current struggles.  “It’s just sad,” says Blige told Entertainment Weekly. “I hate to see any of these females go through it. I was young, and I did dumb stuff — I was doing worse than that.”  Although he’d “love to work with her again,” after collaborating on the remix to Winehouse’s hit single “Rehab,” Jay-Z shared with MTV his feelings about the singer by saying, “I hope she keeps herself together.” While Winehouse’s exploits have taken the focuse off her music, the singer’s former teacher, Sylvia Young, was one of many who noticed her student’s exceptional vocals as she compared Winehouse to the great signers of yesteryear in an open letter to the Daily Mail.  “It is hard to overstate just how much she struck me as unique, both as a composer and performer, from the moment she first came through the doors at the age of 13, sporting the same distinctive hairstyle that she has now,” wrote Young, who revealed that she was blown away when she first heard the young diva. “Her abilities could put her in the same league as Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald. She could be one of the greats.” Despite Winehouse’s talent, Young admitted to feeling that “Sadly, there is a danger that Amy will be better known for her personal life than for her God-given musical gifts.”  As for her conduct in school, Young revealed that her famous pupil was someone who was “completely focused on her music, showing dedication and high standards.” So much so that ” nothing else interested her and when she wasn’t singing, she was naughty. The misdemeanors were never serious, but they were persistent. She wouldn’t wear the school uniform correctly. She chewed gum in lessons. She wore a silver nose-ring and, when I asked her to take it out, she apologized, removed it, and replaced it an hour later.” Nevertheless, Winehouse’s life is on a different plane with more issues to worry about.  “I cannot imagine what she is going through. When I hear about the problems, that her husband Blake Fielder- Civil has been arrested, or that she has been booed by her own fans on stage in Birmingham, I feel personally upset,” said Young, who still believes that Amy will overcome and rebound. ” She must feel terribly alone, but – and this is my purpose in writing – I want her to know that she is not, and that she is more than capable of bouncing back.”  5. Alicia Keys Tops Oprah’s Choice to Play Lena Horne Although she’s been dabbling in politics lately with her support of Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey took a minute to drop a few details on the biopic she’s overseeing on music icon Lena Horne.  While promoting her new film The Great Debaters, Winfrey revealed that she has found the perfect person to portray Horne in the film in Keys.  “We’re going to start filming next year,” PageSix.com reports. “And we’ve got Alicia.” The news comes as sort of a full-circle prophecy as Winfrey told Keys in 2005 that she would love for the 27-year-old songstress to play Horne.  This film has seen its share of leading ladies come and go with various divas linked to the project. The most famous contender was Janet Jackson, who seemed to be a shoe in years ago until Horne pulled the younger Jackson out of the running after her infamous wardrobe malfunction.  And if that wasn’t a great way to close out ‘07, word now comes down that Keys will join Tyra Banks, Dr. Cornel West, Richard Parsons, the Honorable Maxine Watersand CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd as those spotlighted at the BET Honors. The Cedric the Entertainer hosted event, which will take place Jan. 12 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., will recognize the achievements and contributions of distinguished African American leaders in their fields.  The BET Honors is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. ET/PT Feb. 22 on BET.  Chances are if this Lena Horne film is played out right, Alicia could pull a Jamie Foxx and bring a Ray-worthy performance to the feature. Somebody please get the Oscar ready.  6. Bootsy Collins Honors the “Martin Luther King Jr. of music” James Brown may not have had too much in common with Martin Luther King Jr., but according to Bootsy Collins, the two did share a knack for transcending barriers in their respective fields. The funk pioneer will honor Brown on Saturday (Dec. 22) with the first in a series of annual tribute concerts. Plans for the endeavor began to take shape seven months ago, said Collins.  “We didn’t want a rock star hoopla kind of thing,” the music legend told Billboard.com. “I want to keep the focus on Mr. Brown; I don’t want people to forget what he’s done. To me, he’s like the Martin Luther King Jr. of music.” The inaugural James Brown Tribute Concert will be held at the Madison Theater in Covington, Ky. Among those slated to perform on the show include Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, rapper Lil’ Boosie, Buckethead, Freekbass and Brown’s most recent band, The Soul Generals. In addition the event will feature an appearance by members of the JB’s, Brown’s original backing unit, including Collins, his brother Catfish and drummers Clyde and Jabo. Comedians Michael Colyar, Tommy Davidson and Brown’s longtime MC Danny Ray, members of the Brown family and the family of late Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd will also be on hand for the show.Tickets range from $10 for advance sale to $25 on the day of show. Proceeds will go toward the rebuilding of Brown’s early recording home, Cincinnati-based King Records, and the eventual launch of a museum.  Collins envisions the museum as a place where young people can learn about music and instruments as well as participate in workshops, perform live and gain an appreciation for the art of music.”We’re losing the feeling in music,” Collins told Billboard. “This generation doesn’t have a clue that it’s being slowly programmed out of us. I want to do as much as I can to help keep the feeling there.” Collins fans can look forward to the funkster’s forthcoming album, The Money Monster, which is slated to hit stores in summer 2008.

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