Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson to headline Essence Fest

NEW ORLEANS — The 2020 Essence Festival brings a first-time performance by Bruno Mars and a return of Janet Jackson to the event’s main stage.

Organizers announced this week that Mars’ planned appearance at Essence will be his only festival performance of the year, while Jackson will mark her third appearance — this one as part of her newly announced Black Diamond World Tour.

“This is a milestone year for Essence and our community as we celebrate 50 years of creating opportunities for our culture to shine,” said Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications Inc. in a statement.

Ebanks said the festival is excited to welcome Mars and have Jackson return.

“These two powerhouses, along with our robust slate of programming, performances and tributes, will continue our legacy of cultural excellence ... To Bruno, Janet and all our Essence Festival artists we say, ‘Welcome home,’” Ebanks said.

The festival is scheduled to run July 1-5 in New Orleans with a theme of “Own Our Power.”

Other scheduled performers include Janelle Monae, Patti LaBelle, Ari Lennox, Summer Walker, June’s Diary, Rapsody, Stokley, Tamia and New Orleans’ own, Tank and the Bangas. Estelle also will present a reggae and afrobeats affair, featuring Afro B, Chronnix, Elephant Man, Kranium and more.

Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” keeps rolling

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Country singer Darius Rucker couldn’t quite believe it when he was surprised this week with the news that his song “Wagon Wheel” was certified eight times platinum, making it one of the top five most popular country singles ever.

On Wednesday, Rucker stopped by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to see his items in an exhibit, but his label, Universal Music Group Nashville, surprised him with a plaque featuring eight platinum-colored records.

After repeating the word “Wow!” over and over, Rucker muttered to himself, “That can’t be true,” as he inspected the plaque in his hands.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, “Wagon Wheel” now joins other multiplatinum hits among country music’s biggest songs in RIAA’s 60-year history, including Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”

He joked at seeing his CMA new artist of the year trophy behind glass, noting it happened for him when he was in his 40s. But the South Carolina-native also represents the changing face of country music, as one of two Black artists among the RIAA’s top country singles.

“Lil Nas X being up there, it just shows that country music is starting to open its doors and broaden its horizons and realize there’s a lot of different faces, a lot of different colors and a lot of different things to country music,” Rucker said.

JHud to honor Kobe Bryant at NBA All-Star Game

NEW YORK — The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced Thursday that Grammy Award-winning recording artist and Academy Award-winning actress and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson will perform a special tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and their seven friends that tragically passed away Jan. 26. Hudson’s performance will open the night ahead of player introductions for the 69th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 16 at the United Center, airing live at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.

The NBA’s All-Stars will be playing this year with Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant in their minds and on their jerseys. The NBA also announced recently that every player on Team Giannis will wear No. 24 on their jerseys at this year’s All-Star Game and every player on Team LeBron will wear No. 2.

All players taking part in All-Star weekend — including the Rising Stars game Feb. 14 and the Saturday night events such as the 3-point contest, slam dunk contest and skills competition — will wear a patch with nine stars to commemorate the nine victims of the helicopter crash.

— Compiled by Jamyra Perry

—Compiled by Jamyra Perry

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