Ciara, Ludacris, Ne-Yo, the O'Jays with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, Robin Thicke and comedian Steve Harvey have been added to the main stage bill of this year's Essence Music Festival, to be held Jul

Ciara, Ludacris, Ne-Yo, the O'Jays with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, Robin Thicke and comedian Steve Harvey have been added to the main stage bill of this year's Essence Music Festival, to be held July 5-7 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

They join a star-studded list of headliners that includes Beyonce (July 6), Chris Brown (July 6), Lionel Richie (July 7), Mary J. Blige (July 7) and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (July 7). The annual event, produced by Essence Festivals in association with Festival Productions and AEG Live, kicks off July 5 with a gospel music showcase. Ticket prices range from $45 to $165.

Additional artists are still being confirmed to perform at the festival's surrounding "Super Lounges," a spokesperson for the event tells Billboard.com. A full lineup is expected by next week.


-- Mitchell Peters, L.A.







Maroon 5 will debut its new single, "Makes Me Wonder," Saturday (March 31) on Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. Gwen Stefani will also perform her current hit, "The Sweet Escape" featuring Akon, at the event, which will be hosted by Justin Timberlake.

Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney, Nelly, Ciara, Ice Cube, Chris Brown and Queen Latifah will also make appearances, alongside Will Ferrell, Nicole Kidman, Dakota Fanning, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell and Jessica Alba.


-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.







Koch Records has signed Sinead O'Connor to a deal that will yield CD and DVD releases. The label will issue her new album, the double-CD set "Theology," on June 26. "I want to be very clear -- there is no message. No preaching," said O'Connor about the new project.

O'Connor will hit the road in the U.S. in early summer. Her prior album, the reggae-driven "Throw Down Your Arms," was released in 2005 on her own That's Why There's Chocolate and Vanilla label.


-- Chris M. Walsh, N.Y.

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