Sam Asghari Defends ‘Authentic, Funny, Humble’ Britney Spears After Author Calls Instagram Posts ‘Scary’

Sam Asghari loves Britney Spears, no matter what.

The fitness trainer took to the pop princess’ Instagram comment section this week to call out author and screenwriter Kelly Oxford, who expressed on one of Spears’ recent videos, “This account finally got too scary for me.”

“what’s so scary about being the biggest superstar in the world being herself (authentic, funny, humble) without caring what others think,” Asghari replied, according to a fan screenshot. “we need more people like her and less Karen’s. also instagram installed this button that you can hit to unfollow about 10 years ago…”

However, Oxford seems to be less of a hater, and more of a supporter of Spears’ safety. On July 13, she tweeted a link to history on the pop star’s conservatorship and wrote, “For anyone worried about Britney Spears, here is a link for you.”

See below.

Fans Pick Bounty Killer vs. Beenie Man as the Best ‘Verzuz’ Battle Yet

Beenie Man and Bounty Killer both took home the winning title of our Verzuz battle poll.

Verzuz battle viewers voted in a poll published Tuesday (Sept. 1) on Billboard, choosing the battle between the dancehall reggae legends streamed live from Kingston, Jamaica during Memorial Day weekend as their all-time favorite.

And location was key here: Their Verzuz battle won with a whopping 88% of the vote, and 44.6% of the tally’s total votes came from fans in Jamaica. The two DJs not only brought back the historic precursor of Verzuz battles with their head-to-head soundclash competition as early as the 1950s, but they also ushered in a new format of the Verzuz battles by being the first two artists to perform in the same room and IG Live feed.

The poll came a day after the highly anticipated showdown between “The Boy is Mine” R&B titans Brandy and Monica, who took home second place with 3.53% of the vote. But both ’90s icons broke Verzuz records, organizers say, by pulling in more than 6 million views Monday night (Aug. 31).

Coming in third place are hip-hop heavyweights DMX and Snoop Dogg with 2.97% of the vote, whose “Battle of the Dogs” from late July gave Verzuz battle co-founder Swizz Beatz a full-circle career moment. According to Billboard’s “The Verzuz Effect” cover story, the megaproducer’s uncles Joaquin “Waah” and Darin “Dee” Dean and his aunt Chivon Dean founded DMX’s label Ruff Ryders, where then-18-year-old Swizz first made a name for himself as an in-house producer. It was the first Verzuz battle he attended in person and even worked as a DJ.

See the final results of the Verzuz battles poll below.

First Country: New Music From Hardy, Lauren Alaina, Carly Pearce, Brett James & More

Hardy, A Rock

Hardy, who’s co-written hits for Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton among others, releases one of the most self-assured full-length debut albums in years. Last year’s polarizing “Rednecker” showed no hint of Hardy’s songwriting ability (though Shelton’s “God’s Country” certainly did.). His lyrics and word play are especially strong on the title track, which uses many different meanings for the word rock while weaving together a story. Current Top 20 hit, “One Beer “ (featuring Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson), looks at the sunny side of imbibing too much, while on “Boots,” he’s so sure he’s wrecked a relationship that he sleeps in his boots, correctly knowing that as soon as he wakes up, his girlfriend is showing him the door. In one of the album’s most moving tracks, “Give Heaven Some Hell,” he sings to a departed friend. To Hardy’s credit, he can convincingly sing “Unapologetically Country as Hell” on an album that owes as much to AC/DC as George Jones.

Lauren Alaina, Getting Over Him

Break-ups are hard for the heart and soul, but they certainly can inspire great music. Such is the case with Alaina’s new EP, which is informed by the demise of her two most recent relationships. Alaina, who co-wrote all six tracks and is in great vocal form, veers from the sassy swagger of “Bar Back,” where she divides up who gets rights to their old haunts, to jumping back in on the title track (a pitch perfect duet with her pal Jon Pardi). But the real jewel here is EP closer, “What Do You Think Of” (a duet with Lukas Graham frontman Lukas Forchhammer). The searing ballad is a cross-format smash just waiting to happen.

Carly Pearce, “Next Girl”

Like Alaina, Pearce is spinning her split–in this case with fellow artist Michael Ray–into potential radio gold. This uptempo tune, co-written with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, who also provided the punchy production, is advice to the next girl her ex turns to. It’s pointed without sounding bitter and Pearce’s winning delivery and the snappy instrumentation recall mid-90s tunes like Patty Loveless’s “I Try to Think About Elvis.” The lyric “you overlook a lot when he looks like that” says it all.

