Billboard Bits: MTV VMAs, Whitney Houston, and more

News on MTV VMAs, Whitney Houston, Cowboy Junkies, Fabrice Morvan

Britney SpearsBritney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, and Staind have been added to the performance line-up for the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Spears, who also performed at last year's ceremonies, will debut a new song, "I'm a Slave 4 U," the first single from her as-yet-untitled forthcoming Jive album, due out in November.

The acts join previously announced performers U2, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, 'N Sync, and Alicia Keys, and presenters such as Jewel, Macy Gray, Aaliyah, Nelly, Shaquille O'Neal, and the star of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" video, Christopher Walken, among others.

The Jamie Foxx-hosted MTV VMAs will be broadcast live Sept. 6 from New York's Metropolitan Opera House.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Whitney Houston has confirmed she will appear at both nights of Michael Jackson's star-studded tribute concerts , set for Sept. 7 and 10 at New York's Madison Square Garden. The two artists will perform an as-yet-unspecified duet, according to organizers. "I feel Whitney is one of the greatest voices in the world," Jackson said in a statement. "She could sing the yellow pages and I would buy it. I absolutely adore her and am her greatest fan." Meanwhile, Arista president/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid tells Billboard that Houston, who just signed a new $100 million deal with the label, is "collecting songs" for her next project. "We're looking at producers," Reid says. "My conversations with her have focused on making an album that her fans will feel is a very personal album. I'm not saying [the songs] should reflect the state of her personal life, but I want something that feels personal." Sessions for the album, which Reid and Houston will co-executive produce, should be underway by year's end.

Canadian rock outfit the Cowboy Junkies are asking fans to boycott "The Cowboy Junkies Greatest Hits," set for an Aug. 21 release by the group's former label, RCA. According to a posting on its official Web site , the band was not contacted about the album's tracklisting or artwork. "We have absolutely nothing to do with this release," the site says. "This release is a huge insult to us and we ask that if you are a fan of the band that you please don't buy it." BMG Canada's Vice-President of A&R Keith Porteous says the band was contacted about the release. "The fact that they are making a statement that they weren't given the courtesy of a phone call or offered any opportunity to consult on this package is a blatant lie," he says. "It is not true." But according to Junkies principal Michael Timmins, the release is a "money grab" driven by opportunity. "It's the type of thing they do all the time," he says. "This is obviously driven by money and a complete bottom-line thing. Obviously there is no respect." The group, currently touring the U.S. in support of its latest album, "Open" (Zoe/Rounder), is also asking fans to acquire songs on the upcoming compilation by purchasing previously released albums available through its Web site or for free elsewhere. "If you must have the specific tracks in this specific order then: find them on the Internet, download them for free, and burn them on to a CD. You have our blessing," the band says. The Junkies signed with RCA in 1988. The relationship lasted until 1996, when the band switched to Geffen. After releasing its second album for the label, 1998's "Miles from our Home" the group issued material through its Web site and via a Canadian online music retailer,

Former Milli Vanilli member Fabrice Morvan is staging his comeback by singing karaoke... in the shower. The Midwest tour of Malibu Rum Showerpalooza -- a traveling karaoke booth in a shower stall with fake shower sights and sounds -- stops tonight (Aug. 16) in Cleveland. "We asked ourselves, who in the music community sings but is almost in a position to make fun of themselves?" said Stuart Kirby, Malibu Rum spokesman. "Fabrice immediately popped to mind." Milli Vanilli gave back a 1990 Grammy when it was revealed the dancing duo lip-synched. Their hits included "Girl You Know It's True" and "Blame It on the Rain." Partner Rob Pilatus died of a drug overdose in 1998. Morvan is recording a solo album with his own voice, and maintains an official Web site to keep fans up to date on his career. The 35-year-old opened the Showerpalooza tour in an Indianapolis tiki bar on Wednesday and goes to Detroit Friday. Next week's stops are Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

Copyright 2001 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.