Billboard Bits: En Vogue; Shaggy, Angie Martinez

News on En Vogue; Shaggy, Angie Martinez

NellyR&B vocal group En Vogue, now a trio, will on Nov. 12 release "The Gift Of Christmas," a holiday album featuring four original songs alongside new versions of Christmas-themed classics. The 15-track set, due Discretion Records, features original members Terry Ellis and Cindy Braggs welcoming newcomer Amanda Cole into the En Vogue fold.

Yuletide standards such as "What Child Is This," "O Holy Night," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" are given the En Vogue treatment, while "Jingle Bells" is reworked into a Euro-trance version. The group also contributes original tracks "My Christmas," "Christmas Wit Cha Honey," "Snowy Nights," and "That's What Christmas Means to Me" to the disc. The set was helmed by longtime En Vogue producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy.

Originally a quartet featuring Ellis and Braggs alongside Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones, En Vogue scored huge successes in the early '90s with albums such as "Born To Sing" (Atlantic) and "Funky Divas" (EastWest). The latter debuted at No. 8 on The Billboard 200 in April 1992 and has sold 3.2 million copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "The Gift Of Christmas" is the first En Vogue album since 2000's "Masterpiece Theatre" (EastWest).

-- Troy Carpenter, N.Y.

NellyShaggy will usher in his new MCA album, "Lucky Day," with a concert for 200 radio station contest winners Tuesday (Oct. 29) at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. The event is sponsored by local station KISS-FM and will be broadcast live beginning 5 p.m. PT. Shaggy is also expected to take questions from listeners during the broadcast.

"Lucky Day" is the follow-up to 2000's six-times-platinum "Hotshot," which featured the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits "Angel" featuring Rayvon and "It Wasn't Me" featuring Ricardo "Rik Rok" Ducent. The new set's lead single, "Hey Sexy Lady," has been slow to receive attention at U.S. radio outlets, having topped out at No. 33 on Billboard's Rhythmic Top 40 chart and failing to reach the Hot 100.

"MCA received a rude awakening when they put 'Hey Sexy Lady' out and programmers didn't put it in their A-list rotation," Shaggy recently told Billboard. "It doesn't go like that with a Shaggy [record]. They're going to put it on the C-list, because a Shaggy record is designed to confuse programmers. They're designed like that because I don't want to be pigeonholed. So they're not going to just grab the record and put it on. However, what is happening now is that every week the label is seeing growth. Why? Because the audience speaks. That's how every Shaggy record happens."

-- Jonathan Cohen & Rashaun Hall, N.Y.

NellySources say that radio DJ/hip-hop artist Angie Martinez will join "American Idol" as a judge for the TV talent show's second season, which will air early next year on the Fox network. Martinez is currently an Elektra recording artist and a host on R&B/hip-hop station WQHT (Hot 97) New York. She will join returning "American Idol" judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson.

Fox had no comment on Martinez being tapped as an "American Idol" judge. Contestant auditions for the show's second season are taking place in select U.S. cities through next month.

-- Carla Hay, N.Y.