Billboard Bits: Blur, U2, Rock The Vote, and more

News on Blur, Bono, U2, Alecia Elliott, Rock The Vote, Carlos Santana, Mary J. Blige, and Jesse Jackson.

U.K. rock veterans Blur have readied the latest installment in an annual series of fan club-only releases. The new EP sports four tracks ("I'm Fine," "Bonebag" "No Monsters In Me," and "Young & Lovely") recorded at a September 1999 B-sides concert in London. Studio versions of the songs have previously appeared on commercial singles for tracks such as "Popscene" and "The Universal."

The EP's artwork was designed by guitarist Graham Coxon, who also crafted the art for his two solo albums. Although Blur released a new single for the track "Music Is My Radar" last October, the group will not officially convene to begin work on its next studio album until later this month. The set will be the follow-up to 1999's "13" (Virgin), which debuted at No. 80 on The Billboard 200.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.





U2 frontman Bono will speak to Harvard University seniors in June as part of the school's ''Class Day'' festivities. Harvard officials denied earlier reports that Bono would be the class of 2001's graduation speaker and an honorary member of the graduating class.

Bono called Harvard economic professor Jeffrey D. Sachs in the spring of 1999 to talk about debt relief for Third World countries, according to the university. Since then, the two have worked together to promote that cause. Through Sachs, Bono offered to speak at the school.

The speaking engagement coincides with the early June Boston stops on U2's North American tour, which kicks off March 24 in Sunrise, Fla. The group's new Interscope album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" is No. 37 on The Billboard 200 this week.

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In addition to previously announced Patrick Lippert Award recipients Carlos Santana and Mary J. Blige, Rock The Vote's annual fundraising gala will honor Rainbow Coalition president Rev. Jesse L. Jackson with its Nation Award, and MTV Group chairman interactive music Judy McGrath with the Founders Award.

Jackson is being recognized for his many social and political initiatives, while McGrath's honor comes as a result of her "personal and professional support" of Rock The Vote.

The awards, which will be presented Feb. 20 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, will feature performances by the Foo Fighters, Jill Scott, and Black Eyed Peas.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.




Alecia Elliott has shifted labels -- and genres -- within the Universal Music Group, moving from MCA Nashville to pop/R&B label Island Def Jam, Billboard Bulletin reports. The 18-year-old singer has a pop album planned for summer release.

The move is said to better align Elliott with her character in an upcoming NBC Saturday-morning TV series, in which she plays a Memphis native who moves to Chicago and joins a local girl group.

The title track to Elliott's MCA Nashville set "I'm Diggin' It" hit No. 3 last year on Billboard's Top Country Singles Sales chart.

-- Chuck Taylor, N.Y.

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