Plus, news about Janet Jackson, U2, Alicia Keys, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis, Connie Chung, Pat Summerall, Alan Ruck, and others
Mariah Carey
Credit: Mariah Carey: David Fisher/London Features

SOUND BITES Less than two weeks after both Mariah Carey and Virgin Records both loudly denied that the label was trying to drop the diva, parent company EMI announced it is indeed buying her out of her contract for $28 million. Carey signed on with Virgin less than a year ago in a deal that was one of the most lucrative in music history, worth $20 million per album for at least four albums. But her first Virgin release, last fall’s ”Glitter” soundtrack, sold less than 2 million copies worldwide (about a tenth of what she used to sell when under contract at Sony), despite the reported $10 million the label spent promoting it. With new EMI CEO Alain Levy on a cost-cutting drive, there has been talk for at least a month that he would cut Carey loose. Still, she’s the top-selling female artist of the last decade, so she shouldn’t have much trouble finding a new label, especially if she follows’s suggestions….

Touring to support her ”All for You” CD has left Janet Jackson all in. Last summer, she canceled or postponed several dates due to health problems. She’s still on the road, having played four shows in Japan this month, with more U.S. shows to come (starting Friday in Louisville, Ky.), ending at last in Honolulu on Feb. 16. Now, the 35-year-old singer says, she’s so tired that she’d like to quit touring altogether. ”Touring is very grueling. It’s very taxing on the body and living out of your suitcase, going from city to city, night after night. It’s a tough job,” she tells TV’s ”Extra,” in an interview that airs tonight. ”If I could find a way to do this within a month, two months, and hit every place that I need to go, I would definitely do it again. I’m trying to figure out a way to make it work for everyone in that way, but, if not, it may just be my last one.”…

Jackson, who’s nominated for three Grammys this year, will also appear on next month’s awards telecast, but as a presenter, not as a performer. (Also presenting this year are non-nominees Britney Spears and Diana Krall). The first acts officially named for the Grammy show’s coveted performing slots are U2 (up for eight awards) and Alicia Keys (six nominations). Other performers on the Feb. 27 show will be named in the coming weeks….

The Neptunes, the songwriter/producers who’ve proved hitmakers for acts as diverse as Spears, Jackson, Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, ‘N Sync, and Usher, have made a deal with Arista Records to form their own label, with the aptly interplanetary name Star Trak Entertainment. Under the deal, the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) will produce artists for Star Trak and Arista and sign new acts. They’ve already found a couple: rap duo The Clipse, whose first album is due in April, and rockers Spy Mob.

A Beautiful Mind
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