Brett James, Tell The People

James, one of Nashville’s most acclaimed songwriters, having penned such hits as “Jesus Take the Wheel,” “Drugs or Jesus” and “I Hold On,” returns to his roots as an artist with this six-song EP full of grit, heart and blue-eyed soul. “Tell The People” is a mid-tempo rocker reminding people to let the ones you love know your feelings (a particularly trenchant message during a pandemic). “Don’t Leave Me Like You Found Me” is a treatise on the healing power of love. “Right On Time” and “Just Tell Me” sound like they could have been recorded in Muscle Shoals in the ‘60s and that’s high praise.

Tyler Rich, 2000 Miles

Fans will be familiar with previously released tracks “Leave Her Wild,”“The Difference” and “Rather Be Us,”on the California native’s set which takes its name from the distance between Nashville and Los Angeles (he splits his time between the two), but will be pleased that some of the album’s strongest tunes are still ripe for discovery, including “11:11,” which would fit perfectly on a Keith Urban album or closer “Adrenaline,” an ode to a lover who brings him back to life. Rich reinvents Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” as an acoustic number with a bit of a samba beat. It works far better than one would expect.

Southerland, “Thing Is”

Duo  Matt Chase and Chris Rogers, newly signed to River House Artists/Sony Music Nashville, introduce themselves via “Thing Is,” a twangy, toe-tapping ode to a woman who has it, whatever that “thing is.” Fun and lighthearted and perfect for the waning days of summer.

India Ramey, Shallow Graves

Is there a better line that sums up this year than this? “Everytime I read the news/oh, it’s clear we’re all screwed.” So sings Ramey on “Up to No Good.” It’s just one of the winners on this exhilarating set from the Nashville singer/songwriter. Her voice is as tart as her lyrics: She sings, “He found Jesus in prison/he’s got the t-shirt to prove it” on “Keep Hope Alive.”
The rollicking set recalls everyone from Tammy Wynette to Exene Cervenka and Wanda Jackson. There are no sacred cows in Ramey’s world, including Trump, whom she eviscerates (but never names) on tremolo-laden “King of the Ashes.”

Brit Taylor, “Back in the Fire”

From The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s seemingly endlessly fertile music factory emerges Brit Taylor with this semi-autobiographical tale of jumping back into the romantic fire even though the burns from the last entanglement haven’t healed. The song, co-written by Taylor, Auerbach and Pat McLaughlin, shines, as does Taylor’s unassuming delivery, but it is Dave Brainard’s sweeping production and its sultry Bobbie Gentry vibe that helps make the song so memorable…even with no mention of the Tallahatchie Bridge.

Carolina Story, “Dandelion”

Carolina Story, aka Ben and Emily Roberts, recalls The Civil Wars with their harmonies and two-pronged vocal attack, but with a good does of ’70s singer/songwriter influence thrown in. Even when the topics get tough, including mental illnesses, there’s a gentleness to the songs here that never veers into the soppy on this low-key effort. Strong throughout, with standout tracks including “See You When I See You,” featuring Emily as a fed-up lover, and the dreamy “Daylight.”

 

Brandy & Monica Combine for Over 20 Million U.S. Song Streams After Verzuz Battle

Brandy and Monica’s record-setting Verzuz viewership translated into major gains for both singers’ streaming totals after the event.

Combined, the pair registered 21.9 million U.S. on-demand streams for their song catalogs from Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, a period comprising the day of the competition and two days after of residual fan activity. That total compares to 6.3 million U.S. on-demand streams in the three days leading up to the broadcast (Aug. 28-30), a surge of 248%.

Of the 21.9 million streaming total, Monica’s catalog accounted for 11.2 million plays, while Brandy’s songs clocked 10.9 million streams.

The two R&B hitmakers participated in the latest Verzuz showdown on Monday (Aug. 31). At its peak, the web broadcast drew 1.2 million simultaneous viewers, the highest recorded among the series’ clashes thus far. Previously, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott partnered for the viewership record, with about 750,000 fans tuning in for their contest on May 9.

Verzuz competitions began in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Instagram Live. The event comprises two artists, groups, or producers – generally from the R&B or hip-hop sphere – battling one another in a song-for-song competition that lasts at least 20 rounds. Of the nearly two-dozen episodes to date, the series has hosted contests including Babyface vs. Teddy Riley, Ludacris vs. Nelly and the program’s architects Timbaland vs. Swizz Beatz.

Monica seized the win for the biggest individual streaming song, with new single “Trenches” (featuring Lil Baby), which she debuted halfway through the set. The release pulled 1.2 million U.S. on-demand streams in its first three days.

Beyond that, her next highest totals came from “So Gone,” which nabbed 840,000 clicks, a 142% improvement from 356,000 before the event, and a trio of tunes from her 1995 debut album, Miss Thang: “Why I Love You So Much” (764,000; up 168%), “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)” (518,000, up 218%) and “Before You Walk Out of My Life” (499,000; up 218%).

Similarly, Brandy used the Verzuz platform to bring attention to her current single, “Borderline,” which gave the singer her best streaming result of the week. The track, from her B7 album released last month, drew 571,000 on-demand streams Aug. 31-Sept. 2, up 87% from 305,000 in the three days prior to the event.

Behind “Borderline,” Brandy’s top five streamed songs during the period were, respectively, her 1999 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Have You Ever,” (555,000; up 153%), “I Wanna Be Down” (496,000, up 116%), “Almost Doesn’t Count” (428,000; up 307%) and “Angel in Disguise” (408,000; up 579%).

Of course, we can’t forget the main event: “The Boy Is Mine.” The pair closed the nearly three-hour affair with a karaoke-style performance of sorts, with the classic collab playing in the background as they took turns performing bits of their duet parts. “Boy,” which crowned the Hot 100 for 13 weeks in 1998, registered 899,000 U.S. on-demand streams Aug. 31-Sept. 2, up 152% from 356,000 in the three days preceding their showdown.

What’s Your Favorite Beyoncé No. 1 Hot 100 Hit? Vote!

Birthday Queen Beyoncé has celebrated seven singles hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 over the last two decades before turning 39 Friday (Sept. 4), but which one are you crazy in love with?

She’s accomplished this feat twice on her own with “Irreplaceable” from her all-too-fitting album B’Day and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” from I Am… Sasha Fierce.

But the superstar recruited some famous friends (and husband) to get to the top with their duets, from “Crazy in Love” featuring then-boyfriend and current husband Jay-Z to “Perfect” with Ed Sheeran to the “Savage” remix with fellow Houston native Megan Thee Stallion.

So which of Queen Bey’s No. 1 hits are you crowning as your all-time favorite? Vote below!

Live Nation Discrimination Case Moved To Binding Arbitration

A furloughed touring executive who sued Live Nation in July for race and gender discrimination and wrongful termination will have her case heard by a third-party arbitrator, according to court records in LA County Superior Court.

Candace Newman, 38, who identifies as an African American single mother, filed a lawsuit against the touring giant in July, alleging she was furloughed by the company after complaining about a lack of diversity and alleged race discrimination. Newman was one of more than 2,000 employees affected by job cuts at the company, where she had worked for more than 10 years, including her most recent stint as tour director for North America. Newman alleged she was “continually undervalued and undercompensated” and learned she was being paid between “one-third to forty percent less than her non-Black and/or male peers” at the company.

Live Nation officials called Newman’s claims of bias and discrimination “completely unfounded” and denied Newman had been furloughed out of retaliation. Live Nation later produced a letter Newman had signed in 2009 agreeing to arbitrate “any and all claims or controversies” between Newman and Live Nation” relating in any manner to my employment or the termination of my employment.”

An Aug. 27 filing with the court shows that Newman agreed to voluntarily move the case to binding arbitration; if she hadn’t, an attorney for Live Nation would have likely filed a motion to have the case moved to arbitration in accordance with the 2009 letter. Her civil lawsuit will be stayed and all hearings cancelled pending the outcome of the arbitration hearing.

Lil Wayne Morphs Through His Iconic Decades-Spanning Looks in ‘Big Worm’ Video

Lil Wayne pays tribute to himself throughout the various eras of his career in his latest music video for “Big Worm,” which he released Thursday (Sept. 3).

Against a blue-lit backdrop, Weezy stuns viewers with the evolution of his face tattoos and hairstyles over the years, from his long black dreads and signature sunglasses to his short cornrows pulled back with a headband to his current blond mid-length dreads. And the timely homage to his old self comes just after his 2009 mixtape No Ceilings became available on streaming services for the first time last Friday (Aug. 28).

“Big Worm” comes from the deluxe version of Wayne’s Billboard 200 No. 1 album Funeral, which featured eight additional tracks with guest artists Doja Cat, Tory Lanez, Lil Uzi Vert, Jessie Reyez, Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine.

Watch the “Big Worm” music video Wayne directed with Ray Kay below.